Every Stephen King Story Set in Derry
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Every Stephen King Story Set in Derry

Stephen King created a number of fictional towns in his home state of Maine, where he set many of his most important stories. They include Castle Rock (which is something of an unofficial capital for King’s universe) and Jerusalem’s Lot, which served as the title of his second novel. Fans of It, however, will always associate his work with Derry, where Pennywise the Clown performs his ghoulish rites every 27 years.




Since the publication of that seminal novel, the author has periodically returned to Derry, and fans will get a whole new look at the town in 2025 when the Welcome to Derry series is set to premiere on Max. Dozens of King stories and novels have mentioned Derry in passing, though only eight have actually been set in the town as of this writing. They’re listed below in order of publication, along with a description of the part the town plays in their narrative, and what the author reveals about Derry in the process.


8 It Is Still Derry’s Central Narrative

Title

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

It

Viking

1138

Sept. 15, 1986


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It, of course, is the Derry story to beat all Derry stories by encompassing both the origins of the town and its most notorious boogieman, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. King based Derry on his adopted home of Bangor, and more specifically on the elaborate sewer system that runs the length of the real-life town. In It, those tunnels become Pennywise’s lair. Bangor also has a grim history of disasters in its past — including regular flooding and five major fires between 1856 and 1911 — which served as the basis for Pennywise’s periodic reigns of terror.


King finished his first draft of the novel in 1981, and published an excerpt called “The Bird and the Album” shortly thereafter. It appeared in A Fantasy Reader: The Seventh World Fantasy Convention Book which was given to attendees of the titular convention in Berkeley, CA. It later appeared in the final text of It as part of Chapter 13, called simply “The Album.” That constitutes the first ever mention of Derry in a Stephen King work.

Pennywise offering a balloon to a kid on the poster of It Chapter One

It Chapter One

In the summer of 1989, a group of bullied kids band together to destroy a shape-shifting monster, which disguises itself as a clown and preys on the children of Derry, their small Maine town.

Director
Andy Muschietti

Release Date
September 5, 2017

Cast
Sophia Lillis , Jaeden Lieberher , Jeremy Ray Taylor , FInn Wolfhard , Wyatt Oleff , Chosen Jacobs , Jack Dylan Grazer , Bill Skarsgard

Runtime
2 hours 15 minutes

7 Secret Window, Secret Garden Uses Derry to Reflect Its Protagonist

Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey and John Turturro as John Shooter in Secret Window


Title

First Appeared in

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

“Secret Window, Secret Garden”

Four Past Midnight

Viking

763

Sept. 24, 1990

“Secret Window, Secret Garden” is a novella that originally appeared in the 1990 collection Four Past Midnight, and concerns a subject near and dear to the author’s heart. A successful writer named Mort Rainey (another thinly veiled stand-in for King himself) receives an unsettling visit from a Mississippi man named Shooter who claims Mort plagiarized one of his works.

The setting itself is incidental, as the narrative focuses on Mort’s emotional state rather than the place he’s in. He did live in Derry, however, and only recently moved away after discovering his wife cheating on him “in one of Derry’s finer motels.” That matches one of King’s core themes — small, petty sins attracting more overtly supernatural beings — which Derry represents in spades. The story takes place after the Losers have vanquished Pennywise for good, suggesting that some sinister spiritual residue may yet remain.


6 Insomnia Finds Other Dark Denizens of Derry’s Night

Insomnia Stephen King Book Cover

Title

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

Insomnia

Viking

787

Oct. 10, 1994

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King’s universe has a cosmic lexicon, which Pennywise touches on briefly. The monster originates from an empty void surrounding the physical universe, and is loosely related to The Crimson King, the ultimate force of evil in King’s writings and one of the central antagonists in the Dark Tower series. He and his minions are formally introduced in Insomnia, in which an elderly man stumbles into a cosmic plot to prevent the Crimson King’s eventual defeat thanks to an inability to sleep.

That makes Derry an easy choice for a setting, with Pennywise’s machinations already connecting it to the larger cosmic picture. King includes a number of specific locations in the book, including the Derry Public Library where Mike Hanlon worked for many years in It.It also demonstrates how Derry continues to be a conduit for larger things, even after Pennywise is gone.


