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Stephen King Is Terrified Of Pet Sematary For This Incredibly Dark Reason

Stephen King is responsible for more than his fair share of spine-chilling tales from the last half-century or so, to the point that his name has been synonymous with horror for longer than some of his readers have been alive. That sort of personal brand recognition makes it natural to wonder what, if anything, scares the man himself.

As it turns out, King isn't immune to the frightening power of his own work. The author has spoken candidly in the past about his own fearful reaction to his storytelling, and it doesn't appear to be simple promotional hype.

One of King's most famous tales is "Pet Sematary," the novel about a cursed burial ground with the power to bring dead beings back to life. The book has spawned two feature film adaptations, and in a retrospective interview King gave around the time of the 2019 version directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, he revealed exactly why the story still has the power to scare him decades after it was written.

The kid deaths in Pet Sematary are too much, even for Stephen King

In a March 2019 interview with Entertainment Weekly, King was asked about the "mythology" surrounding his 1983 novel "Pet Sematary," particularly its reputation as being "too scary to publish." In response, King laughed and said, "No, I mean it's true. I listened to it last year ... I was curious about it. You know, I hadn't been near it in 20, 25 years. So I listened to it, and thought, 'My God, this is just awful. It's just as dark as can be.'"

No one likes thinking about the deaths of children, and that even includes horror authors like King, who has trafficked in that particular subject many times. "Pet Sematary" contains a notable example of this when a young child is hit by a truck and killed on a road near his home. 

"I just had the greatest time writing the book until I was done with it. And I read it over, and I said to myself, 'This is awful. This is really f—ing terrible,'" King told Entertainment Weekly. He went on to clarify, "Not that it was badly written, necessarily. But all that stuff about the death of kids. It was close to me, because my kids lived on that road."

So, it isn't just the prospect of children dying that makes "Pet Sematary" so disturbing to King, but also the multiple connections between the story and his own real life.

Pet Sematary has numerous real-world connections to King's own life

First off, King revealed to Entertainment Weekly that the very idea of the "Pet Sematary" itself was inspired by where he was living at the time. "We moved to this little town called Orrington, because I got a job as writer in residence at the University of Maine. We rented this nice house on the river, and a pet cemetery was in back of it," the author explained. "There was a path that went up there that kids kept mowed. They didn't wear any of those funny masks — you know, with the hooked noses and stuff. But it was there, and it was really a nice place."

And not the only connection the story has to King's real life. He continued on to say, "My daughter's cat died. And we buried it in the pet cemetery. That was Smucky. She made a little cross that said 'Smucky — he was obedient.' And I mean, he was a cat. He wasn't f—ing obedient! But she loved that cat."

It's a common bit of writing advice to "write what you know," which Stephen King appears to have followed when he wrote "Pet Sematary." And that method might have had the unintended consequence of making the story particularly terrifying to him in the intervening decades.