Stephen King is a model citizen with contributions to community and culture

Kati Gardella, Crier staff

In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to discuss one of the most prominent writers, Stephen King.

Stephen King is close to my heart, and actually pretty close to my home. I live right next to the city of Bangor and King’s famous spooky house is about 15 minutes from mine. It is red and looming, surrounded by his iconic gate donned by bats with spread wings and spider webs.

Despite his dramatic house and his immense fame, there’s nothing “celebrity” about Stephen King. He’s extremely down-to-earth and gives back to the community. When he makes donations, it is always under the radar.

Rather than naming himself as the donor, he almost always names his contribution after someone else. For example, he is the main contributor to the ice arena I go to when I’m home, but it’s named Sawyer Arena.

Stephen King used to teach at Hampden Academy, my high school, and he donated a grand piano when the new building was finalized in 2012. He has also made many donations to the pediatric ward of the local hospital, the Bangor Children’s Museum, and to local libraries. King selflessly honors his roots and constantly supports the Maine community.  

On giving, King said “I give because it’s the only concrete way I have of saying that I’m glad to be alive and I can earn my daily bread doing what I love. Giving is a way of taking the focus off the money we make and putting it back where it belongs- on the lives we lead, the families we raise, the communities that nurture us.”

King also gives back by enriching pop culture. Pennywise re-emerged as the scariest clown in pop-culture last year, when the new It movie hit theaters.

It was very successful and had the third largest preview total for 2017 movies.

The cast of child actors have been praised for their talent, and Bill Skarsgård portrayed a very convincing It. Part two is coming out next year, which is about the adult lives of those in the “Loser’s Club.”

I strongly encourage reading the book, even though it may take a while since it’s well over a thousand pages long. There are so many psychological and social undertones that make it a complex and truly terrifying horror story.

My favorite book of his is Carrie, which was published in 1974 while he was teaching at Hampden Academy.

While writing the book, he was struggling to make ends meet. He was skeptical about the quality of the book and probably would have scrapped it if his wife Tabitha, who is also a writer, convinced him otherwise.

King’s doubts were dissolved when over a million copies of the paperback version were sold within the first year.

The book is like supernatural Mean Girls that becomes much darker with the vulnerable Carrie White and her obsessively religious and controlling mother.

The book is actually one of the most frequently banned in US schools. That’s a loss, as Carrie is an important social commentary on peer groups in high school, and the dangers of bullying.

For my birthday this past summer, I went on a DIY Stephen King tour, visiting his house, the Thomas Hill Standpipe, the sewer drain that inspired It, the Barrens, Mount Hope Cemetery, and the Paul Bunyan statue.

All of those sites are related to It, aside from the cemetery, which is where scenes from Pet Semetary were filmed.

The majority of my coworkers from my summer job in Baxter State Park, many of whom are from outside of the country, made it a point to visit his house during our weekend breaks. Two of them were lucky enough to see King walking his dog down the street.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him since I was pretty young, when my parents took me along to a book signing.

I am lucky to be part of the same community as Stephen King. He is likely the most important figure in American pop culture, and he is a genuinely good person. His books are not only entertaining and scary, but rewarding to read.

Celebrate Halloween by watching some Stephen King movies or reading one of his books! There is also the new Pet Sematary movie to look forward to, which is set to release on April 4, 2019.