Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Connections Between Doctor Sleep And The Shining Explained

After directing popular horror fare like Hush, The Haunting of Hill House, and Gerald's Game, Mike Flanagan decided to return to the world of Stephen King adaptations with Doctor Sleep. Based on the book of the same name, Doctor Sleep is a sequel to King's classic ghost story, The Shining, and it was published more than three decades after the first novel. The book follows an adult Dan Torrance as he reckons with both his past and his supernatural abilities as a new threat rises that perhaps only he can stop.

As for Flanagan's 2019 film, it stars Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance, and while it's definitely its own terrifying beast, the movie also hews pretty close to certain elements of Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of The Shining, in part by presenting the same version of the Overlook Hotel that Kubrick brought to life. But what are the other elements linking these stories together? Especially when it comes to the two books? Well, fortunately, you don't need psychic abilities to figure that out, because today, we're explaining the connections between Doctor Sleep and The Shining, from returning characters to returning themes.

Dan Torrance is the hero of both Doctor Sleep and The Shining

In The Shining, Stephen King introduced us to Danny Torrance, a young boy with the frightening ability to see ghosts and communicate telepathically. In that novel, Danny and his parents moved into a massive hotel called the Overlook for the winter, where the ghosts within slowly drove his alcoholic father mad. Danny and his mother escaped the carnage at the Overlook, but it cost his dad his life, and Danny was left to recover from the psychological scars of watching his own father try to murder him. 

In Doctor Sleep, we see glimpses of Danny's attempt to deal with this in childhood, but most of the novel focuses on Danny as an adult. Calling himself Dan Torrance, he finds that as he gets older, his mysterious "shining" ability is often too much to bear. Like his father before him, he descends into alcoholism as a way to numb his gift, but the ghosts of the past still have a way of catching up to him. It's only when he begins to discover a new, fulfilling purpose for his abilities that Dan is able to find peace with the shining again. Also, through the shining, he finds a new threat, and within that threat, something worth saving.

Wendy Torrance's role in both stories

In the struggle to escape the Overlook Hotel when her husband went insane, Wendy Torrance took much more physical punishment than her son, and no less emotional trauma. When they retreated from that place together, she was both a widow and a single mother, and she had to face the struggle of both recovering physically and emotionally and caring for her young son at the same time. This was complicated by Danny's continued shining ability, which led to more encounters with ghosts even as he tried to move on from the events at the Overlook. 

Through it all, Wendy stuck by her son, but she didn't live to see most of the events of Doctor Sleep. Wendy Torrance, a lifelong smoker whose habit only increased after the Overlook, died of lung cancer, leaving Dan to face the rest of his adulthood and his struggles with the shining alone. Through King's sequel, Dan thinks of her frequently, and he has particularly vivid memories of how she tried to help him deal with the first ghostly resurgences from the hotel.

Dick Hallorann returns for Doctor Sleep

Though they were trapped in the Overlook with its ghosts, the Torrance family wasn't entirely alone in their fight against the hotel's supernatural influence. Danny was befriended early in The Shining by the Overlook's cook, Dick Hallorann, who revealed to Danny that he also had telepathic abilities. It was Dick who gave Danny a name for his gift, "the shining," and he even taught him how to refine it. It was also Dick who heard Danny's cry for help across the country in Florida during the events of The Shining, and he came back to Colorado to help him as Jack Torrance went mad. 

Now, here's where King's book and Kubrick's movie go in majorly different directions. While Dick was murdered in the movie, he survived the events of the novel. In fact, Dick Hallorann remained friendly with both Wendy and Danny Torrance after the events of the book, so he also shows up in Doctor Sleep. When Danny has difficulty shaking off the ghosts of the Overlook, Dick pays him a visit and helps him to compartmentalize his trauma, using his own background as an abused child to help Danny understand how to overcome what he's dealing with. Dick dies in 1999, leaving Danny without his key supernatural ally, but even after his death, Dick isn't entirely gone from Dan Torrance's life.

The Overlook Hotel looms large over the Torrance family

For fans of The Shining, particularly Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaptation of King's novel, the Overlook Hotel is just as important a character in the story as anyone in the Torrance family. It's not only the primary setting of the novel, but a seemingly living thing full of ghosts and malevolent supernatural influence. The Overlook claims Jack Torrance over the course of the novel, and it very nearly claims Danny and Wendy, too. Even after they've escaped, its influence still finds a way to weave into their lives.

