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Nightmare Fuel / It

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"What he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke."

Ah, It. Regarded as one of Stephen King's scariest (and longest) novels, it sure does have a lot of Nightmare Fuel. Now, where are my brown pants?

Then it was adapted into a movie, and untold numbers of children suddenly were scared of clowns. Good reason, too.

And now it's been adapted into new films (this time in cinemas), which have their own nightmare fuel pages.

Spoilers are Unmarked!

  • It. An interdimensional being of pure torment and evil that transported into our universe and crashed landed on Earth... namely, the location that would become Derry, Maine. It settles underneath the town, and every 27 years, it awakens and begins to feast on the town's population of children... Why children? Because fear tastes delicious to It, and nobody is more prone to pure fear than a young child. It will read your subconscious, take on the form of a nightmarish circus display of your worst fears, and eventually it will find a horrendous way to kill you and devour your body. And it most enjoys tormenting its young victims in the form of a demon circus performer known as "Pennywise the Dancing Clown".
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  • One thing that stands out to many though is the dead boys in the water tower. Just the thought of falling into the water and having no way of getting out, just having to wait for death... Creepy beyond words. Plus, that's the town water supply. Think about that.
  • How about the fact that Pennywise isn't confined simply to his own novel? He appears in several other Stephen King novels, and plays no direct role. He simply sits in the background, possibly waiting for something.
    • His cameo in The Tommyknockers; he just stands down the street and waves.
    • Dreamcatcher. "Pennywise lives!" "PENNYWISE LIVES!"
    • Don't forget his unseen cameo in 11/22/63. Even though he doesn't actually see IT, Jake Epping can perceive something is really, really wrong with Derry.
    (...) there was something inside that fallen chimney at the Kitchener Ironworks. I don't know what and I don't want to know, but at the mouth of the thing I saw a heap of gnawed bones and a tiny chewed collar with a bell on it (...) And from inside the pipe-deep in that oversized bore- something moved and shuffled.
    Come in and see, that something seemed to whisper in my head. Never mind all the rest of it, Jake-come in and see. Come in and visit. Time doesn't matter in here; in here, time floats away. You know you want to, you're curious. Maybe it's even another rabbit-hole. Another portal.
    Maybe it was, but I don't think so. I think it was Derry in there-everything that was wrong with it, everything that was askew, hiding in that pipe. Hibernating. Letting people believe the bad times were over, waiting for them to relax and forget there had ever been bad times at all.
  • Pennywise in the storm drain.
    "Everything down here floats."
  • Patrick Hockstetter. An insane and unfathomably sadistic solipsist who believes that he was the only "real" being in the universe, and who had no sense of hurting or even being hurt (even after Henry struck him in the mouth when he took a step further from a handjob and offered him oral sex).
    • He suffocated his baby brother because he believed he threatened his existence without a smidge of regret or even worry of the possible repercussions that would follow if he were caught (which his father almost did when he found a pair of tracks from Patrick's boots towards the infant's room, but shut the thought out forever out of horror).
      • The description of him when he was five-years-old suffocating his baby brother.
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    • He uses animals for his "experiment" where he tortures them ever so slowly by placing them in a rusty refrigerator to freeze and starve, including a stolen cocker spaniel puppy whose torture lasted the longest.
    • Said boy's fate, in chapter 17. He was a sociopath with only one fear: leeches. It takes the form of leeches combined with mosquitoes and wasps. The description of the boy being drained of his blood as well as the fact that one of the leeches sucks his eyeball dry is pretty horrifying as well. Even after ripping off and squashing a bloated leech feeding off his arm, the severed head was still embedded and continued to suck out the blood even as it was spilling out the other side like a hose. He was still alive while Pennywise was dragging his bloodied body into the sewer. He woke while It was feeding on him.
  • What happened to Michael "Mike" Hanlon when he was a baby. While his mother was cleaning and hanging laundry outside, Mike was sitting and playing in his baby carrier when a large crow showed up and started pecking his face. It wasn't until his mother heard his cries of terror and pain that she rescued and tried to kill the crow, but it already flew away. The fact that Mike was only a baby and couldn't defend himself is the scariest thing that could ever happen in his childhood. The crow appears later as a giant, horrible monster by one of Pennywise's manifestations.
  • Pennywise appearing as Georgie the day he died with his arm ripped off. Fortunately, Bill regains his senses and kicks Eldritch Abomination ass.
    • For that matter, the scene where George got his arm ripped out. Especially:
      George reached.
      The clown seized his arm.
      And George saw the clown's face change.
