We all remember our first time meeting the infamously scary clown known as Pennywise. It came from the sewers or poked its big red nose out of an old drainpipe. Maybe you saw it in passing and were too afraid to go back and check to see what it really was. Pennywise has a way of seeping in through the cracks of Stephen King’s books and our minds as viewers and readers. King didn’t just create a monster that could scare us, he created a myth that hangs in the air of many of his books and ties them all together in a universe of his own making.
Recently, they’ve adapted the old miniseries ‘It’ into a movie directed by Andy Muschietti. In the movie, we are treated to a new, arguably more, disgustingly terrifying clown with an appetite that goes beyond gluttony. Pennywise’s debut novel and movie, though original in its horror and lore, only gave us a snapshot — a bloody and terrifying snapshot — of what and who this creature is. For fans who have delved deeper into King’s book universe, they know that Pennywise’s story doesn’t end or even truly begin in Derry, Maine.
When it comes to King and his flair for the imaginatively horrifying, he is matched by very few others in the game. Creating Pennywise wasn’t just about making a scary creature to exist in just one book. It was about making a monster that infiltrates deeper into Stephen King’s universe and leaves us seeing Pennywise as something more than a singular being that terrorizes kids in Derry. Using his skills, King has weaved Pennywise into at least seven of his novels so far, so ‘It’ is only the tip of the blade when it comes to this murderous clown.
In 1986, Pennywise made his first appearance in ‘It’ where he appeared in Derry every 27 years to feed on the population. Throughout the plot of the book, we learn that there are rules to the clown. Rules that lead to his death. Or do they.
A year later, Tommyknockers was released to the world and again we learn that Pennywise is still out there, hunting. A character from Tommyknockers, Tommy Jacklin, spots Pennywise lurking in the tunnels with his clutch of balloons. To some, this may seem like a break in the rules of Stephen King’s universe, but if you are a constant reader of his books, then you’ll know that all the worlds in King’s universe are alternate realities. So, while he may have died in ‘It’, he is still alive throughout King’s universe.
Pennywise doesn’t make another appearance in King’s books until Insomnia in 1994. Insomnia takes place in Derry, Maine where, as we all know, Pennywise loves to hunt. In Insomnia we don’t so much as see Pennywise as notice that the deadlights appear again to try and lure the main character to his death. Again, in Dreamcatcher released in 2001, there’s another reference made by the group of friends from that novel about all the disappearances that happen in their hometown of Derry, Maine.
Aigner Loren Wilson is a Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. Her work has appeared in Arsenika, Terraform, Rue Morgue, and more. She writes or edits for Strange Horizons, Nightlight Horror Podcast, Oly Arts, Discover Pods, and more.