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Literature / Jerusalem's Lot

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"There are some huge rats in the walls, by the sound of it..."

"Jerusalem's Lot" is a short story by Stephen King, originally published in his 1978 collection Night Shift. Written as a Scrapbook Story, the story takes the form of a series of letters written by a New England aristocrat named Charles Boone to his old friend "Bones", as well as the journal entries of Boone's manservant Calvin McCann. Similar to King's other work Crouch End, from the collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes, the story is heavily influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, but also serves as a prequel of sorts to King's novel 'Salem's Lot.

The year is 1850, and Charles Boone, having only recently recovered from a severe "brain fever" following the death of his wife, has returned to Chapelwaite, the ancestral home of his dead, estranged cousin Phillip, hoping to restore the manor and take up residence there. However, he soon discovers that the house has a very dark history, and both it and the Boone family are shunned and feared by the people of the nearby town of Preacher's Corners. Investigating the history of his family, Boone soon finds himself drawn to the long-abandoned Puritan town of Jerusalem's Lot...

A miniseries adaptation called Chapelwaite was created by MGM+, and premiered on August 22, 2021.

This story contains examples of:

  • All Hallows' Eve: The entire population of Jerusalem's Lot mysteriously disappeared on Hallow's Eve, 1789. No one knows what happened to them, and the people in the surrounding area don't want to know. They were all consumed and converted into undead worshippers during the first summoning of The Worm. They still exist as ethereal spirits linked to the church and The Worm.
  • Big Bad: Despite being long dead, James Boon, Charles's ancestor and founder of the cult. He's not as dead as Charles thinks.
  • Body Horror: The inhabitants of Jerusalem's Lot were deformed from generations of inbreeding and the corrupting influence of The Worm. Robert writes about his one and only visit to the town in his diary, and describes children without eyes or noses.
  • Cosmic Horror: Heavily influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos, and it shows.
  • Creepy Cathedral: The church in Jerusalem's Lot. It has a picture that is an obscene parody of a Madonna and child and a large inverted cross.
    Charles: Lord...
    Calvin: There's no Lord here.
  • The Corrupter: James Boon, who possesses a (likely supernatural) ability to draw in others and corrupt them into his cult, which happened to Philip Boone, while his brother Robert seemed to be immune.
  • Defector from Decadence: Charles's great-grandfather Kenneth, who was the only member of the cult to escape Boone's clutches, though it's never gone into detail, and Charles believes he may have been rescued as an infant somehow and raised elsewhere.
  • Driven to Suicide: Charles drowns himself in the ocean at the end, hoping to put an end to his cursed family line. He fails.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Worm, the entity that dwells beneath Jerusalem's Lot, worshipped by James Boon and his cult.
  • Eldritch Location: Jerusalem's Lot itself, which is shunned not just by people, but by every other living thing. Walking to the town, Charles and Calvin note the complete absence of any animal life; no bugs, no squirrels running in the trees, not even the sound of birdsong.
  • Evil Old Folks: James Boon, by the time Philip and Robert meet him, is at least 106 years old, and almost visibly dripping with evil. According to Philip, he's still active with the women of the town despite his age.
  • Evil Smells Bad: In classic Lovecraft tradition, Jerusalem's Lot stinks of decay and foulness, symbolizing the evil permeating the place, especially the church. The stench originates from The Worm itself, still living beneath the town.
  • Evil Patriarch: James Boon, who not only fathered Charles's family line but was also likely the father of almost every person in Jerusalem's Lot.
  • Ghost Town: Jerusalem's Lot became one on Halloween, 1789. No one has lived there since, or even set foot in it until Charles and Calvin explore it.
  • In the Blood: Believed by Charles, and implied by the story itself ("blood calls to blood"), every member of the Boone family seems to be drawn back towards Chapelwaite and eventually Jerusalem's Lot because of their relation to James Boon. The same goes for James Robert Boone, the cousin Charles didn't know existed.
  • Kill It with Fire: Charles manages to destroy De Vermis Mysteriis this way, interrupting the summoning of The Worm, and sending it back into temporary hibernation. However, since other copies of the book still exist, the Worm did not die.
  • Last of His Kind: With the death of his cousin, Charles is the last remaining member of the Boone family. Or so he thought. James Robert Boone, the editor of the story, is himself a bastard member, and moves to Chapelwaite to restore the family name, starting the cycle over again.
  • Long-Lost Relative: James Boon was the grandfather of Philip and Robert, their father Kenneth being one of James's sons he had produced with the female members of his cult, and as far as anyone knows, the only one who managed to escape the town. Robert never made the connection, though it's unknown if Boon knew and told Philip about it after indoctrinating him.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Charles discovers that the "rats" they've been hearing in the walls are actually the undead forms of Randolph and Marcella Boone, two of his ancestors. Calvin refers to them as "nosferatu", though they're described as looking like zombies or ghouls.
  • Religious Horror: Mixed with the above-mentioned cosmic horror. The main focus of the horror is an old Puritan offshoot that devolved into a Satanic cult. The church in Jerusalem's Lot has an inverted golden cross hanging over the pulpit, and a painting of Mary and infant Jesus that is too blasphemous for words.
  • Shout-Out;
  • Sinister Minister: James Boon, having once been a puritan minister before founding Jerusalem's Lot and the cult.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: De Vermis Mysteriis, an ancient Roman account of the pre-invasion druidic religion and rituals. It also contains far older and far more horrific knowledge than what is first apparent, stretching back before ancient Egypt.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Preacher's Corners, the closest inhabited town, has kept the secret of Jerusalem's Lot and it's curse for over sixty years, passing down the stories of what happened there from parent to child.
  • Twist Ending: Charles commits suicide to bring an end to the Boone line, unaware that an illegitimate line from his grandfather Robert still exists. His descendant, James Robert Boone, takes up residence at Chapelwaite 161 years to the day of the start of Charles's letters, and it's strongly implied that the same ordeal is about to befall James.
  • Villainous Incest: The cult kept itself going through inbreeding for generations, with James Boon himself being the father of virtually every person in Jerusalem's Lot.
  • Wham Line: "Charles Boone was not the last of his line... I am the final descendant of this offshoot of the Boone line."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Assuming this story does share the same universe as 'Salem's Lot, what impact, if any, did James Robert Boone's misadventures have on the events of the novel?