Stephen King's Crouch End

Written by: Sophie Taylor

Thought Stephen King-esque Killer clowns were bad? Try taking a wander round his version of Crouch End.

In the late seventies, Steve was staying with novelist buddy Peter Straub in Crouch End. Rather than bask in Priory Park paddling pool and delight in the opening of then new Hornsey Library, he got the willies well and truly. Asking for a good walk recommendation it was suggested he try traversing the old railway line, now referred to as The Parkland Walk. He was told the myth of the spriggan, an unpleasant folkloric character blamed for everything from bad weather to ugly babies. The local legend told of a ghostly ‘goat-man’ who haunted the walk in the 1970s and 1980s. 

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No, not a Pokemon Gogoat that may or may not be waiting to be caught round the corner. Back then, children were daring each other to do the Parkland Walk from Crouch End Hill bridge to Crouch Hill bridge in the darkness, with nothing but their imagination to keep them company.

So spooked was ol’ Stevie boy that he went on to write an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired short story named, Crouch End set in the area. The tale was included as part of King’s anthology, Nightmares and Dreamscapes in which he mentions his stay with Peter Straub in the introduction (whilst confessing his unbelievably gullible nature and love of myths). 

In King’s Crouch End we are warned of visiting this strange place of monsters and front lawns that audibly sigh. One of the characters, a Bobby who has policed Crouch End for decades, reminisces about previous missing person cases and claims it is a place ‘where the divide between our world and another more demonic world is at its weakest’. Yeah, sounds about right down the Hill on a Friday night.

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In the early nineties the mischievous green man enjoyed another bout of popularity. London based artist and sculptor Marilyn Collins was commissioned to create a sculpture of the spriggan in 1993, who you can see emerging with a grin from an ancient arched wall on Parkland Walk.

In 2006, a television mini-series adaptation of King’s short horror stories was released. The Crouch End episode is suspiciously sunlit and severely lacking North London accents. This could be down to it being filmed half way round the world in Australia, but we can never really be sure.

According to Stephen King, people in Crouch End are known to “lose their way. Some lose their way forever.” Judging from my experience of those dog-loving moon howlers down at Porky’s BBQ, the mischievous elfin sprites at Jealous and the annual Crouch Hill zombie walkers, I’m not entirely unconvinced. 

With special thanks to Gillian Davies of Stroud Green for her expert research skillz and general propensity for unearthing weird stories.

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