However, when it comes to Doctor Sleep, we're dealing with two very different depictions of the Overlook, thanks to the film adaptation. In King's original novel, the Overlook is destroyed when its faulty boiler explodes, while in Kubrick's film, the hotel is left standing. In the book version of Doctor Sleep, the site of the burned-down Overlook plays an important role, but in the film, the structure is still there, exactly as it was in the original film.

The ghosts are lingering on

At the end of The Shining, Danny and Wendy Torrance left the Overlook Hotel behind, and in the novel, the Overlook itself was completely destroyed by a boiler explosion. That doesn't mean its many residents have left the Torrance family behind, though. 

In Doctor Sleep, King reveals that shortly after their stay in the Overlook, the ghosts from the hotel start to torment Danny Torrance once again. The ghosts are persistent, so much so that they follow the Torrances to their new apartment, where Danny becomes so afraid that he refuses to go into the bathroom. 

Which ghost is responsible for this? The dead woman in the bathtub, of course, who managed to attack Danny and terrify his father during The Shining. In fact, she makes her way to the Torrance apartment with such a strong presence that her decomposing corpse leaves physical residue behind in the bathroom. Though she's the most terrifying and persistent ghost to return from the Overlook, she's not the only spirit that continues to follow poor Danny.

New layers of shining

In The Shining, Danny Torrance's "shine" was described as a particularly strong strain of the gift by Dick Hallorann, who helped the boy to refine and control his abilities. Danny's gift included the ability to read minds, to communicate telepathically with others who shine, and to see ghosts with the help of a kind of spirit guide which took the form of an imaginary friend called Tony. To help him deal with the spirits of the Overlook, Dick also taught Danny how to banish the images of ghosts by closing his eyes and reminding himself that they weren't real. 

In Doctor Sleep, Danny must learn even more expansions of these gifts. When the ghosts keep following him, Dick teaches Danny how to lock them away in boxes in the farthest reaches of his mind, where they can't get back out, but Danny's not the only one who shines in the sequel. Doctor Sleep opens up a whole new world of people with some version of the shining and the many different abilities they manifest.

A new psychic bond

One of the most important relationships in The Shining was the bond that formed between Danny Torrance and Dick Hallorann. They became friends because they shared abilities, but as the novel went on, it was revealed that their bond was far deeper. They shared a psychic connection, one that allowed Danny to contact Dick from halfway across the country, and one that allowed to Dick to be a comfort and an aide in times of serious trouble. 

In Doctor Sleep, this bond is mirrored in a new psychic connection that forms between Dan and a young girl named Abra Stone. Abra's shining begins to manifest when she's only a baby, and it's so strong that she manages to establish a connection with Dan accidentally, which he first notices when he finds himself writing her name with no real understanding of why. It's Abra, not Dan, who first begins to notice the dark forces at work in Doctor Sleep, and the two psychics realize that they must ultimately work together to defeat some truly nasty characters.

The True Knot make their evil appearance in Doctor Sleep

In The Shining, the key villain of the story was the supernatural grip of the Overlook Hotel, which worked its way into Danny Torrance's father and perpetuated the cycles of alcoholic self-destruction and violence which Jack Torrance tried so hard to subdue before arriving at the hotel. In Doctor Sleep, the villains take a different form, one more closely tied to the living. 

The True Knot are a group of nomadic people who drive around the United States in a group of recreational vehicles. The Knot are a tight-knit cult of semi-immortal meanings who are essentially psychic vampires, feeding off the essence (aka "steam") of people who shine. They're led by Rose the Hat, who chooses both victims for the Knot to feed on and new members to initiate. When they become aware of Abra, the Knot hatches a plan to track her down and consume her steam, while Abra reaches out to Dan Torrance for help in defeating them.

The True Knot's connection to The Shining

In the novel, King spends much of Doctor Sleep expanding on the inner workings of the True Knot, periodically checking in with the nomadic villains as he unspools the intertwining stories of Dan Torrance and Abra Stone. 

The True Knot are nomads for a number of reasons, in part because they'd attract attention if they ever stayed in one place, thanks to both their tendency to abduct children who shine and their strange aging process. And when they feed, members of the True Knot can de-age rather dramatically, in a way that makes them look 20 years younger overnight. They also prefer the nomadic lifestyle of retirees in RVs because it makes them inconspicuous when they're on the hunt. People don't tend to notice a bunch of older people making their way across the country, stopping at the occasional gas station or driving too slowly on the highway. 

King also reveals that the Knot maintains certain "company towns" as safe havens by controlling small business through shell corporations. One of these towns is Sidewinder, which just happens to be the nearest small town in Colorado to the Overlook Hotel. Whether they were aware of it or not, the Knot always had a connection to the place where Dan Torrance's life changed forever.