EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 3, 2013

King novel based on Canobie Lake Park

Salem attraction likes attention, even if geography's off

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — Stephen King may be a world-renowned writer, but his geography is a little off.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, the Maine native told of how he was inspired to write his latest thriller, “Joyland,” to be released tomorrow. The story, featuring crime, horror and the supernatural, takes place at a haunted amusement park in the 1970s.

As he described his fascination with fairs and carnivals as a child, King mentioned how he searched amusement park websites online to find a park to use his book.

He found one — Salem’s own Canobie Lake Park.

“I wanted one that was nice and clean and sunlit, but wasn’t too big,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross. “So, I didn’t want a Disney World, I didn’t want a Six Flags park, and I settled on a place called Canobie Lake Park, which is in Massachusetts ... .”

Massachusetts?

Yes, Massachusetts.

But Canobie Lake Park spokesman Chris Nicoli isn’t concerned that King is telling a nationwide radio audience the park is in Massachusetts. As a matter of fact, he’s thrilled.

“We’re just happy to be part of it,” Nicoli said.

Since Canobie is only a short distance from the Bay State border, it’s easy for some people to think the park is in Massachusetts, Nicoli said.

Luckily for Canobie, the thousands who travel to the 111-year-old park on a typical summer day know where to find it.

Besides, King and his staff know exactly where Canobie is located, Nicoli said.

“There have definitely been Stephen King sightings in the park in the past,” Nicoli said.

Staff members saw the famous writer at the park on at least a few occasions years ago, he said.

King’s friend and adviser, Russell Dorr, visited the park for about three hours in February 2012, Nicoli said.

Dorr took photographs of the inside of the Mine of Lost Souls attraction because King wanted to write about the experience of taking a traditional, haunted “dark ride,” Nicoli said.

Since “Joyland” takes place at a fictional amusement park in North Carolina, even local avid King fans wouldn’t realize his book is based on Canobie unless they heard the radio interview.

But Nicoli said King researched Canobie’s website and used its park map for his novel, part of Titan Publishing Group’s Hard Case Crime series.

“I look forward to reading his book,” Nicoli said.

Novelist Charles Ardai, a co-founder and editor of the Hard Case Crime series, said he hadn’t even heard of the Canobie connection until he listened to the interview.

“Joyland” is the second book King has written for the 9-year-old series. It was preceded by King’s 2005 thriller, “The Colorado Kid,” which became a national bestseller and inspired the television series “Haven,” Ardai said.

King volunteered to write for the series after being asked to put together a short publicity promo, he said.

“It was by far our best seller,” Ardai said. “It put us on the map. No one tops Stephen King.”

The King book and radio interview isn’t the first time Canobie has been under the national spotlight.

Over the years, the park has also been used a model for video games, Nicoli said.

And last year, Canobie was used for the filming of the movie “Labor Day” starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.

About 200 members of a Hollywood film crew took over the park for a six-hour period in August, filming scenes before the park opened for the day.

“We are very proud of the park and that it’s inspiring others’ creativity,” Nicoli said.