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Long, long ago and far, far away I was ordered by the all-powerful ones in New York City to travel to the realm of Bangor, Maine to capture the likeness of the all powerful master of suspense known around the world as Stephen King. In his realm all manner of strange creatures roamed, from vampires (Salem’s Lot) to rabid dogs (Cujo), firestarters (Firestarter) to psychotics (Misery). The year was 1985.

When I arrived in Bangor, camera in hand, King picked me up at the airport, in his huge and brand-spanking-new convertible, with the top down, in spite of the snow falling from the sky. He asked me what I would like him to do, photographically speaking. Though I wasn’t afraid, you might say I was a little worried, not of the 6’4”, 200 pound King, but of the macabre creatures that inhabited his mind.Stephen King like a monster

I put the question back to him, something I found through the years that works best at opening the doors to a friendship instead of just a photo session. He suggested we go to his favorite place, an ancient cemetery somewhere on the outskirts of the tiny town. With King totally absorbed in the words on the many tombstones, featuring names of people like Amanda M. Harris, wife of Charles E. Scofford, who had died in 1832 (whose grave was capped by a large marble pergola, on which was engraved “In Memory of a Gentle and Kind Mother from her Devoted Sons”), I can only imagine what he was thinking. As for me, though, I was free to record the awesome scene pretty much unnoticed by him.

Afterwards, we went back to his house, which itself looked like the set of a horror movie. Large, rambling, and ramshackle-scary in every way. I remember being surprised that there was no security, not even a fence to protect Stephen King and his family from fans, worshippers, or worse yet, fanatics. I’ve noticed in more recent photos of the house that there is a huge ornate wrought iron fence there now, replete with a huge, decorative gate--not surprising (and quite suitable) for a person of his stature.

The interior, happily, was not creepy at all, decorated in a cozy manner perfect for a manly man, his artistic wife (also a writer), and his three children--the eldest a girl, Naomi Rachel, and his two sons, Joe Hill and Owen Phillip. (FYI, King's daughter Naomi spent two years as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Church, in Utica, New York. She now ministers for the Unitarian Universalist Church of River of Grass, in Plantation, Florida with her same-sex partner, Rev. Dr. Thandeka, and both sons have joined the family business as writers.) Both Stephen and Tabitha had their own writing areas, and I chuckle as I peruse these old pictures, with the rotary phone, pencils, and low-tech typewriters, the tools that spawned such great writing in the day.

One of the greatest moments of that visit though, was when either I (I’d like to take the credit) or Stephen (I cannot remember) came up with the idea of dressing the whole family up in scary costumes. And we did! You might think it was October, Halloween, but the backs of the contact sheets say differently.Stephen King and his family in costumes It was actually April when we did this. As you can see, Stephen was dapper as werewolf, Joe Hill as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tabitha pretty as a picture while walking dead, Naomi as a gorilla, and little Owen Phillip very cute, as a blood-sucking vampire with great big teeth. Now, what fun was that!

In case you’ve been thinking all these years that Stephen King might be a stuffy, intellectual, literary dude, take it from me, he is not. I took lots of pictures of him bowling with his wife, dancing into the wee hours, playing with his children, and other fun and heartwarming scenes. I promise you that though his imagination might be warped, himself King seemed like a pretty regular guy.

So how bizarre is it that this master of horror, fantasy and science fiction was himself subjected to a most horrific of occurrence- one that could have come right from his own brain? In 1999, King was hit by a car while walking on the side of a quiet road, reading a book. He suffers from the after-effects of this event to this day!

Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? But the irony is that I felt something like this coming, on that very first day, in the convertible, on the way to the graveyard with the cold wind blowing and the white snow falling, I was afraid. Like a premonition. Creepy, right?

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 127 - September 2018
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