So cool it’s scary: Stephen King references Scouting in more than half of his novels

“You were never a Boy Scout,” one character tells another as they prepare to face a villainous vampire. “I, however, always come prepared.”

This line, found in Stephen King’s 1975 dark novel Salem’s Lot, is one of dozens of Scouting references in the master storyteller’s works. Of King’s 59 full-length novels to date, at least 32 reference Scouting in some way.

Scouts march in the Derry town parade in It, a character raises her right hand in the Scout salute in Duma Key, and the hero creates a makeshift compass in The Dark Tower III, an act that causes his traveling companion to proclaim, “You really are an Eagle Scout!”

Time and again, the author uses Scouts and Scouting as a kind of shorthand for a range of character traits, including trustworthiness, bravery and preparedness.

Through his references, King, who was not a Scout as far as I can tell, demonstrates the universal understanding of Scouting values. King doesn’t need to explain what he means by “Scout virtues” or “Scout’s honor.” Readers understand.

It’s worth mentioning that a lot of the material in King’s books would frighten younger Scouts. Don’t interpret this post as my recommending a reading of The Shining at your next pack meeting.

But Scouting references in popular culture have always fascinated me, especially when those references come from one of the most successful novelists in history — and one of my personal favorite writers. As a Constant Reader (the nickname for King’s loyal fans), I started making a note every time I noticed a Scouting reference in one of his books. As I worked my way through his novels, there were enough Scouting references to form a pattern and, eventually, prompt a blog post.

To put it another way: This exhaustively researched post is the culmination of a 15-year overlap between my Scouting and Stephen King fandoms.

Annotated Stephen King bibliography

Three notes:

  1. I’ve only included King’s full-length fiction works, though I have noticed references in his short stories and novellas.
  2. Don’t worry if you’re still planning to read a King novel mentioned below. This list is spoiler-free.
  3. I tried to reach out to King for an interview for this article but was unsuccessful.
  • Carrie (1974)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Salem’s Lot (1975)
    • Multiple Scouting references, including mentions of Cub Scouts and a Scout hatchet; one character tells another, “You were never a Boy Scout. I, however, always come prepared.”
  • The Shining (1977)
    • A mention of “Boy Scout virtues” and “Scout’s honor”
  • Rage (1977, as Richard Bachman)
    • One character is called a “Star Scout”
  • The Stand (1978)
    • References to a Scout backpack and Scout mess kit
  • The Dead Zone (1979)
    • One character learned to use a “Silva compass when he had been in the Scouts”; a later passage mentions “Boy Scouts winning merit badges on The Great Hike of Life”
  • The Long Walk (1979, as Richard Bachman)
    • References to a “Cub Scout attendance pin,” “hiking Boy Scouts,” a “Boy Scout pack” and “an Explorer Scout out for a day of bird-watching”
  • Firestarter (1980)
    • Reference to a Cub Scout meeting
  • Cujo (1981)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Roadwork (1981, as Richard Bachman)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (1982)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Running Man (1982, as Richard Bachman)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Christine (1983)
    • Characters say “Scout’s honor”; a road to a lake is kept plowed for “winter Explorer Scouts camping trips”
  • Pet Sematary (1983)
    • A character “hadn’t held a compass in his hand since Boy Scouts, twenty years before”
  • Cycle of the Werewolf (1983)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Talisman (1984, with Peter Straub)
    • A character smells “old, mouldy canvas — it was the smell of a Boy Scout tent found in an attic after many dark years”
  • Thinner (1984, as Richard Bachman)
    • One character says “Scout’s honor”
  • It (1986)
    • One character “believed in the Boy Scout motto,” a poster invites families to “JOIN THE SCOUTING EXPERIENCE,” mentions of “Scout campouts” and “Boy Scout shorts”; Scouts march in the Derry parade
  • Misery (1987)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
    • A character rescues another, “but that didn’t mean he was a Boy Scout”
  • The Eyes of the Dragon (1987)
    • No Scouting references found
  • The Tommyknockers (1987)
    • No Scouting references found
  • The Dark Half (1989)
    • A photographer brought three cameras because “I believe in the Boy Scout motto”
  • Needful Things (1991)
    • No Scouting references found
  • The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
    • One character creates a makeshift compass, and another says, “You really are an Eagle Scout!”
  • Gerald’s Game (1992)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Dolores Claiborne (1993)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Insomnia (1994)
    • Mentions of “Scout’s honor” and a Scout compass
  • Rose Madder (1995)
    • “Luckily, my Boy Scout training has never deserted me,” one character says; references to a Scout troop and “Scout’s honor”
  • The Green Mile (1996)
    • “Listen to your Scoutmaster,” one character says
  • Desperation (1996)
    • “Boy Scouts we ain’t,” one character says after realizing nobody in the group has a flashlight
  • The Regulators (1996, as Richard Bachman)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Bag of Bones (1998)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Dreamcatcher (2001)
    • A photograph shows a “young fellow in a Boy Scout uniform, right hand raised in the three-fingered Boy Scout salute”
  • Black House (2001, with Peter Straub)
    • A character wouldn’t make “a good Scoutmaster”
  • From a Buick 8 (2002)
    • A police barracks gets an “occasional Boy Scout tour”
  • The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • The Colorado Kid (2005)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Cell (2006)
    • An antagonist “got tired of being a Boy Scout”
  • Lisey’s Story (2006)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Blaze (2007, as Richard Bachman)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Duma Key (2008)
    • “This is a true story you’re telling me?” one character asks another, who responds by raising “her right hand in the Boy Scout salute”; another character says he knows what poison ivy and poison oak look like because “I was a Boy Scout”
  • Under the Dome (2009)
    • A character fills his “Boy Scout pack” with rocks to throw at the mysterious dome
  • 11/22/63 (2011)
    • A character from present day preparing to time-travel back to the late 1950s is told not to bring a backpack because, “Where you’re going, nobody wears backpacks except Boy Scouts, and they only wear them when they’re going on hikes and Camporees”; a later reference mentions a troop of Boy Scouts tending a bonfire with their Scoutmaster
  • The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Joyland (2013)
    • References to Cub Scout Pack 18 and “a Boy Scout with a merit badge in modesty”
  • Doctor Sleep (2013)
    • A character keeps all his most prized possessions in a special box, including his baseball cards and “Cub Scouts Compass Badge”
  • Mr. Mercedes (2014)
    • A mention of “Scout’s honor” and a reference to a Scout sleeping bag
  • Revival (2015)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Finders Keepers (2015)
    • A character “had never been a Boy Scout, but believed in being prepared”
  • End of Watch (2016)
    • No Scouting reference found
  • Sleeping Beauties (2017, with Owen King)
    • Mentions of a “Life Scout” and “Scout’s honor”; one character refuses to go into the woods because they were “never a Boy Scout”
  • The Outsider (2018)
    • No Scouting references found
  • Elevation (2018)
    • No Scouting references found
  • The Institute (2019)
    • A character makes a reference to Scouts

Other Scouting references in Stephen King books and elsewhere

If you’ve spotted a Scouting references in a Stephen King book not listed here, leave a comment below.

Same goes for Scouting references in popular culture. Scouting Wire shared some pop culture references from the new millennium, but I’m interested in others you’ve found. Comment below with your faves.

As for me, I’m going to get back to reading.

About Bryan Wendell 3031 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.