“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” – Stephen King
Stephen King is the author of 52 novels and around 200 short stories. Many of his books have been adapted into movies, including It, Carrie, The Dark Tower series, and The Shining; he is one of the most successful horror authors of all time. The man’s work ethic is an inspiration to all of us, and he’s proved time and again he knows how to scare better than anyone in the game. Read on for 52 spooky facts about the scream king.
52. Home Sweet Home
Stephen King was born in the state of Maine, and still lives in the town of Bangor. King has used Maine as the setting for many of his horror novels.
51. Rolling in the Dough
King has an estimated net worth of around $400 Million. He has luxury cars, his own private jet, and a waterfront vacation home in Florida. Not too bad for a man of letters.
50. Runs in the Family
King’s father, Donald Edwin King, was also a writer, though he wasn’t quite as successful as his son. “I never saw any of my dad’s stories. My mother said he had piles and piles of manuscripts,” King said. His father walked out on the family when King was only two years old, allegedly giving the excuse that he was “going out for a pack of cigarettes.” King never saw his dad again.
49. Maine Called Him Back
Though his family left Maine when he was very young, after stints in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Connecticut, they moved back his home state when he was 11 so that his mother Nellie could care for her elderly parents. After they passed away, she became a caregiver at a local residence for the mentally challenged.
48. Missing in Action
King was forced to repeat the first grade because of his frequent absences.
47. Give it a Chance
Carrie was the first novel Stephen King ever published, but it almost never made it to the publisher. He’d become discouraged while writing the story, and even went so far as to throw the entire manuscript in the trash. Thankfully, his wife pulled it out and encouraged him to keep writing.
46. A Life-Changing Discovery
One day, while Stephen’s brother David was exploring the family attic, he found boxes of his father’s belongings. He called Stephen up to the attic, where Stephen discovered a box filled with horror novels. The very first book King picked up from the box was The Thing from the Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft, and it sparked his interest in becoming a horror writer.
45. Try, Try Again
Stephen King started writing and submitting his short stories when he was 16. Every time he got a rejection letter, he put the letter on a nail on his wall. Eventually, he got so many rejection letters that the nail fell down. King finally got his first acceptance when he was 19 for a story called “The Glass Floor.” He was paid $35.
44. Barely Scraping By
King was raised by his single mother, and his family grew up very poor. His first part-time job was pumping gas, and he eventually started cleaning laundry and working as an English teacher.
43. Making the Grade
King worked as an English teacher starting in 1971. He made $6,400 per year, about $40,000 in 2017.
King has published seven novels under the pen name “Richard Bachman.”
41. Jam Session
King played guitar in the literary supergroup band the Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members include Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, and Barbara Kingsolver.
40. Setting the Mood
Stephen King listens to hard rock while he writes. Two of his favorite bands are AC/DC and The Ramones.
39. Taking Over The Air Waves
Stephen King and his wife Tabitha own a radio station in Maine called Zone Radio, which plays mostly rock music.
38. Go, Team!
King is a huge fan of the Boston Red Sox. He even played himself as a Red Sox fan in the movie Fever Pitch, and wrote the story The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon about the Red Sox pitcher.
37. Giving Back
In 1992, King donated money to his town of Bangor, Maine so the municipality could build the Mansfield Baseball Stadium. Today, the stadium is affectionately known as “Stephen King’s Field of Screams.”
36. Hustle Harder
The best advice Stephen King can give to aspiring writers is: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” So get crackin’!
35. Power Couple
Stephen’s wife Tabitha has written several novels of her own as well, including the titles Candles Burning and Survivor.
34. Two Thumbs Up
Film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that King’s memoir On Writing was the most insightful book for aspiring writers since The Elements of Style. High praise indeed!
33. Tragedy Strikes
In 1999, Stephen King was hit by a van while walking down the street. The accident broke bones in his right leg, hip, and ribs. He also had a punctured lung and a head laceration. A few months later, newspapers reported that King had bought the offending van in order to smash it to pieces. In reality, his lawyers bought the van so that it wouldn’t wind up on eBay. It was crushed at a scrapyard—some stories are too good to be true.
32. The Big Screen
King has over 22 film appearances on IMDB. These roles are mostly cameos he has played in the movies based on his books. For example, in Pet Semetary he plays a minister. Hey, if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, at least he can fall back on acting.
31. Age is Just a Number
During an interview with Rolling Stone, King said that he disagrees with the labels of “young adult novels.” He himself is personally a Harry Potter fan, though he’s decidedly not a Twilight fan: “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
30. Winter is Coming
Stephen King and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin played poker together during Science Fiction conventions back in the 1980s.
29. The Devil’s Powder
In particular, King has a history of cocaine addiction, and his family had to stage an intervention to get him to stop taking the drug.
28. The Flash
King is an extremely fast and prolific writer: His 304-page book, The Running Man, was completed in only ten days. He called it “a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing.”
27. Word Count
In his early days, King could write 2,000-3,000 words, or six pages, in three to four hours. Nowadays King writes 1,000 words a day.
26. Another Record
King has the Guinness World Record for the most motion picture adaptations from a living author.
King says that when he goes to see the movies that are based on his books, he never expects the adaptation to stay completely loyal to his original story. As he says, “I know it has an idea that I’ll like because that idea occurred to me, and I spent a year or a year and a half of my life working on it.”
24. Not Impressed
Despite the fact that he enjoys most of the film adaptations of his work, King was famously unhappy with Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining. King feels that the film’s Wendy Torrance was merely a “screaming dish rag” instead of a fleshed-out character, and he didn’t like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance. When asked by Rolling Stone what he thought about the huge fanbase surrounding the film, King simply replied, “I don’t get it.”
