‘Salem’s Lot terrified me when I first read the book. I took it with me a few weeks ago, on a train heading to Munich.
It still scares me.
I read ‘Salem’s Lot when the book first came out. I was in college and found a copy at an used bookstore, I think, and picked it up on a whim. My roommate was away that weekend and I wanted a break from my text books. I wanted something to read for fun.
“There was a ruined church along the way, an old Methodist meetinghouse, which reared its shambles at the far end of a frost-heaved and hummocked lawn, and when you walked past the view of its glaring, senseless windows your footsteps became very loud in your ears and whatever you had been whistling died on your lips, and you thought about how it must be inside, the overturned pews, the rotting hymnals, the crumbling altar where only mice now kept the sabbath, and you wondered what might be in there besides mice – what madmen, what monsters.” page 203
I ended up locking all the doors and windows, turned on all the lights, and stayed up until 4:00 a.m. to finish the book. I was too scared to turn off the lights – no way I would fall asleep before I read to the end.
I brought the book to my parent’s home the following weekend where one of my sisters discovered it. That night she had to walk the dog; it was already dark outside and my sister went upstairs and fished a crucifix out of Mom’s jewelry box. Because she was that scared. Next, my parents read ‘Salem’s Lot. They actually sat together on the couch and read it in tandem, because neither one of them was willing to wait until the other had finished it.
“If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered. And the fears locked in small brains are much too large to pass through the orifice of the mouth. Sooner or later you found someone to walk past all the deserted meetinghouses you had to pass between grinning babyhood and grunting senility. Until tonight. Until tonight when you found out that none of the old fears had been staked – only tucked away in their tiny, child-sized coffins with a wild rose on top.” page 204
We talked about that book a lot. What made it so frightening. About how Stephen King’s writing is contemporary and literary both. How he expresses those fears that cannot be articulated. Now, as a writer myself, each time I reread ‘Salem’s Lot I’m in awe of his control and mastery of language.
I left my battered copy on the bookshelves of a Munich hotel. Since then, I’ve entertained myself as I picture how some innocent traveler is going to pick it up, in need of something to read to while away the time, and will lay in that hotel bed afraid to go to sleep.
“His eyes strayed to the windows, which showed only blackness….”
NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, 1975. ‘Salem’s Lot is my favorite of Stephen King’s books, closely followed by The Shining.
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