Salem’s Lot Summary

Stephen King

Salem’s Lot

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Salem’s Lot Summary

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Salem’s Lot is Stephen King’s second published novel, written in 1975. Like most of King’s novels, Salem’s Lot is a horror novel. King was inspired by Dracula to write a novel about vampires. Unlike other fictional vampires, King’s are virtually indestructible. The protagonist is surrounded by them, which focuses on the frightening aspect of being surrounded by monsters. King’s novel won many awards, including a Locus Award for All-Time Best Fantasy. Salem’s Lot was ultimately turned into multiple TV movies.

Ben Mears, the protagonist, spent four years as a child in a small town named Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine, called Salem’s Lot for short. Ben is a writer and decides to return to that small town in Maine. Ben befriends a local high school teacher named Matt Burke. He also begins a romantic dalliance with a young college graduate named Susan Norton.

Ben is in town because he is writing a novel about Marsten House, a local abandoned house where Ben had a scary experience as a child. Marsten House was a depression-era construction, built for a hitman. But Ben discovers that Marsten House has been purchased by a strange Austrian immigrant named Kurt Barlow. Kurt claims he is buying the house to open an antique store. No one has ever seen Kurt, only his bald business associate, Richard Straker.

In reality, Kurt is a vampire and the first victim is a little boy named Ralphie Glick. His brother, Danny, is also taken, but turned into a vampire instead of killed. Many locals become victim to becoming vampires, including Danny’s mother. Every person who is bitten becomes very sick before dying, losing color and their appetite. They do not recall their meeting with a vampire, or think it was just a dream. They then die and are reborn vampire. These infected people go missing, or their bodies disappear from the morgue, so there is no concrete proof of what is happening.

Soon, Ben realizes what is happening. He enlists the help of a few other people in town: his friend Matt and Matt’s doctor, Jimmy Cody, along with Susan. Ben also looks to the local priest, Father Callahan, and a young boy named Mark Petrie, who likes horror novels. Mark fought off Danny with a plastic cross of his, giving a hint into how to fight off the vampires.

But others aren’t as lucky. Matt’s interaction with a vampire in his house causes him to have a heart attack and lands him in the hospital. Susan’s ex-boyfriend Floyd, made into a half-vampire by Kurt, attacks Ben, putting him into the hospital as well.

Susan decides to confront Kurt herself, running into Mark on the way. They are both captured by Kurt. Mark manages to get away by making Straker bleed from his head, thereby distracting Kurt and dooming Straker. Susan is not as lucky and is made a vampire by Kurt. Ben is devastated by this event. The remaining group confers in the hospital with Matt over what to do next.

They decide to go to Marston House during the daytime, as the vampires only come out at night. Ben, Mark, Jimmy, and Father Callahan head to Marston House. They find Susan, and Ben, knowing what he must do, stakes her. They attempt to seal the house off with the host. Unfortunately, the group finds a letter from Kurt that threatens Mark’s parents. The group hurries to his parents to warn them.

His parents are not quick to act or understand and suddenly, the power goes off. Kurt has found them and kills Mark’s parents in front of him, but does not infect them. Kurt attempts to take Mark, but Father Callahan wards him off with a cross. Mark escapes, but Kurt challenges Father Callahan, telling him to throw the cross away. Father Callahan loses faith and Kurt forces him to drink his blood. Later, Callahan is unable to walk into his church, receiving a shock upon his attempt. He feels worthless and damned and decides to leave the city by bus.

Jimmy dies a horrific death, as he was lured by vampires to Ben’s former boarding house. The vampires create trick stairs, where there are many knives underneath, and Jimmy is impaled. Mark and Ben are the only ones left. Mark and Ben figure out that the vampires are now staying in the new boarding house. They decide to go there in the daytime and make their final attack.

Mark and Ben are able to stake Kurt. The other vampires rage, but Mark and Ben have bathed in holy water, so they are untouchable. They both escape to Mexico, to a seaside town where they hope to recover. Mark seeks solace in the Catholic church there, where he confesses what has happened to them. They had hoped staking Kurt would have gotten rid of the other vampires, but they were wrong. The pair discover newspaper articles that prove otherwise.

A year later, Mark and Ben realize they must travel back to Maine and finally rid the town entirely of vampires. The novel ends with Ben starting a fire with a lit cigarette in drought-browned grass of Salem’s Lot, presumably to smoke out the vampires to stake them, or to set fire to the entire town, leaving just ashes.