That time I found Stephen King hiding in our newsroom

"Skippy" the rabid, blindfolded squirrel.
“Skippy” the rabid, blindfolded squirrel.
I know it’s been a while since any of us have seen The Master of Horror© Stephen King, so I’d like to start this week’s edition of The Box by clarifying that IS NOT Stephen King to the left. That’s because…


Haha! Just kidding! That’s just “Skippy” the rabid, blindfolded squirrel. WAIT! Not behind you — I mean to the left! Oh man! As you can see, even just talking about the The Master of Horror© Stephen King can put people on edge. So you can imagine my shock finding him among the hundreds of unclaimed and unidentified photos that have been piled into The Box in our newsroom since the 1980s. Regular readers of this weekly feature know I normally dump the contents of The Box onto the floor of our newsroom and randomly choose a photo. This is achieved through a technical four-step selection process:

Step 1) Wait until my fellow reporters are deep in thought (asleep) thinking about important news stories
Step 2) Suddenly and without warning yell “RELEASE THE SQUIRREL!” and let “Skippy” loose in the newsroom.
Step 3) Select the photo closest to the first person who screams.
Step 4) Get yelled at by my editor

I then utilize my years of investigative journalism experience to identify the individuals and circumstances within the photo. Past discoveries have included: the very first Jesus photo bomb, a senior citizen Viagra smuggling ring, and evidence that aliens not only exist but have a terrible fashion sense.

However, this week is different. Not just because the date isn’t the same (See? The mind of an investigative journalist never stops), but also because, unlike most photos in The Box, the identity of this week’s image is painfully obvious…

Who knew Stephen King had a musical side?
Who knew The Master of Horror© Stephen King had a musical side?

It doesn’t take someone with 15 years of investigative journalism experience to immediately assume 1) this is The Master of Horror© Stephen King, and 2) he apparently had a brief career as a musical performer. That said, because of my extensive journalistic background, you can rest assured that my unfounded assumptions are indeed correct.

Call it “instinct.”

Call it “gut intuition.”

Call it “last night’s potentially rancid sweet and sour pork.”

Whatever you call it, I’m willing to stake my reputation as a Pulitzer-winning journalist on this assumption. So keep that in mind if I ever win one.

Now that we have positively established this is a photo of The Master of Horror© Stephen King during his early musical career, we are left with three puzzling questions:

1) What type of music was he singing?
2) Why did he stop?
3) Will he or one of his attorneys read this and take my 2002 Dodge Neon as part of my court settlement?

Once again, I turned to our vast Siuslaw News archives in hopes of tracking down more information…

In the "morgue," pointing dramatically in an effort to add poignancy.
In the “morgue,” pointing dramatically in an effort to add poignancy.

As it turns out, The Master of Horror© Stephen King’s extremely brief musical tour as a singer of children’s songs began and ended right here in Florence, Ore., on Oct. 31, 1984, when he attempted to perform a few songs from his debut album, Lullabies From the Guy In Your Closet.

From the reports I gathered, the short concert was held in the elementary school gym, where the lights were dimmed and kindergarteners cozied with blankets as he opened with: Cujo Was His Name-O. The song was quickly stopped by kindergarten teachers, long before the chorus, when he began singing, Once a farmer shot his dog and Cujo was his Name-O…

The Master of Horror© Stephen King then moved on to another song from his album, The Bloody Wheels on Christine Go Round and Round, which also came to an abrupt end. After a long, awkward silence that principal Bill Schlependorf described as “like dead air on the radio, except for children whimpering,” The Master of Horror© Stephen King launched into what became his final song attempt, There Once Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Her Twin.

Sadly for The Master of Horror© Stephen King, his dream of being a singer of children’s songs ended there. But according to a follow up story headlined Class of 1996 Still Receiving Group Therapy, the nightmare lives on.

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

77 thoughts on “That time I found Stephen King hiding in our newsroom”

  1. Hahaha. I love your ( rather, King’s) song choices. Great piece…even though, in spite of your extensive journalistic research and documentation, you left out the part about where King and Dave Barry both…yes, both…belonged to an actual rock group. Okay, sure, I don’t think they played any arenas anywhere, but they were definitely a group. I obtained this highly confidential information from a trustworthy source…Dave Barry, himself. He called to ask if I wanted to sit in on a jam session with his group of literary friends. Yes, he did. Did SO! Honest! Okay, he wrote about it in a book, but still. If he had KNOWN me, he would have called me, I’m certain of it. Because I’m the biggest Dave Barry fan, ever. (And you can take that in any way you wish, but be careful. It doesn’t do to arouse the wrath of a plus-sized woman!)

    Fun post, Ned! You always make me laugh.

      1. What, you’re listening in on my phone calls, now? Tsk. What some journalists won’t do for a big story! Have you no shame, man?

        Cereally…Barry has mentioned many times that he had jam sessions with King, and at least two more names I can’t remember for the life of me. But I’m pretty sure they were names you’d recognize. I could never quite picture the King of Horror with the King of Funny.

        BTW, I got a notice that my copy of your book…that would be HUMOR AT THE SPEED OF LIFE, folks…had been shipped on the 6th. Should I be worried, yet?

