“Salem’s Lot” (Post 2/3)


[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 3/3


He was a solitary man, but solitude had in no way twisted him.



“So what’s new in town?” Floyd asked, knowing the answer already. Nothing new, not really. Someone might have showed up drunk at the high school, but he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Well, somebody killed your uncle’s dog. That’s new.”

Floyd paused with his glass halfway to his mouth.


[24] Reference:

Apparently a bunch of kids had broken into a Catholic Church in Clewiston, Florida, some time after midnight and had held some sort of unholy rites there.


Clewiston is a city in Hendry County, Florida. Without names or years to put into a search, I can’t find if/when a Catholic Church was desecrated by satanic worshippers in the city.

[25] Vocabulary:

The Marsten House loomed ahead of them, dark and crepitating.




verb – make a crackling sound.

[26] Reference:

It was much bigger than an ordinary bill.

Pat held it up to the light, examined it, then turned it over. “That’s a series E twenty, ain’t it, Milt?”

“Yep,” Milt said. “They stopped makin’ those forty-five or fifty years back.”


I can’t find what a “series E” was exactly, but from context (oversize, out of production around 1925 – 1930) I think Pat and Milt are looking at a 1914 – 1928 Grover Cleveland Federal Reserve twenty dollar bill.

[27] Reference:

“Mark Twain said a novel was a confession to everything by a man who had never done anything.”


This quote is not attributed to Twain outside of King’s work. I can’t find the quote attributed to anyone. It looks like King (or, more specifically, his character Ben Mears) made this up.


The telephone poles are gray and splintery, and the freezes and thaws of winter have heaved them into leaning postures that are casual.


[29] References:

She distrusted the creative male with an instinctive small-town dislike (one that Edward Arlington Robinson or Sherwood Anderson would have recognized at once).



Edward Arlington Robinson showed up in Catch-22 (note [40]) as the author of “Miniver Cheevy.” He was born in Lincoln County, Maine – less than a hundred miles from the fictional Jerusalem’s Lot.

Sherwood Anderson (1876 – 1941) was an American novelist and short story writer, known for subjective and self-revealing works. He was born in Camden, Ohio; a village with a population around 2,000 (as of 2010).

[30] Reference:

“We’ll make fun of that goddamn Yastrzemski.”



Carl Yastrzemski (b.1939) is an American former Major League Baseball player. He played his entire 23-year baseball career with the Boston Red Sox.

[31] I complained in End of Watch (note [13]) about King giving intellectual, logical characters the worst nonsense beliefs. We get some more in Salem’s Lot.

Ben asserts to Susan:

“There’s a large enough body of ESP data now so that a rational man laughs it off at his own expense.”


In another conversation between the two:

“Ben… it hurts me to say this about Matt, even to suggest it, but some people go crazy very quietly. They go crazy inside.”

“I don’t think so,” he said quietly. “There are signs. Sometimes you can’t read them before, but you can afterward.”


Then they’re not signs. That’s cherry picking information after the fact. If you told a certain type of person that anyone went insane, s/he would find “signs.”

Later, in the same exchange:

“But where is the motive?”

She shook her head helplessly.

“Even granting some motive we don’t suspect, why would he go to such Byzantine lengths, or invent such a wild cover story? I suppose Ellery Queen could explain it somehow, but life isn’t an Ellery Queen plot.”

“But this… this other is lunacy, Ben.”

“Yes, like Hiroshima.”


Jesus Christ. Where to start?

Suggesting the existence of vampires is not like the reality of Hiroshima. Yes, in Salem’s Lot vampires exist, but at this point Ben’s information is coming from one person (high school teacher Matt Burke) who he has only known for a few weeks. But Ben already believes he knows Matt well enough to be certain Matt is not lying or insane.

Ben is using a faulty line of logic, one that many people fall prey to: believing the reality of a supernatural event over the possibility that a trusted figure is wrong.

And finally, from Matt Burke himself:

“Let us… the three of us… proceed on the premise that all of this is real. Let us keep that premise before us as fact until – and only until – it can be disproved. The scientific method, you see?”


That’s the inverse of the scientific method. You start with a hypothesis, not a “fact.” And a hypothesis can never be 100% proven, only made more likely or disproven.

[32] Reference:

The band (…) was playing a version of “You’ve Never Been This Far Before.”



A song written and recorded by American country artist Conway Twitty. It was released in July 1973.

[33] Reference:

Ben, a little amused, thought of Edward Albee’s line about monkey nipples.



In Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, George calls Honey “monkey nipples.”


“There’s little good in sedentary small towns. Mostly indifference spiced with an occasional vapid evil – or worse, a conscious one.”


[35] Vocabulary:

Crunching the leaves that have fallen in mad and variegated drifts.



adjective – exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks.

marked by variety.


The sandwich was bologna and cheese, his favorite. All the sandwiches he made were his favorites; that was one of the advantages to being single.



He had felt sorry but he hadn’t cried and tears had never been close to the surface. His mother had cried but three days later Chopper was in the dim past to her, and he would never be in the dim past for Mark. That was the value in not crying. Crying was like pissing everything out on the ground.



Understand death? Sure. That was when the monsters got you.


[39] Reference:

There was a faint accent in the words (…) The guy might be a frog, or maybe a bohunk.



noun – (North American; informal; derogatory) – an immigrant from central or southeastern Europe, especially a laborer.

[40] Reference:

St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who had been stoned to death and who had seen Christ at the moment of his death.



Stephen is traditionally venerated as the Protomartyr (first martyr) of Christianity. Accused of blasphemy for his teachings, he was stoned to death at Jerusalem. The only primary source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. While standing in front of the crowd that would kill him, Stephen, seemingly oblivious to them, looked up and cried “Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!”

