Hulu's new series Castle Rock is set in the "Stephen King multiverse," which means that while it's not an adaptation of any Stephen King story, it's connected to a whole bunch of them, not unlike how King references his other stories in his fiction. Castle Rock is peppered with allusions that even casual King fans will recognize, as well as some deep cuts that may have all but the most Constant Readers heading to Google. Here's a running list of all the Stephen King Easter eggs hidden throughout Castle Rock that we found, not including some of the indirect and ephemeral tonal references, of which there are a lot.
(If you notice any I've missed, please let me know on Twitter.)
The only character directly taken from King's books to appear so far on Castle Rock is Alan Pangborn, who was the sheriff of Castle Rock, Maine, in The Dark Half and Needful Things. Pangborn was played by Michael Rooker and Ed Harris in the respective movie adaptations of those novels. On Castle Rock, he's played by two actors in different timelines: by Jeffrey Pierce in 1991, when he was still sheriff; and in 2018 by Scott Glenn, after he's retired.
The presence of Sissy Spacek and Bill Skårsgard
The casting of these two actors is a conceptual Easter egg, as they are both well-known from their roles in King adaptations. Bill Skårsgard was terrifying as Pennywise in IT — a role he'll be reprising in next year's sequel — and is terrifying on Castle Rock, too, in a completely different way. And Sissy Spacek, of course, played the titular role in Carrie, the cult classic adaptation of King's debut novel. No word yet on whether her Castle Rock character has psychic powers. They're the most obviously referential actors on the show, but Melanie Lynskey is also a King vet: she starred in the 2002 miniseries Rose Red, which he wrote, and Frances Conroy, who plays Warden Lacy's widow, was on the TV version of The Mist.
From the pages of Stephen King
The opening credits are shots of pages that reference a slew of King's novels, including the Castle Rock-set Needful Things and Cujo, but also many other famous stories, including IT, The Shining, The Green Mile, 'Salem's Lot, The Tommyknockers, Storm of the Century, Misery and Dolores Claiborne.
Episode 1 - "Severance"
Much of the action of Castle Rock revolves around Shawshank Prison, which you know from The Shawshank Redemption. In fact, there's a direct reference to the warden who offed himself in that novella/movie: while giving a tour of the warden's office, a character says "You can still see the bullet hole where Warden Norton--" before he gets cut off.
Henry Deaver's (Andre Holland) death row client Leanne Chambers (Phyllis Somerville) was convicted of killing her abusive husband Richard. Richard "Eyeball" Chambers was one of the bullies from the novella "The Body"and its movie adaptation Stand By Me. He was also the older brother of Chris Chambers, played by River Phoenix in the movie. He might not be the same Richard Chambers, since Phyllis lived in Texas, but the name is no coincidence!
The Mouse on the Mile
The short scene with the Shawshank mouse is meant to call to mind the immortal mouse Mr. Jingles from The Green Mile, which was also set in a prison. Castle Rock's mouse ain't immortal, though.
There was a minor character named "The Kid" in The Stand. He doesn't have any relation to this Kid, but there are no coincidences.
Episode 2 - "Habeas Corpus"
"Remember the dog? The strangler?"
During Warden Lacy's (Terry O'Quinn) voiceover monologue about the evil history of Castle Rock, he references Cujo and The Dead Zone. In The Dead Zone, a serial killer named Frank Dodd was terrorizing the town. After his death, his spirit may have possessed the St. Bernard who terrorized the town in Cujo. There's another reference to Cujo a little later in the episode, when Henry is looking at newspaper clippings and one of the headlines is "Rabid Dog Tears Through Town."
"1961. It was the fall after they found that boy's body out by the train tracks."
There are two references to the novella "The Body," which got adapted into the movie Stand By Me. There's the above shoutout in Lacy's monologue, and there's the headline Henry sees that says "Anonymous Tip Led to Boy's Body," which was called in by the bullies from the story.