      What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar seem like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke.
  • What happened to Tom Rogan when he gazed into Pennywise's "deadlights". Since he was an abusive dick, he arguably deserved having his head explode from madness, but it's still a horrifying end for anybody.
  • The deadlights themselves are the perfect representation of what It truly is, both figuratively and literally. An Eldritch Abomination. While It's physical forms on Earth can be horrifying, they are still ultimately imperfect and mortal forms that can be conquered and beaten. The deadlights, however, don't follow the natural forms of the universe. They are utterly alien in every sense of the word, in shape and sight and sound. The lucky ones who come face to face with the deadlights are mercilessly annihilated but the unfortunate ones who don't die are forced to live forever inside them, insane beyond all hope of rescue. It is the ultimate fate of Tom Rogan and very nearly the fate of Bill and Richie.
  • The Deus Sex Machina. It's just so disturbing and horrible (despite being well-written, of course) that any inkling of fetish appeal is drained away into the bowels of Pennywise's sewer, never to be seen again. As the children are fleeing the sewers after defeating IT, they stop for a moment to make a spiritual connection - via their reproductive organs. Fighting IT aged them, and not in any good way.
  • While the death of IT is nothing but deserving, it plays out like a rape scene. With verbs like "thrusting", Pennywise begging and pleading by saying "NO" and Bill's excitement and pleasure with ripping out IT's heart. Considering the Deus Sex Machina above, this theme was intentional.
  • Instead of appearing in the school shower to frighten Eddie like in the miniseries, It harasses him in the form of a homeless man offering oral sex. King's description of the homeless man and his proposition is incredibly nauseating nevertheless. The form that the monster takes afterwards based on the fear of the homeless man; the homeless man had an advanced case of untreated syphilis that Eddie (very understandably) mistakes for leprosy, so the form It takes looks pretty nauseating.
  • The boys being chased by It at the Neibolt Street house porch.
  • "Sometimes I worry about you Beverly. Sometimes I worry a lot." It's up in the air whether it's creepier coming from her own father or from It disguised as her father.
  • The underlying message the novel carried throughout its entirety is rather like a punch to the gut. The idea that such great chunks of our lives end up being forgotten, lost during the transition to and through adulthood.
  • Beverly's encounter with Mrs. Kersh. Especially when Beverly finds her cup filled with liquid shit.
    • Topped by Kersh turning into Beverly's father, telling her that he wants to eat her (in the sexual sense).
  • Adrian Mellon's death. Beaten to a pulp, dropped off a bridge and when his lover goes to look to see if he's okay, he sees Pennywise biting into the man's body, before turning his head to look at the guy.
    • Imagine growing up in one of the towns that King amalgamated into Derry. The murder on the bridge was based on real events in Lewiston, Maine. Near as anyone can tell, the water tower nearest there was in Norway, Maine. That book was all sorts of creepy for people native to Maine.
  • The fact that, when they went back as adults, IT was pregnant. And they don't know if they got all the eggs! Oh, and the Ritual of Chüd, where Bill had to bite It's tongue, which is described as all gross and cracked and scabbed.
  • "And although the wall itself towered hundreds of feet above them, the door was very small. It was no more than three feet high, a door of the sort you might see in a fairytale book, made of stout oaken boards bound with iron strips in an X-pattern. It was, they realized at once, a door made only for children. Ghostly, in his mind, Ben heard the librarian reading to the little ones: Who is that trip-trapping upon my bridge? The children lean forward, all the old fascination glistening in their eyes: will the monster be bested...or will it feed? There was a mark on the door, and heaped at its foot was a pile of bones. Small bones. The bones of God alone knew how many children. They had come to the place of It."
    • "Bill toed the bones, and suddenly scattered them in a powdery, rattling drift with one foot. He was scared, too...but there was George to consider. Were those small and fragile bones among them? Yes, of course they were. They were here for the owners of those bones, George and all the others—those who had been brought here, those who might be brought here, those who had been left in other places simply to rot."
  • The horror and destruction It wrought whenever it awoke from its decades long hibernation. The beginning of its reign of terror in Derry, Maine in the 18th century starts with only two words - "It awoke." And of course it became worse from there, especially the incident in 1906 when 88 children were gruesomely killed during an Easter Egg Hunt caused by an explosion from Kitchener Ironworks right before It went into hibernation again.
  • The unfortunate destruction of the African-American military night club which was set fire by a group called the Legion of White Decency, in effect a Yankee-flavored KKK. One of the survivors, Dick Halloran, would become the cook for the Overlook Hotel. Mike Hanlon's father, Will Hanlon tells his son that on the night the club burned down in 1930 he witnessed a giant bird carry off a LWD member in its talons—the same bird that nearly killed Mike when he was an infant! Not to mention the "half-assed enema" Mr. Hanlon received from a lady's high-heeled shoe, when he was nearly trampled during the escape.
