'Salem's Lot

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'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror novel written by Stephen King. It was King's second published novel, following Carrie.

The plot focuses on the Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot, which is slowly taken over by vampires, and a small band of survivors, including protagonist Ben Mears, decide to fight back.

The eponymous town is revisited in the short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road". (The former acts as a prequel to the novel, the latter is set three years after the events of the novel.) These stories are included in Night Shift, and also in the illustrated edition of 'Salem's Lot. Said illustrated edition was released in 2005, and also contains several deleted and alternate scenes.

The novel has also been adapted into two miniseries (released in 1979 and 2004 respectively), a film sequel to the 1979 miniseries (A Return to Salem's Lot), and a 1995 radio drama.

Tropes used in 'Salem's Lot include:
  • Abusive Parents: The MacDougall baby is subjected to assorted beatings from his mother (though she regrets it every time, and completely freaks out when the baby dies).
  • Adaptation Distillation: The 1979 miniseries takes out several minor characters and condenses the story considerably.
  • Assault with a Deadly Antler: The first known example of this trope appeared in the 1979 miniseries of the book.
  • Bald of Evil: Much emphasis is placed on Straker's baldness.
  • Big Bad: Kurt Barlow.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Corey Bryant literally craps his pants when Reggie Sawyer threatens him with an (unbeknownst to Corey) unloaded shotgun.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Kurt Barlow. "I am not the serpent, but the father of serpents."
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Susan's ex.
  • Creepy Child: Danny Glick.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Jimmy, when he plummets down the booby-trapped staircase and straight onto a pit of upturned knives. Enough said. His death in the original manuscript also qualifies for this trope (he is devoured alive by rats), although it is a lot gorier than the version which made it into the book.
  • The Dragon: Richard Straker.
  • Extremely Dusty Home: The Marsden House, even when Hubie Marsden was living in it.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Poor Father Callahan. Not only does he have his entire faith mocked and ripped apart by the Big Bad, but he also is forced to drink the main vampire's blood and forever be marked as an Untouchable to the rest of humanity.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Straker
  • Genre Savvy: Mark Petrie and Matt Burke.
  • Ghost Town: Salem's Lot is reduced to being a ghost town after the vampires take over. The novel's prologue has a newspaper article about a reporter trying to find out why it became one. Another ghost town, Momson, is mentioned in the same article.
  • Groin Attack: Straker does this to Mark, and, later, another Groin Attack (of a much squickier nature) upon Mark is threatened, but not executed.
  • How We Got Here: The novel's prologue takes place after the main events of the novel (but before the epilogue). The prologue's unnamed characters eventually turn out to be Ben and Mark.
  • Infant Immortality: Both averted and played straight: several children die, only to return as vampires, but Mark Petrie survives the novel.
  • It's Personal: It gets really personal for Ben when Barlow turns Susan into a vampire, and for Mark, when Barlow kills his parents.
  • Kick the Dog: Barlow is a particular fan of this trope.
  • Kill'Em All: Out of a huge cast of characters, Ben, Mark, and Father Callahan are the only major characters to survive, and only a handful of the more minor characters survive.
  • Kill It with Fire: In the book's ending, Ben and Mark return to the town with the purpose of burning it down and most of the vampires with it.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Looks Like Orlok: Barlow in the 1979 miniseries. In the book he's more of a Classical Movie Vampire.
    • This version's portrayal is actually what Type One Vampires look like in The Dark Tower. It's a fan theory that Barlow is the Progenitor which may explain why he has a human disguise.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ann to Susan. Susan is not happy.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're actually quite similar to Barm Stoker's version of vampires, as Stephen King acknowledges in one version of the book. They also differ in a few ways, and The Dark Tower goes on to explain the vampires in greater detail.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Barlow claims to be older than Christianity.
  • Scrapbook Story: Not the whole thing, but it does begin and end with newspaper accounts of the strange goings-on in the Lot.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Death from feeding causes conversion, morality shifts in converts, and a voracious appetite makes these vampires definitely hostile.
  • Staking the Loved One: Ben is forced to stake Susan after she becomes a vampire.
  • Stupid Evil: A curious version. King makes it a point to allude that the worst kind of evil isn't the Dark Lord and his Army Of Evil, but the near-endless rabble of not-too-bright humanity going about their daily lives, fornicating and lighting firecrackers inside cats.
  • Things That Go Bump in the Night: When Barlow confronts Callahan, he takes the appearence of Callahan's childhood bogeyman.
  • Those Two Guys: The cops earlier in the story.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Why, oh why did Susan enter the vampire's lair without backup?
    • It's even lampshaded, as she thinks that when in the horror movies she saw, the heroine went up to the cellar, she thought "What a silly bitch... I'd never do that!" and yet, she's doing exactly that.
  • Town with a Dark Secret
  • Undead Child: Several.
  • Vampire Invitation: Played straight. Matt is almost killed by a vampire because he let the man in his home after he was bitten, but before he died. Matt manages to get the vampire to leave by saying he's revoked his invitation.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Father Callahan's story ends right after he's been pwned by Barlow, and we don't hear from him again. His story was later told in Wolves of the Calla.
    • There's also the almost literal use of the trope in the slowly gathering rats suddenly just...dropping out of the story. In the original plan they were going to devour the guy who fell down the trick staircase. Instead King just had him be impaled.