        Waiting by the mailbox in Florida, I remain,
        Yer Humble Servant,
        Granny M

        1. I can’t remember who they were, either, or the weird band name — which I think was a running Dave Barry joke, right? I need more Ginkgo to clear out the memory gunko.

          And as for the book, I wonder The Master of Horror© Stephen King may have intercepted it? Actually, it could take up to three weeks, so I wouldn’t be worried until Feb. 1, or if you see either of the kings parked outside your house…

          1. Sorry, too gunkoed up, myself, to help on that band. I’m pathetic in my doddering old age. And thanks for the info on shipping. I won’t worry, then. But I’m still waiting anxiously for my copy. I NEEEEED those laughs, I tell you! It’s what keeps me young. That, and hanging out with people who are younger than I. By the time I’m 90, all my friends will be in the second grade. *snort*

  2. The master storyteller is still singing in a band with Amy Tan, Dave Barry, and other writers in the Rock Bottom Remainders. Too bad though, those children songs are much more fun…

    “Cujo Was His Name-O.”—Loved that! Next I want to see you write the rest of the lyrics and sing it in a vlog. I’m waiting…

    1. Rock Bottom Remainders! That’s the name I couldn’t remember. I woke up and remembered my own, so I thought that was a good enough start. Thanks for filling in the rest.

      Oh, now I am definitely considering that song as my very first vlog. Maybe I can get The Rock Bottom Remainders on back-up?

        1. Although they MAY want to see me write a coherent reply. SHEESH! Let’s try that agin…

          “I doubt anyone would want to see me shake ANYTHING,” he said, disconnecting his auto-correct by pouring coffee on his iPad.

    2. I bow down to you, Oh Goddess of Eclectic Knowledge. My response to the Nedster seems to have gotten eaten, so I’m just jumping in here to say thanks. How could I have forgotten the RBR’s? Creeping off in shame, now. Carry on, Carrie. You are doing it so well! 🙂

      1. Haha, thank you, but I had a little help from a friend called Google. I knew King was in a band with authors, but I couldn’t remember the name. Gotta love the Internet!

        1. Well, see…I’m still bowing down to you, because you had the presence of mind to go LOOKING for answers, while I was stumbling around in the dark like a geriatric, female version of Bozo the Clown. (NOT a pretty sight!) And yes, I couldn’t live without Google. We have 24-hour-a-day access to the biggest library in the world. What could be better!?

  3. great thing…that stephen king…

    im just really worried about another kind of horror here. i PRAY that you have heard of TIDE w/FEBREEZE… that ac/dc shirt …i just scratched and sniffed the screen….

    i would not tempt any more of your readers to do so….

    every picture dude….is this socially necessary?

    on another note, i am requesting your dirty ac/dc shirt with my book order. in return, ill send you one of mine…

    1. You know, I THOUGHT I felt a scratching sensation on my chest. I thought it was just dried Tide detergent. And just to clarify, are you sending me a dirty t-shirt or one of your dirty books?

      1. Well to clarify …I was scratching near the armpit hoping you were wearing deo.

        As for the resend back from me…you choose. And if it’s a dirty T…wet or dry? That may require extra postage.

  4. Classic Ned!! I love the song choices and in my head I was coming up with the next verse for Cujo and how he was buried in Pet Cemetery only to come back to life-o! Perhaps in that photo he was pondering how such a benign instrument could be used to maim and dismember.

  5. Hey, Ned…just checked my mail, and guess what I found? If you guessed your sure-to-be-hilarious book, HUMOR AT THE SPEED OF LIFE, you’d be right! (Why do I keep yelling that?) I’m so excited to have it, finally, and I do thank you for the wonderful note. Who cares if you play in a rock band with Stephen King? I scoff in his general direction, on your behalf! And tonight, I’m going to curl up in the Comfy Chair and delve into some SERIOUS humor. (Huh?)

    1. Wow, speak of the devil! And I’m not referring to a new Stephen King novel! I’m so glad it finally got there. My secret HATSOL Surveillance Team has probably already snapped a photo of you with it… (but feel free to give them a hand if you’re so inclined. Or reclined, as the case may be 😉

      Thanks for letting me know, Marcia — and I hope you enjoy it!

      1. I read the opening pages before I even sat down with it, and I know already I’m going to like it. Sadly, last night was a bit hectic, and between cleaning up dog barf and dealing with a few less pleasant issues, I never made it to the Comfy Chair. (You know your life sucks when dog barf is the BEST part of your evening!) But never fear, mon ami, I will be reading tonight! (I love it when I get all bilingual, and stuff.) And I WILL be blogging and Tweeting about it, for sure.

        1. Lol! No worries, Marcia! We have two large dogs and four even larger kids. Trust me: I know how a quiet evening changes once barf enters the picture. Better luck tonight 😉

  6. Good thing he didn’t sing “He’ll be coming round the hotel when he comes, here’s Johnny” and absolutely ruin summer vacation.

      1. Hahaha! There’s an endless possibilities between Stephen King and children’s songs. It’s frightening. Spot on investigating here.

