Runaround Pond & Stephen King


Stephen King spent much of his childhood at Runaround Pond. With his family, he moved to Runaround Pond Road at age 11 in 1958. This photo, used on the dust jacket of the book “The Regulators,” was taken by his brother, David King, in the childhood home.

During Stephen King’s childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Runaround Pond was entirely private land with old mill buildings collapsing into the stream below the dam. All of the roads in the area were gravel.

Especially in the opening pages of his books, King creates memorable scenes of children growing up with woods and farms and swimming holes in fictional towns that have unmistakable references to his childhood haunts. From these scenes he creates fantastic stories with bats, bloodsuckers, deer, river currents, thunderstorms, buried treasure, logging roads, pond hockey, camp fires, young love, coming-of-age, revelation, revival, and redemption.

From his early writings to present day writings, he draws from his childhood memories of Runaround Pond, the Royal River, Bradbury Mountain, neighborhood cemeteries, churches, farms, and forests. The opening scene of The Dead Zone was set at Runaround Pond. Much of Revival was set on Runaround Pond Road.  

Leeches at Runaround Pond play a memorable role in Stephen King’s coming-of-age novella “The Body” and its movie adaptation Stand by Me. The bloody massacre of leeches happens after a group of twelve-year-old friends takes a swimming break in a murky pool during a hiking and camping trip along railroad tracks up and down the Royal River, telling ghost stories around a campfire at night. The story, set in 1960, is semi-autobiographical; childhood friends who still live nearby recall the leeches event while swimming in Runaround Pond with King.

Leeches provide important food for turtles, herons, and fish.

Return to RRCT’s Runaround Pond webpage, or continue scrolling below for even more information on Stephen King and the Royal River.

Stephen King Book or Novella, “Movie,” (Stars)Royal River watershed featured in the book or movie:Natural Features
The Body, “Stand By Me”, (River Phoenix)Hiking and camping and coming-of-age along the Royal River and railroad tracks, and scenes inspired by Roundaround Pond childhoodLeeches
Camping Swimming
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, “Shawshank Redemption,” (Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman)Opening scene of strong currents under a bridge on the Royal River, dredging Yarmouth Harbor. River currents Dredging
Stone walls
Treasure hunts
Dead Zone (Christopher Walken)Opening scene of bonfires and skating on Runaround Pond; lead character lived in Pownal.Skating
Pond Hockey
Salem’s Lot (Rob Lowe)The fictional town of Salem’s (Jerusalem’s) Lot was on the banks of the Royal River. The town was named after a pig, Jerusalem, who escaped to the woods of the town. Today, Old Crow Ranch — next door to Harmony Grove Cemetery and consered as a “Forever Farm” — is a source of pigs for pig roasts and meat products.

Fictional Harmony Hill Cemetery evokes the Runaround Pond neighborhood’s (Davis Road’s) Harmony Grove Cemetery.

Stephen King writes in Danse Macabre that the inspiration for the vampires’ Marsten House once stood on a hill overlooking much of Methodist Corner in West Durham, on Deep Cut Road (Royalsborough Road).
In the movie, local town officials and developers are seen reviewing plans for major subdivisions on the banks of the Royal River.

Today’s conserved Old Crow Ranch (pigs and more) is just down the road from Harmony Grove Cemetery
Revival (2014), (Samuel Jackson)Clearly drawn from West Durham & Methodist Corner & Runaround Pond Road. Key characters clearly evoke the Chesley family. King family friends, the Chesley land is today known as Chesley Meadows PreserveBradbury’s summit
Swimming hole
Woods & farms
Tommyknockers (Jimmy Smits)While set off Route 9 in Unity and Bangor, the woods and logging roads have a striking resemblance to the woods and roads off Route 9 in Methodist Corner. While online sources suggest a connection to Runaround Pond and leeches, those connections aren’t yet found in the book’s text. Object buried in the woods
Logging roads

Return to the Runaround Pond & Chesley Meadows Preserve webpage