King holds the record for the most books on the New York Times Best Seller List at one time. In 1995, he had four books on the list: Thinner, The Talisman, Skeleton Crew, and The Bachman Books.
22. I’ll Drive, Thanks
Even though he writes scary stories, King is still afraid of flying, and when he was younger, he often drove his motorcycle from state to state during his book tours.
King’s son Joe Hillstrom King also wanted to become a horror writer and decided to go by the pen name of Joe Hill so as not to be given preferential or biased treatment. Hill’s novel Horns was adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2013.
21. It’s In Their DNA
Stephen King’s second son, Owen King, is also a writer and, unlike his brother, doesn’t seem to mind using his dad’s last name. Stephen and Owen also collaborated on a book together called Sleeping Beauties.
20. I am the One Who Knocks
One of King’s favorite TV shows is Breaking Bad. He also likes The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, and The Americans.
19. Can’t Get Enough
King has over 17,000 books in his personal library. He’s read them all except for a handful of the newest ones.
18. Helping the Little Guys
King has put the offer out to any aspiring filmmakers that they can buy the rights to adapt any of his short stories for only $1. They’re called “Dollar Babies,” and King’s website has a list of available options. Independent filmmakers have created the “Dollar Baby Festival” to showcase their work.
17. Stand in Line
King doesn’t like the attention that he gets as a celebrity, and he hates being surrounded by huge crowds. As a result, he only gives out autographs at book signing events.
16. Early Profits
King got his start writing for Dave’s Rag, a newspaper that his brother self published with a mimeograph machine—a cheap, messy device that could print a stencil onto paper. Not long after, he started writing out the plots of movies he’d seen, and would then sell “his” stories to his classmates at school. This was technically the first time King sold any of his writing, but when his teachers found out what he was doing, he was forced to return his meager profits.
15. Hot Off the Presses
While he was attending the University of Maine, King wrote for the student newspaper, The Maine Campus. He actually had his own column, called “Steve King’s Garbage Truck.”
14. Saved by the Story
After he finished school, King struggled to make ends meet. He managed to sell a few stories, but these early profits did little to put a dent in his financial woes. For instance, when he received the check for selling his story The Float (now known as The Raft), he cashed it and immediately spent the entire sum to pay off a traffic fine.
13. A Death in the Family
King’s mother, who had raised him all by herself, grew ill in the mid-seventies, and King moved his family back to Maine to be closer to her. She passed away soon after Carrie was published, but at least she got to see at least some small amount of her son’s success. King’s Aunt Emrine actually read the novel to her in the final days before she died.
12. Even With So Many, You’ve Got to Have a Favorite
Of all his novels, King likes 1975’s ‘Salem’s Lot the best. In a 1987 interview, he said: “In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!” He dedicated the book to his daughter, Naomi.
In 1996, King collaborated with none other than Michael Jackson to create something of a cross between a short film and a music video. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts was written by King and featured music from several of Jackson’s albums. The film was screened at Cannes and received a Guinness World Record for longest music video.
10. Old School
What program do you use to write? Microsoft Word? Pages? Google Docs? Well, as far as King is concerned, the best Word Processor in the world is a Waterman fountain pen.
9. Harsh Criticism
King is undeniably one of the most popular writers of the 20th century and beyond, but not everyone is a fan of his work. When he received a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Book Awards, the famous literary critic Harold Bloom had this to say:
“The decision to give the National Book Foundation’s annual award for ‘distinguished contribution’ to Stephen King is extraordinary, another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life. I’ve described King in the past as a writer of penny dreadfuls, but perhaps even that is too kind. He shares nothing with Edgar Allan Poe. What he is is an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis.”
Since the publication of Carrie in 1974, Stephen King’s books have never gone out of print, and his second-hand paperbacks are readily available in most thrift bookstores. King continues to be a giant of the horror genre, and it appears he will be for years to come.
7. Greatest Of All Time
Pennywise, the horrible clown that haunts the kids in It, almost wasn’t a clown at all. Originally, King based the book his story on the fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” imagining the Losers Club as the goats, the town of Derry as the bridge, and Pennywise as the troll lurking beneath. Eventually, he decided that kids hated clowns more than trolls, which is probably true, and he made the switch.
6. 18. Inner Demons
King has been open about his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Apparently, it got so bad during the late 70s and early 80s that he doesn’t even remember writing one of his most iconic novels, Cujo. Imagine your blackouts producing horror classics? We should all be so lucky.
5. Mourning in his Way
King’s mother died while the author was at the height of his alcoholism—he has even said that he was drunk while he delivered her eulogy.
4. Not Cool in 2017… or 1990…
The movie It horrified audiences, but most fans don’t realize that one scene from the original novel was too disturbing for the film. For some reason, King decided it was a good idea to have the group of kids—the Loser’s Club—engage in an orgy. Yes, you read that right. Unsurprisingly, the scene has attracted much controversy over the years, which is likely why it was omitted from both the 1990 and 2017 onscreen adaptations. Plus…yick.
3. Not Sure if That Makes It Better, Stephen
Commenting on the scene, Stephen said, “I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood –1958 and Grown Ups. The grown-ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children–we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.”
2. Traumatic Memories
When King was a child, one of his friends was hit by a freight train while King and the friend were playing together. King has no memory of the incident. What he does know of the accident comes from his mother: King wandered back home alone, and she found him white as a sheet and unable to speak. As King says, “My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact.”
1. Dark Past
It’s believed that the psychological trauma King suffered from witnessing his friend’s death inspired some of his darkest works, though King has never implied as much. Notably, the horrifying memory didn’t appear in his memoir, On Writing, despite the book covering his childhood at length.