"Shopkeeper Missing After Oddity Store Fire"
Another headline, this one a reference to Needful Things' Leland Gaunt, whose name is highlighted in the clipping, as is "Missing." Leland Gaunt didn't exactly go missing. He was a demon who fled to Iowa to open another evil shop called "Answered Prayers."
It's unclear at this point if Jane Levy's amateur historian is any relation to The Shining's Jack Torrance, but the name is no coincidence.
I don't wanna be buried in a Pet Sematary
Alan Pangborn digging up a dead dog because Ruth Deaver (Spacek) thought it came back to life is pretty Pet Sematary.
The Mellow Tiger
The bar where Henry meets Jackie was an important location in Needful Things.
It's burned down by the time of Castle Rock, but it was around for IT and Needful Things.
Episode 3 - "Local Color"
It's not a direct reference, but those spooky parentless kids in the unexplained animal masks sure remind you of Children of the Corn crossed with the guy in the bear suit from The Shining, don't they? Speaking of The Shining, Molly Strand's psychic abilities are almost identical to what Dick Hallorann described as "the shine."
Episode 4 - "The Box"
Byron Hadley vibes
This episode contains some Shawshank moments that bring to mind The Shawshank Redemption's sadistic CO Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown). There's the sniper stationed on the roof — you remember what Hadley did to Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) — and there's the reference to delousing powder, which memorably got thrown in Andy Dusfrene's (Tim Robbins) face, too.
When Zalewski (Noel Fisher) is starting to crack up, he draws smiley faces on the prison's CCTV monitors. The smiley face previously made a memorable Stephen King appearance in button form on ubiquitous villain Randall Flagg's denim jacket in The Stand. I don't think Zalewski is an acolyte of Flagg's like the Trashcan Man, but the smiley face definitely has sinister connotations in King's things.
Like Richard Chambers, Vince Desjardins was one of the bullies in "The Body"/Stand By Me, and it doesn't sound like he made much of himself when he grew up, either, what with the felony conviction and all. At least we know he didn't have anything to do with Henry's disappearance, which is more than we can say about his brother Joseph (David Selby). And Rita Desjardins, a probable relation, was Carrie's gym teacher.
"A serial strangler died in my house and I sleep like a baby."
Molly's giving a shoutout to Frank Dodd from The Dead Zone. It wasn't just Frank who died in that house; his mother died there, too. Frank's mom was shot by previous sheriff (before Pangborn) George Bannerman after she wounded the psychic Johnny Smith, who had seen in a vision that Dodd was the killer and gone to the house to apprehend him, which is when the Castle Rock Strangler offed himself.
Episode 5 - "Harvest"
"Live Like a King!"
You mean like a Stephen King? Does Molly sell houses with spooky-ass spiderweb gates?
"I had this uncle — he was a writer too — one winter he just flipped his lid and tried to ax murder his wife and kids at some fancy ski resort. And my folks will never talk to me about it! So I took his name just to piss them off. My real name is Diane."
So yes, Jackie Torrance is related to The Shining's Jack Torrance.
Episode 6 - "Filter"
Bill Skårsgard isn't the only guy from IT to show up in Castle Rock! Chosen Jacobs, who makes his first appearance as Henry's son Wendell in this episode, played Losers Club member Mike Hanlon in the horror hit.
Juniper Hill Psychiatric Hospital
The hospital where Henry takes the Kid has been mentioned numerous times in King's novels. A number of characters have been patients there, including IT's psychotic bully Henry Bowers, Gerald's Game's creepy grave robber Raymond "Space Cowboy" Joubert and Insomnia's mad arsonist Charlie Pickering.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror
The bird killing itself in the Kid's presence brings to mind the murderous sparrows of The Dark Half. The results are different, obviously, but people having psychic power over birds is something that happens in Castle Rock.
Castle Rock takes place in 2018, with flashbacks to 1991. In IT, Pennywise emerged and wreaked havoc every 27 years. Could the Kid be a different manifestation of the same evil? Pennywise and the Kid do bear a certain lanky, Swedish physical resemblance, don't they? Something to think about!