The 2004 miniseries contains examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Ascended Extra: Ruthie Crockett, a very minor character in the novel is made into a major supporting character in the miniseries.
    • Abusive Parents: It's subtly implied that her father is sexually abusing her.
    • Rich Bitch: She has quite a bad attitude and is callous and cruel towards Dud.
  • Kill It with Fire: The solution to the vampire infestation. Of course, considering the conversation Dud and Barlow have on how rats when frightened of fire find new holes to hid in...
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted, killing Barlow doesn't cure or destroy his progeny.
    • However it's implied that When he corrupted Father Callahan he took control over him and possibly made him a fail safe so that if Barlow were to be killed, his fledglings would still survive.
  • Not Himself: Mike and Charlie just before completely going vampire.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're pretty much classic vampires.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: And how.
  • The Renfield: Straker.
  • Undead Child: An entire school bus worth of 'em.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Roys' baby, what happened to it after the Doctor "traded" him for his beemer?
  • What Have I Become?: Matt gets Mike to freak out by pointing out he's got autopsy scars all along his chest, which along with revoking his invitation got him to leave him alive.


The prequel short story "Jerusalem's Lot" contains examples of:[edit | hide]

  • Apocalyptic Log: Told through the diary entries of aristocrat Charles Boone, returning to his neglected family mansion in Preacher's Corners, Maine, and the horrors he uncovers in the nearby abandoned colonial village of Jerusalem's Lot.
  • Artifact of Doom: De Vermis Mysteriis, a Tome of Eldritch Lore created in the short stories of Robert Bloch. Reading from it temporarily possesses Charles with the spirit of his ancestor and summons an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Cain and Abel: Philip and Robert Boone.
  • Corrupt Church: The dominant cult of colonial Jerusalem's Lot practiced witchcraft and sacrifice and worshipped an Eldritch Abomination known as "the Worm". It is said to have begun as a offshoot of the Puritans.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Our heroes have successfully fought back the undead and prevented the summoning of an Eldritch Abomination, at great personal loss. Charles Boone is left with no choice but to commit suicide to prevent his accursed family line, of whom he is the last, from ever reviving the cult and trying to resummon the Worm. He does so... but his estate winds up in the hands of an unknown bastard relative who receives Charles's diary but dismisses it as superstitious nonsense.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: Not just a pastiche of the style, but deliberately set within the Shared Universe, and using several of its trappings.
  • Cult: The aforementioned Corrupt Church, whose leader charmed the protagonist's ancestor into joining.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Charles Boone and his ever-faithful manservant, Calvin McCann. Who is also The Watson.
  • In Name Only: This has little similarity to the novel described above. It takes place over a century earlier, the town itself is unrecognizable, and the novel is a gothic horror/vampire pastiche in the style of Dracula while the prequel is a Cosmic Horror Story and pastiche of H.P. Lovecraft. Vampires do appear, but have little in common with the depictions in the novel.
  • In the Blood: The dark history of the Boone family and its connection to the evils of Jerusalem's Lot. Charles Boone is convinced that the only way to prevent the nightmare from happening again is to kill himself, the last member of the dynasty.
  • Ghost Town: Jerusalem's Lot is this at the time the story takes place (1850). Yeah, it seems to happen a lot to the place.
  • The Heretic: James Boon, whose wacky witchcraft hijinks were apparently frowned on by mainstream Puritan churches in New England.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vampires (or nosferatu) in this story are never seen drinking blood, and serve primarily as zombie-like cultists. Also, the off-screen cameo of a Star Vampire.
  • Sequel Hook: The Cruel Twist Ending certainly qualifies, but despite the fact that there actually are two sequels to this story, it's never really utilized. Both 'Salem's Lot and "One for the Road" go in very different directions with the concept.
  • Shout-Out: Mainly to other works of the Cthulhu Mythos. Specifically, repeated complaints by the main characters about "The Rats In The Walls" of the mansion and the whip-poor-wills that have taken to nesting on the building. The latter may be a Continuity Nod, alongside the presence of De Vermis Mysteriis, but the former probably isn't since it isn't actually rats, but the undead.
  • Spell My Name With An E: The Boone family appears to have picked up the trailing vowel sometime between the birth of distant ancestor James Boon and his descendants Philip and Robert Boone.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: De Vermis Mysteriis, again.
  • Villainous Incest: The blood-sacrifice-performing witchcraft cult of Jerusalem's Lot topped it all off by encouraging this of its adherents.
  • White Sheep: Charles and Philip Boone stand out as the only members of their clan not in league with the evil cult. At least not willingly, in the case of Charles.