Pet Sematary

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Pet Sematary
First edition cover
AuthorStephen King
Cover artistLinda Fennimore
CountryUnited States
Publication date
November 4, 1983
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Pages374 (1st ed.)

Pet Sematary is a 1983 horror novel by American writer Stephen King. The novel was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1984,[1] and adapted into two films: one in 1989 and another in 2019. In November 2013, PS Publishing released Pet Sematary in a limited 30th-anniversary edition.[2]


Louis Creed, a doctor from Chicago, is appointed director of the University of Maine's campus health service. He moves to a house near the town of Ludlow with his wife Rachel, their two young children, Ellie and Gage, and Ellie's cat, Winston Churchill ("Church"). Their elderly neighbor, Jud Crandall, warns Louis and Rachel about the highway that runs past their house, which is frequented by speeding trucks.

Jud and Louis become close friends, with Louis viewing Jud as a surrogate father. Jud takes the family on a walk in the woods behind their home. A well-tended path leads to a pet cemetery (misspelled "sematary" on the sign), where the children of the town bury their deceased animals.

Victor Pascow, a student fatally injured in an automobile accident, addresses his dying words to Louis personally, though they are strangers. On the night following Pascow's death, Louis dreams that he meets Pascow's ghost, who leads him to the deadfall at the back of the "sematary" and warns him not to go beyond that point. Louis wakes up in bed the next morning to find his feet and bedsheets covered with dried mud and pine needles.

Ellie's cat, Church, is run over around Thanksgiving. Rachel and the children are visiting Rachel's parents in Chicago, and Louis frets over breaking the bad news to Ellie. Jud takes him to the "sematary", supposedly to bury Church. Instead of stopping there, Jud leads Louis farther on to "the real cemetery": an ancient burial ground that was once used by the Mi'kmaq. Louis buries the cat on Jud's instruction. The next afternoon, Church returns home; the usually vibrant and lively cat now acts ornery and, in Louis's words, "a little dead". Church hunts for mice and birds, ripping them apart without eating them. He also smells so bad that Ellie no longer wants him in her room at night. Jud confirms that Church has been resurrected and that Jud buried his dog there when he was younger. Louis, deeply disturbed, begins to wish that he had not buried Church there.

Several months later, two-year-old Gage is killed by a speeding truck. Overcome with despair, Louis considers bringing his son back to life with the help of the burial ground. Jud attempts to dissuade him by telling him the story of Timmy Baterman, the last person resurrected by the burial ground. After being killed in action during World War II, Timmy's body was shipped back to the United States, and his father Bill buried Timmy in the burial ground. Timmy returned malevolent, terrorizing the people of the town with secrets that Jud asserts he had no way of knowing. Timmy was stopped by Bill, who killed Timmy and set their house on fire before shooting himself. Jud believes that whatever came back was not Timmy, but a "demon" that had possessed his corpse. He concludes that "sometimes, dead is better" and states that "the place has a power... its own evil purpose", and that it may have caused Gage's death because Jud introduced Louis to it.

Despite Jud's warning and his own reservations, Louis's grief and guilt spur him to exhume Gage's body from his grave and inter him in the burial ground. Now malicious in both his words and actions, the resurrected Gage finds one of Louis's scalpels and kills Jud and Rachel. Louis kills Church and Gage with lethal injections of morphine.

Louis, driven insane by grief, burns the Crandall house down before returning to the burial ground with his wife's corpse, thinking that if he buries the body faster than he did Gage's, there will be a different result. One of his colleagues, Steve Masterton, notices him walking into the woods with Rachel's body. Steve, while fearful and concerned, is influenced by the power of the burial ground, and even considers helping Louis bury Rachel, but he flees in terror and eventually moves to St. Louis. Louis sits indoors alone, playing solitaire, when Rachel's reanimated corpse walks up behind him and drops a cold hand on his shoulder, while its voice rasps, "Darling."


In 1979, King was a "writer-in-residence" at the University of Maine and the house his family was renting in Orrington, Maine, was adjacent to a major road where dogs and cats were often killed by oncoming trucks. After his daughter's cat was killed by a truck along that road, he explained the death of the pet to his daughter and buried the cat. [3] Three days later, King imagined what would happen if a family suffered the same tragedy but the cat came back to life "fundamentally wrong". He then imagined what would happen if that family's young son were also killed by a passing truck. He decided to write a book based on these ideas, and that the book would be a re-telling of "The Monkey's Paw" (1902), a short story by W. W. Jacobs about parents whose son resurrects after they wish for that to happen.[4]

The first draft was completed in May 1979.[5] In June 1983, King published a short story, "The Return of Timmy Baterman", in the program for the event "Satyricon II" (also known as "DeepSouthCon 21"); this was incorporated into Pet Sematary.[6]

King has gone on record stating that of all the novels he has written, Pet Sematary is the one which genuinely scared him the most.[7][8]



The first film adaptation, was released in 1989. Directed by Mary Lambert, it starred Dale Midkiff as Louis, Fred Gwynne as Jud, Denise Crosby as Rachel, Brad Greenquist as Victor, Miko Hughes as Gage, and twins Blaze Berdahl and Beau Berdahl as Ellie. King wrote the screenplay and had a cameo as a minister. Male actor Andrew Hubatsek portrayed Zelda because the filmmakers felt that a grown man playing a disabled, deformed teenage girl would make the character more hideous and frightening.[9][10][11][12] The film received mixed reviews, but it was a commercial success. A sequel, Pet Sematary Two, was released in 1992.