5 Bag of Bones Brings Another of King’s Stand-Ins to Derry

Cover to Bag of Bones by Stephen King, a woman wading into a blood red lake

Title

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

Bag of Bones

Scribner

529

Sept. 22, 1998

King loves populating his books with writer protagonists who reflect his own life. This trend goes all the way back to his second novel ‘Salem’s Lot.Bag of Bones adds another one to the list, with Mike Noonan, living in an unincorporated part of Maine near Derry and suffering from increasing anxiety attacks just after the sudden death of his wife. It leads him to an unsolved murder and a ghost with a lingering grudge.


Beyond making another reference to the city itself and its supernatural goings-on, Bag of Bones also mentions Bill Denborough, the de facto leader of the Losers in it. Like Mike, Bill went on to become a writer, giving them a connection and allowing King to lean into his obvious predilection for a certain kind of hero.

4 ‘The Road Virus Heads North’ Makes Derry the Final Destination

Tom Berenger's author faces the music in The Road Virus Heads North from Nightmares and Dremscapes

Title

First Appeared in

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

“The Road Virus Heads North”

999

Avon Books

666

Jan. 1, 1999

“The Road Virus Heads North” doesn’t break the King stand-in streak, with a successful horror writer named Richard Kinnell taking a road trip home to Derry. He finds a painting at a yard sale of a ghoulish driver behind the wheel and purchases it, only to find it changing subtly the closer he gets to his destination. At the same time, terrible things begin to happen to the places he’s stopped at on his trip, making their way back to him.


The story initially appeared in the 1999 anthology 999 before being republished in King’s anthology Everything’s Eventual. Very little about Derry itself is mentioned, save that Kinnell lives there and yet another supernatural occurrence seems to be vaguely centered around it. It’s simply an easy shorthand for the author to signal that “The Road Virus Heads North” does indeed take place in his universe.

3 Dreamcatcher Brings Alien Invaders to Derry

A large gray alien towering over a man with an expressionless face in Stephen King's Dreamcatcher movie.

Title

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

Dreamcatcher

Scribner

620

March 20, 2001


Dreamcatcher movie poster

Dreamcatcher

Friends on a camping trip discover that the town they’re vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic aliens from outer space.

Director
Lawrence Kasdan

Release Date
March 21, 2003

Cast
Thomas Jane , Jason Lee , Damian Lewis , Timothy Olyphant , Morgan Freeman

Runtime
134 minutes

The author is largely known for works of pure horror, but Stephen King often writes in adjacent genres such as fantasy and science fiction, as well as straightforward drama. Dreamcatcher is an alien invasion story, featuring a toxic red mold from outer space that threatens to engulf the planet. A quartet of friends staying in a cabin in the nearby woods are caught up in the crisis.

Though cloaked in science fiction, Dreamcatcher makes a number of connections to the Dark Tower books, and the larger cosmology that comes with them, making Derry the natural setting. The book implies that the events taking place are a part of the ongoing struggle between good and evil surrounding the Tower and all of reality. It also contains direct references to It, most notably in a piece of graffiti stating “Pennywise Lives!” on a plaque dedicated to the Loser’s Club.


2 ‘Fair Extension’ Delivers Ironic Revenge on the Streets of Derry

Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars from the Simon and Schuster promotion.

Title

First Appeared in

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

“Fair Extension”

Full Dark, No Stars

Scribner

368

Nov. 9, 2010

“Fair Extension” is a short story appearing in the 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars. The protagonist, Dave Streeter, is dying from lung cancer. He meets a man on the road to Derry, George Elvid, who promises him fifteen years of life and happiness if he will target someone else for misfortune. He chooses his best friend, whom he secretly hates and who has exploited him all their lives in order to achieve great success.


“Elvid” is an anagram for “Devil,” so it’s clear who Streeter’s benefactor is. Unlike most Faust stories, there’s no comeuppance here; the protagonist ends the story happy and wishing for more. Again, the Derry setting makes the town a catalyst for strange and inexplicable circumstances.

1 11/22/63 Checks in on The Losers Club

Title

Publisher

Page Count

First Published

11/22/63

Scribner

849

Nov. 8, 2011

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11/22/63 is more science fiction than horror, embracing the concept of time travel in a story about a secret portal that leads to the year 1958. The protagonist, Jake Epping, travels back to Derry via the portal in order to prevent an increasingly consequential series of tragedies, up to and including the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As with earlier appearances of the town, King demonstrates its importance in the grander scheme of things simply by setting the action there.

The book also contains an active reference to It. During Epping’s time hop, he comes across Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier several months after they have vanquished Pennywise for the first time. They’re dancing in the park together, and Epping approaches to ask them some questions. They surmise that he’s a part of the same otherworldly goings-on that they encountered the summer previous.