  7. OMG…how strange! I’ve been reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” for the last few days and not once has he mentioned thost children’s songs of which you spoke. Perhaps those will be at the end?
    LOVED this post (duh! I love all your stuff). Stephen King was a personal favorite of mine through college and early baby years (cuz I wasn’t scared or freaked out enough!). Thanks for sharing and if I find him lurking in the dark corners of this spooky office, I’ll be sure to send him back your way.
    Constant Reader

    1. That’s a great book! I don’t want to tell you if there are children’s songs in it because I don’t want to spoil the end…
      I’d also suggest Bare Bones, which is a collection of interviews with him that are fun to read and insightful.

      Just like his children’s songs.

      By the way, thanks for the “Constant Reader” reference. As a big SK fan, I know it well 😉

      1. I knew you’d get that reference!
        By the way, I just ordered another book in the horror genre…something called “Humor at the Speed of Life.” I’m already shaking in my shoes!
        (Just so you know, I’ve also been humming “and Cujo was his name-o” all morning.)

        1. Lol! It’s a catchy little tune, isn’t it? Maybe the book will help… Mmmm probably not.

          Thank you for ordering it, Michelle. There is a money-back guarantee, but it’s in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

  8. King was standing behind me! Imagine my surprise. He confirmed what you said about his musical career, but denied the photo is of him (I suspect he is just being modest). He suggested instead that the photo is of the old guy on History channel’s show “Pawn Stars”.
    I wonder if there are any cover versions of “Cujo” on YouTube. If I was familiar with the story maybe I’d attempt it…

  9. Imagine my surprise to find Stephen King was standing behind me! Not as scary as one might think. Anyway, he did confirm that he had a singing career, however, he deny’s that’s him in the photo (but I think he’s just being modest). He suggests the photo is actually of the old man from the show “Pawn Stars” on the History Channel.

    Since our last comment section collaboration worked out so well, how about you provide the rest of the Cujo lyrics and maybe I’ll put up a cover version on YouTube?

          1. happy to interpret. What’s next though? I’ve written a novel and drawn a comic based on your articles. I guess I’ll need to write a song . Or make a movie. I don’t do interpretive dance.

            1. This scenario reminds me a bit of (at least one) Python sketch; maybe the one about semaphore and Wuthering Heights. As you are multi-talented with communications and art, do you do semaphore (or mimery or . . . ), Paul? 🙂

  10. Hey Ned,

    Great post as always.

    I started a series on my blog (which I know I’ve neglected) about interviewing bloggers about their writing process. I’d like to do a an email interview (those are quicker) with you. (You’d think with my years as a reporter I would grow to love transcribing audio interviews — NOT!). If you’re interested, please shoot me your email address at I look forward to hearing from you.

  11. 0_O I wonder what kind of children songs he was singing… do they have any correlation to his books?
    Stephen King-“Well, I thought about ‘Carrie’ when I first sang about a little girl who couldn’t just fit in…”
    Great Post 🙂

      1. I love it! I was just thinking that–re: making a contest of this–and wondered whether many readers would offer potential titles and/or lyrics in the comments section. Sadly, I don’t see as many as I expected–I was looking for a good laugh to cap off the hilariousness of your post. I also think “Stephen King’s children’s song titles” or “SK’s nursery rhymes” would be a great humor-writing prompt or Twitter hashtag game if you wanted people to do something more succinct. Anyway, first-time visitor [and refugee from journalistic realms . . . the dreaded copy desk, which doesn’t exist anymore at many papers] here and looking forward to reading more of your work, Ned.

        1. That WOULD be a lot of fun, would it?! I didn’t even think about making it a Twitter game, Leigh. Great idea! I’ll send out a few and see what happens 🙂

          By the way, thank you for stopping in and for the kind words. It’s always good to have a journalistic refugee in the crowd. I think there might be more than one, but no one has openly admitted it. Maybe we can start a support group…

          1. Ned, another great springboard of an idea! I have taken the liberty of naming a couple of self-help groups for journalistic refugees: that is to say, those either currently unemployed or gainfully employed outside their original journalism field (or at least at a different gig or workplace). All in jest, of course . . . even if I didn’t fall into both groups myself! Can’t wait to hop over to Twitter and see how your hashtag game played out.

            (The ) POOR:
            Previously Overworked, Overwrought Reporters

            Every Dam*ed Idiot Taking Onerous Rules Seriously [am I allowed to curse here?!]

            Cheers and keep up the “speedy” humor!

  12. I love it! I was just thinking that–re: making a contest of this–and wondered whether many readers would offer potential titles and/or lyrics in the comments section. Sadly, I don’t see as many as I expected–I was looking for a good laugh to cap off the hilariousness of your post. I also think “Stephen King’s children’s song titles” or “SK’s nursery rhymes” would be a great humor-writing prompt or Twitter hashtag game if you wanted people to do something more succinct. Anyway, first-time visitor [and refugee from journalistic realms . . . the dreaded copy desk, which doesn’t exist anymore at many papers] here and looking forward to reading more of your work, Ned.

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