[41] Vocabulary:

A huge, knotted calabash pipe.



A calabash pipe is distinctively curved (think Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes). The pipe was originally made from the calabash gourd but now the name refers to the shape, not the material.

[42] Reference:

“I got scared before I went to bed. Just like a little kid afraid of the Allamagoosalum.”


A livejournal user named sailorhathor went down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out the origin of Allamagoosalum and concluded that it’s likely a King invention.

[43] Reference:

One was taught that such things could not be; that things like Coleridge’s “Cristabel” or Bram Stoker’s evil fairy tale were only the warp and woof of fantasy.



Christabel is a long narrative poem in two parts. The first part was reputedly written in 1797, the second in 1800. Coleridge planned three additional parts, but never completed them. The story of Christabel concerns the title character meeting a stranger named Geraldine who claims to have been abducted by a band of rough men. Staying at Christabel’s, Geraldine shows strange markings (“Behold! her bosom and half her side – / A sight to dream of, not to tell! / And she is to sleep by Christabel!”). Christabel’s father becomes enchanted with Geraldine. The poem is unfinished from there.

Some see suggestions of vampires or demonic possession in the poem, others see lesbian and feminist themes.

[44] Part Two opens with a Wallace Stevens poem (along with a Seferis; Post 1, note [1]) (p.371).

Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955) was an American Modernist poet. “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” is one of his best-known poems. It was first published in 1922 in Stevens’s first collection of poetry. (King quotes the entire poem in Salem’s Lot. The full text can be found here.)

[45] Vocabulary:

The first pellucid rays shone directly through the window.



adjective – translucently clear.

lucid in style or meaning; easily understood.

(of music or other sound) clear and pure in tone.


“Do you think I’m crazy?” Matt asked quietly.

With no discernible hesitation, Ben said, “No.”



By nine-thirty it was over.

Carl Foreman’s funeral wagon had come and taken Mike Ryerson’s body away, and the fact of his passing left the house with him and belonged to the town.


[48] Reference:

Eva was ironing and watching “Dialing for Dollars.”



A franchised format local television program in the United States and Canada, popular from the 1950s into the 1970s. The program’s usual format had the host announce a certain password to the audience. He would then randomly select a phone number to call from a bowl or drum, either from those that had been previously submitted by viewers, or by scraps of paper cut from residential telephone directories. If no one picked up the phone or the incorrect answer was given, the prize money would continue to increase.

[49] Reference:

Pictures of her idols – Jim Morrison and John Lennon and Dave van Ronk.



Dave Van Ronk (1936 – 2002) was an American folk singer. An important figure in the American folk music revival and New York City’s Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s, he was nicknamed the “Mayor of MacDougal Street.”

[50] Reference:

The local librarian who wrote Spenserian sonnets to daffodils in his spare time.



In a Spenserian sonnet, the lines are grouped into three interlocked quatrains and a couplet and the rhyme scheme is abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee.

It’s named after Edmund Spenser (~1552 – 1599), an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I.


“He suggested we put the thing on the basis of a theory to be proved or disproved, and begin by-” He ceased again, listening.

This time the silence spun out, and when he spoke again, the soft certainty in his voice frightened her. “There’s someone upstairs.”

She listened. Nothing.

“You’re imagining things.”

“I know my house,” he said softly. “Someone is in the guest bedroom… there, you hear?”

And this time she did hear.



Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…



If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered.



The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.



The town knew about darkness.

It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul.



There is no life here but the slow death of days.


[57] This condenses the essence and reach of King’s style (and why I love him) in a single paragraph:

The town has its secrets, and keeps them well. The people don’t know them all. They know old Albie Crane’s wife ran off with a traveling man from New York City – or they think they know it. But Albie cracked her skull open after the traveling man had left her cold and then he tied a block on her feet and tumbled her down the old well and twenty years later Albie died peacefully in his bed of a heart attack, just as his son Joe will die later in this story.


[58] Reference:

“You stay right there, puss, or you ain’t never going to know how ‘Secret Storm’ comes out.”



The Secret Storm was a soap opera which ran on CBS between 1954 and 1974. It followed the Ames family, a prominent clan in the fictional town of Woodbridge, New York.

[59] Translate:

“There is no English for it. Pokol; vurderlak; eyalik. Do you follow?”



Pokol translates to “Hell” in Hungarian but the other two words are only found in Salem’s Lot. A couple of shady websites suggest vurderlak is a word for vampire but I don’t know where they’re getting that from.

UPDATE! On April 15, 2019 user Peter posted in the comments:

“Vurderlak” (Vourdalak, ) is apparently from this Tolstoy story.


Also, in Chapter 1 of Dracula, Jonathan Harker looks up a number of words he heard muttered by villagers as he left on the carriage ride to Borgo Pass.

“I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were “Ordog”–Satan, “Pokol”–hell, “stregoica”–witch, “vrolok” and “vlkoslak”–both mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire.

The last word does some similar to “Vurderlak”

Post 3/3


11 thoughts on ““Salem’s Lot” (Post 2/3)

  1. In response to item 59, this is what I found in my research:

    Pokol = Hell (Polish)
    Verderlak = Vortex (Dutch)
    Eyalik = Scratched (several African languages)

    I think this means that there is an opening to the vortex of hell which scratches the surface in ‘Salem’s Lot.


  2. “Vurderlak” (Vourdalak, ) is apparently from this Tolstoy story.


    Also, in Chapter 1 of Dracula, Jonathan Harker looks up a number of words he heard muttered by villagers as he left on the carriage ride to Borgo Pass.

    “I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were “Ordog”–Satan, “Pokol”–hell, “stregoica”–witch, “vrolok” and “vlkoslak”–both mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire.

    The last word does some similar to “Vurderlak”

    Liked by 1 person

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