  • Imagine that the man you've married abuses you to the point that you mentally and emotionally regress to a child when you're around him. Welcome to Bev's life being married to Tom Rogan until she has the guts to stand up to him and gives him a taste of his own medicine.
  • The realization that the kids had that the entire town was in a sense, in league with It, especially when they realize that even their own parents weren't going to stop It from taking them. It's bad enough as a kid to have to fight the boogeyman, but far worse to come to the conclusion that your parents are on his side and don't even know it.
    • The creeping horror that is the Derry town populace: no matter what sick, depraved thing happens in front of them, no matter how many people are brutally murdered in broad daylight, the people of Derry will calmly go about their business... until someone steps up to become that cycle's scapegoat. That's when they break out the pitchforks and torches, and then it's back to business the next day, not even worth mentioning the bloodbaths in the news.
  • Henry Bowers carved the first letter of his name into Ben Hanscomb's belly with a knife, and would have put his whole name down there if Ben hadn't fought back and gotten away. The scar faded away after Ben left Derry, and then reappeared as It began to reawaken.
    • The scar Bowers left never faded. The scars from the werewolf, which were in the same vicinity, did fade and reappeared when Ben was back in Derry. Ben noted he had showed the Bower scars to his bartender only a few days before and the werewolf scars were not present then.
  • The fact that Beverly's father was implied to be sexually attracted to her and abused her because of it.
    • Even worse? Beverly's mother picked up on his lust for their daughter. She asks Beverly if he's ever been inappropriate with her, but she's too young to understand what she means. Talk about Adult Fear, imagine having a kid and having to decide whether to bring up the issue of them being molested or not, knowing that if you're vague, the kid may say "no" because they don't understand the question, but if you're clear and specific about it, you're going to torpedo your kid's trust in their other parent once they realize there's a reason you asked in the first place.
  • Stanley Uris, one of the protagonists, commits suicide in his bathtub because he doesn't want to go back to Derry to face It again. When his wife finds him, she finds that he's written the single word "IT" on the bathroom wall in his own blood.
    • And the implication: he was in the bathtub. IT used the sewers as a means of traveling—what did Stan see before he died, that left his face locked in that silent scream?
    • ""What did Stan Uris see before he died?" the vampire on the landing screamed down at him, laughing through the bloody hole of its mouth. "Was it Prince Albert in a can? Was it Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier? What did he see, Ben? Do you want to see it, too? What did he see? What did he see?"
  • Take a listen to the audiobook for another fantastic performance, this time from Steven Weber (i.e. Jack Torrance from the miniseries of The Shining). Some of his readings will give you goosebumps, in particular the scene where Beverly confronts the old woman, and his interpretation of Pennywise.
  • It has the ability to mimic any of Its victims, but it's never explained whether it's only mimicry, or if It really does take their souls and just uses them to lure or frighten victims. That might really have been Beverly's father... or what was left of him. And what happens when they go on living after being possessed by IT?
  • The entirety of Henry Bowers' life. Between his insane father showing him approval only when committing horrible, violently abusive acts against others, and his proximity in age to It's most potent adversaries, he was doomed from birth.
  • Bill's stutter coming back. Losing your words is the ultimate nightmare fuel for any writer.
  • Beverly being threatened and chased by her father, and realizing "this is how it happens". Up until then it's possible to wonder why IT finds it so easy to victimize children, and why the Losers don't tell any of the other kids. IT can get you where you live... and it can consume the people you count on to protect you most.
  • Poor Eddie Corcoran. Beaten within an inch of his life (literally) by his stepfather, loses his little brother to said stepfather, is saddled with a mother who won't do anything about the abuse (possibly because of It), can't go home because of his bad report card, goes to the park, and then has his head torn off by the Gillman. His life and his death were one long nightmare.
  • Possibly the most disturbing implication in the novel is the explanation given as to why a town with so many murders and tragedy as Derry doesn't draw more attention in national news. The surface explanation provided by Mike is that murders tend to not get reported if they happen in a small town, even if there are a lot of them. However, the book strongly implies something far more sinister: the murders don't get reported because IT won't allow them to be. IT's hold over the town is so absolute that it makes people complicit with itself, regardless of whether they realize it or not, or how good they are as people otherwise.

Down here, we all float. And when you're down here you'll float too.

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