Runaround Pond in West Durham, close to Stephen King’s childhood home is the real-life inspiration for the ‘leeches’ scene in ‘The Body/Stand by Me’.
It is a place that as a kid, King could easily have walked to from his home in West Durham, and standing by the pond, I could well imagine how irresistible it would have been to kids on a hot summer day.
King himself recounts being at Runaround Pond one hot summer day. They normally just fished there and did not swim in the pond, but that day they decided to go for a dip. He was there with two childhood friends and his cousin.
They were swimming and fooling around in the water, and when they came out, saw these large dark things all over their bodies, and realized that they were leeches.
The real-life story happened almost exactly as seen in the film ‘Stand By Me’, with onde of Stephen’s friends suddenly pulling open his bathing suit and looking down, saying to Stephen – “You have to get this thing off me!”
Stephen said he was not putting his hands down the friend’s bathing suit to get it off, so the friend reached in and pulled out an engorged leech, blood all over his hand, and promptly, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fainted.
This is a great example of how King’s real experiences with people and places were a direct inspiration for his work.
The same friend who fainted recounted that he and King saw a dead body for the first time at Runaround Pond. King has never spoken about this or acknowledged it, but the possibility that King saw as many as three dead bodies as a kid speaks volumes to his acknowledged fascination with death at a very young age.
Not far from Runaround Pond is the Harmony Grove Cemetery – the real-life inspiration for the Harmony Hill Cemetery in ‘Salem’s Lot’. See West Durham.