The best thing about falling in love with a Stephen King character — something I’ve done many, many times — is that there’s a decent chance you might meet them again.
It’s one of the cool things about the horror master’s body of work: everything’s connected. Characters and settings crop up time and again in different books, often more than once.
It would be hard to go into absolutely every connection in just one article — there have been some impressive flowcharts made for this very purpose, and they’re incredibly complex — but there are a few big names that stand out.
From telepathic heroes to murderous clowns, here are some of Stephen King’s recurring gems.
1. Dick Hallorann
Originally appears in: The Shining
Also appears in: IT
Dick Hallorann is a pretty big deal in The Shining, but not many people know he’s also crucial in IT (albeit in an indirect sense). The thing is, if it wasn’t for Dick Hallorann, Mike Hanlon (of Losers’ Club fame) wouldn’t exist. Hallorann appears in a story Mike’s dad tells him about his army days, in which he narrowly escapes being burned alive in an arson attack by white supremacists. Dick is the one who tells Mike’s father to climb through the window of their clubhouse rather than running for the jammed doorway, which ends up saving his life.
2. Richie Tozier & Beverly Marsh
Originally appear in: IT
Also appear in: 11/22/63
There are a handful of locations that crop up again and again in Stephen King’s novels. Derry, with its nightmarish clowns and general sense of despair and misery, is one of these. In 11/22/63, when Jake Epping travels back in time and visits a post-IT Part One Derry, he bumps into Richie Tozier and Bev Marsh (two parts of the Losers’ Club) practicing a dance together. The fact that 11/22/63 was published a full 25 years after IT is a testament to something Stephen King said recently about his stories: “I keep them all with me”. No matter how old a character may be, there’s always the chance they’ll pop up again somewhere down the road.
3. Cynthia Smith
Originally appears in: Rose Madder
Also appears in: Desperation and The Regulators
Often, Stephen King will bring back one of his main characters in a smaller, cameo role in a later novel. But Cynthia Smith is almost the reverse of that. She initially appears in King’s 1995 novel Rose Madder in a supporting role (she befriends the main character, Rose, in a women’s shelter), then returns the following year for a much bigger part in Desperation. Oh, and just to make things that little bit more confusing, she’s also in the companion novel to Desperation, a book called The Regulators. That one was written under King’s “Richard Bachman” pseudonym, and it’s set in a parallel universe.
Originally appears in: IT
Also appears in*: The Tommyknockers and Dreamcatcher
*Okay, so Pennywise doesn’t necessarily appear in The Tommyknockers (there’s some confusion around this), and he’s only referenced in Dreamcatcher. But he still gets a mention in both books, and at the very least his presence hangs over a number of King’s stories. In Dreamcatcher, the main characters find a memorial to the people lost in the storm that took place in Derry in 1985 (the one that takes place at the end of IT). Someone has scrawled “PENNYWISE LIVES” over the monument. In The Tommyknockers, meanwhile, a character driving through Derry thinks he sees a clown staring out of a sewer drain as he travels past. The problem is, The Tommyknockers is set two years after IT, when Pennywise is meant to be dead and gone. As one person on Reddit pointed out, though, maybe one of Its eggs survived…
5. Father Callahan
Originally appears in: Salem’s Lot
Also appears in: The Dark Tower series
When you start getting into the world of King’s Dark Tower series, things get even more complex. I’m not going to start banging on about the multiverse here (I’ve already done that before), but the TL;DR version is that the Dark Tower novels are the nexus of King’s body of work. They reference a bunch of his other books, and plenty of characters who appear in standalone King novels also show their faces in the Dark Tower series.
Father Callahan is one of the most notable examples of this. The alcoholic priest first appears fighting vampires in King’s second novel Salem’s Lot, before reappearing to join the main group of protagonists in the fifth volume of the Dark Tower (in which we get a full history of what happened to him since we last saw him).
6. Ted Brautigan
Originally appears in: Hearts in Atlantis
Also appears in: The Dark Tower
Of all the characters who appear in multiple novels, Ted Brautigan may be one of my favourites. A psychic who is being pursued by a band of odd creatures known as the Low Men, Ted initially appears in the first section of Hearts in Atlantis — then the larger context for his situation becomes much clearer when he crops up again in the final Dark Tower novel. In this way Ted is a perfect example of how King’s work ties together — his first appearance is like a piece in a larger puzzle, which only becomes clear when the central Dark Tower story has been resolved.
7. Randall Flagg
Originally appears in: The Stand
Also appears in: The Eyes of the Dragon and The Dark Tower series
Anyone who thinks Pennywise is the biggest Stephen King villain is sorely mistaken. Ever since the early days of The Stand, Randall Flagg — the mysterious wizard/devil-man who goes by a whole host of different names — has been popping up all over the place. He’s essentially evil incarnate. As well as being a key antagonist in King’s 1986 novel The Eyes of the Dragon and making cameos in a number of other stories (often with a different name, but usually with the R.F. initials), Flagg is also Roland’s main adversary in the Dark Tower books. If anyone in this list is likely to pop up again in a future King novel — maybe as himself, maybe as a thinly disguised version — it’s him.