Episode 7 - "The Queen"
Ruth tells Wendell to go to the mall in Chester's Mill, the town that got put under the dome in Under the Dome.
"Ruth, it's me, Alan. I moved back from New Hampshire."
After the traumatic events of Needful Things, Pangborn left Maine for the neighboring state of New Hampshire. But he came back for his beloved Ruth, which ended tragically, in the long run.
The Crimson King
In The Dark Tower series — as well as in several novels that connect in some way to the Dark Tower series — the Crimson King is the primary antagonist. If it were a video game, he'd be the final boss. Ruth Deaver, the Queen, has a crimson king of her own; it's one of the chess pieces she uses to orient herself.
Episode 8 - "Past Perfect"
Wendell gets off the bus in Jerusalem's Lot, better known by its abbreviated name 'Salem's Lot. This town has had its own problems, most prominently a vampire infestation.
"He did his Ph.D work on the BTK Killer."
Gordon (Mark Harelik), the creepy, stabby professor who runs the true crime B&B shares an interest in serial killer Dennis Rader with Stephen King. King was inspired by Rader for the novella "A Good Marriage" from the collection Full Dark, No Stars, which was adapted into a film in 2014. It's one of his more controversial works, with Rader's daughter accusing King of exploitation.
Jackie Torrance, ax murderer
Her uncle knew his way around an ax, too.
Episode 9 - "Henry Deaver"
You'll float too!
Bill Skårsgard standing in front of balloons is a nod to IT's Pennywise and his single red balloon.
How do you Gage this connection?
Baby Matthew Deaver coming back from the dead is very close to what happens in Pet Sematary.
There are a ton of Easter eggs in the scene when the other Henry Deaver (Skårsgard) returns to Castle Rock. He passes the office of the local newspaper, the Castle Rock Call, whose product has been seen in earlier episodes as well as in "The Man in the Black Suit," one of King's finest short stories. He also passes the Emporium Galorium, a junk store that popped up in Needful Things and was the setting of the novella "The Sun Dog" from Four Past Midnight. "Claiborne Creamery" is a reference to the novel Dolores Claiborne. "Sheldon Stationery" is a reference to Paul Sheldon, the writer from Misery. The church's sign advertises a "Duchamp Merrill" wedding, which means relatives of "The Body'"s Teddy Duchamp and Ace Merrill are getting married. Ace Merrill died in 1991, which was a very big year in Castle Rock history. And it looks like Christine is parked outside of the park (Thanks to Reddit for the screenshot).
When Henry is seeing the ghosts of Castle Rock past, he looks up and sees a very frightening flock of birds, which is an even more direct reference to the killer birds of The Dark Half than the one in Episode 6.
"A doorway between worlds"
The portal between the different versions of Castle Rock brings to mind the Dark Tower series, which spent a lot of time exploring infinite worlds each slightly different than the next. The portal has many of the characteristics of what The Dark Tower's Roland Deschain knew as a "thinny," or place where the border between worlds has worn thin: shimmery surface, an insanity-causing sound that produces hallucinations and the ability to pass through to other worlds.
Episode 10 - "Romans"
Jackie's laptop is decorated with a sticker for "The Rock of Bangor," a classic rock station owned by Stephen King himself.
Harmony Hill Cemetery
Salem's Lot's Danny Glick was buried in Harmony Hill... before he came back.
Young Henry may have learned about backtracking over his footprints in the snow to hide from his killer dad by watching Danny Torrance do the same in The Shining.
The title of the family history book Jackie Torrance is working on is a reference to the Overlook Hotel, where her uncle Jack lost his mind in The Shining.
"The best place to finish a book is where it started. I read that somewhere."
I think Jackie read that in the Dark Tower series, which begins and ends with the sentence "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
(Special shoutout to @One_WomanRiot for sharing her deep King expertise!)
The complete first season of Castle Rock is available to stream on Hulu.