A second film adaptation of the novel was released on April 5, 2019. Directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch,[13] the film stars Jason Clarke as Louis Creed, Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed, John Lithgow as Jud Crandall, Jeté Laurence as Ellie Creed, and twins Hugo Lavoie and Lucas Lavoie as Gage Creed.

A prequel to the 2019 film was green-lit in February 2021 after producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura laid out plans for a prequel prior to the release of the 2019 film.[14][15][16] Pet Sematary: Bloodlines was released on October 6, 2023, as a Paramount+ exclusive release. Taking place fifty years prior, the film follows a young Jud Crandall played by Jackson White.

On December 7, 2021, director Guillermo del Toro said that he would love to make his own version of Pet Sematary, saying, "You know the novel that I would have killed to adapt, and I know there's two versions of it, and I still think maybe in a deranged universe I get to do it again one day is Pet Sematary. Because it not only has the very best final couple of lines, but it scared me when I was a young man. As a father, I now understand it better than I ever would have, and it scares me a hundred times more." Del Toro also pointed out scenes from King's book that were left out of both film versions. "For me, the best scene in that book is when [Louis] opens Gage's coffin, and for a second he thinks the head is gone, because this black fungi from the grave has grown like a fuzz over the kid's face. [...] I think you cannot spare those details and think that you're honoring that book. One of the things I thought about Pet Sematary that we would do in post is when the dead return, when Gage returns, I'd spend an inordinate amount of money taking out the sheen from his eyes. So that the eyes are dull."[17]


In 1997, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatization of the story in six half-hour episodes, later re-edited into three hour-long episodes. It was adapted by Gregory Evans and starred John Sharian as Louis Creed, Briony Glassco as Rachel Creed and Lee Montague as Jud Crandall. The production was directed by Gordon House.[18]


The Ramones recorded a song of the same name as the theme for the 1989 film adaptation.[19] It appeared on their album Brain Drain.[20] It was later covered by the band Starcrawler for the 2019 film.[21]


  1. ^ "1984 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved July 22, 2009.
  2. ^ "UK genre publisher of SF, Horror & Fantasy fiction". Archived from the original on 2013-11-02. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  3. ^ "Take a look inside the house that inspired Stephen King to write 'Pet Sematary'". 6 April 2019.
  4. ^ Winter, Douglas E. (November 13, 1983). "Pet Sematary By Stephen King (Doubleday. 373 pp. $15.95.)". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  5. ^ ""Write Me, Buddy! Write Me RIGHT NOW!!" 1983 Letter from Stephen King". September 2022.
  6. ^ Wood, Rocky (2017). Stephen King: A Literary Companion. McFarland & Company. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-7864-8546-8.
  7. ^ King, Stephen (2010-03-22). Pet Sematary. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-1-84894-085-7.
  8. ^ Rojak, Lisa (2009). Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King. Macmillan. pp. 85, 115. ISBN 978-1-4299-8797-4.
  9. ^ "10 Things You Never Knew About 1989's Pet Sematary". Eighties Kids. 2019-04-09. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  10. ^ "The 'Pet Sematary' Remake Is Missing A Formative Queer Camp Moment". 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  11. ^ "This Day in Horror History: PET SEMATARY Was Unleashed in 1989". Dread Central. 2020-04-21. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  12. ^ Navarro, Meagan (2018-11-01). "[It Came From the '80s] The Traumatic Nightmare of Zelda in 'Pet Sematary'". Bloody Disgusting!. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  13. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (2017-10-31). "Stephen King 'Pet Sematary' Remake Lands 'Starry Eyes' Duo Dennis Widmyer & Kevin Kolsch". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-11-14.
  14. ^ Roffman, Michael (March 26, 2019). "Pet Sematary producer teases potential prequel". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  15. ^ Lang, Brent & Cynthia Littleton (February 24, 2021). "ViacomCBS Overhauls Film Strategy With New Theatrical Windows, Epix Pact". Variety. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  16. ^ Evangelista, Chris (February 24, 2021). "'Paranormal Activity' Sequel and New 'Pet Sematary' Prequel Headed Straight to Paramount+". Slash Film. Retrieved February 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Hamman, Cody (December 7, 2021). "Pet Sematary: Guillermo del Toro would like to make his own adaptation". Joblo. Retrieved December 7, 2021.
  18. ^ "Pet Sematary" Archived 2019-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  19. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Pet Sematary". Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-06-02.
  20. ^ Eduardo Rivadavia (1989-05-23). "Brain Drain - The Ramones | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
  21. ^ @starryguys (April 6, 2019). "If you've already seen the movie this..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.

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