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November 29, 2011

Stephen King fans should peek into ‘Bag of Bones’ website

Posted in: TV

Actors play Mattie, Kyra and Lance Devore. Though Melissa George, who plays Mattie and Caitlin Carmichael, who plays Kyra, appear in "Bag of Bones," the actor who plays Lance does not. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Fans of King's 1986 novel "It" should pay special attention to the ketchup in this shot. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Pierce Brosnan plays writer Mike Noonan in "Bag of Bones." Fans of King's novel, "The Tommyknockers" may recognize the "They Call Me Dr. Love" t-shirt on the man in the background. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Gypsy pie holds special significance for readers of "Thinner" by Richard Bachman (a.k.a. Stephen King). (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Anyone who has read King's "Dark Tower" series will recognize the name of this boy buried in the cemetary near TR 90. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Darkland Music owner Edgar Owens does not appear in "Bag of Bones," but fans of King will find many references hidden in this photo. Pay special attention to the clock behind Owens' head. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Annabeth Gish plays Jo Noonan, the deceased wife of author Mike Noonan in "Bag of Bones." (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Marketing company Campfire NYC created the props for the Dark Score Stores photo shoot, although some items were added digitally later. One of the titles behind this woman's head is from King's novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden." The other titles are significant as well. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

Mike Enslin is the star of King's short story "1408," which was turned into a movie starring John Cusack. (Joachim Ladefoged / A&E)

If you’re a hard-core Stephen King fan, you’ll probably take a shining to Dark Score Stories, an elaborate website for the A&E miniseries “Bag of Bones” that is also a scavenger hunt of sorts for longtime readers of the horror icon.

More than a simple preview of the haunted and haunting “Bag of Bones” (which premieres on Dec. 11), Dark Score Stories has sly and subtle nods to King’s novels and short stories tucked into the corners of photographs on the site — there are about 150 references in all as well as some puzzles hidden away that we wouldn’t dream of spoiling here.

“We try to appeal to a broad audience and different levels of fans,” says Steve Coulson, partner and creative director at Campfire, the New York City-based marketing agency that created the website and has masterminded unorthodox campaigns to promote HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Harley-Davidson, among other clients. “We have terminology. We talk about divers, dippers and skimmers. Some people like to get obsessed with puzzles and dig deep into a site. And we have people who just want to give it five or 10 minutes on their lunch hour. And you have to try and create something that satisfies all those audiences in different ways.”

The ambitious website is an online prequel to A&E’s four-hour adaptation of the 1998 King novel and tells the tale of writer Mike Noonan (Pierce Brosnan), who is struggling with the death of his wife and the supernatural happenings at his summer home in rural Maine. This miniseries is based on one of King’s better-regarded novels and is directed by frequent King adapter Mick Garris, so expectations are high, but A&E knows it needs to overcome the collective memory of plenty of the past King adaptations that underwhelmed audiences.

To take fans into the “Bag of Bones” world, Dark Score Stories has audio interviews with the actors in character: Brosnan, as Mike Noonan, talks about his cabin and Annabeth Gish, as Jo Noonan, discusses her painting career.  The main focus of the website, though, is a set of moody black-and-white photos by photojournalist Joachim Ladefoged  that are compelling enough on their own — until you notice the dad in one photo is slowly closing his hands around his daughter’s throat while a severe-looking woman in another picture turns her head ever so slightly. The effect of the GIF is unsettling.

“You show that to people,” Coulson says, “and they watch it and watch it, and then it moves and you see their eyes do a double-take.”

Eagle-eyed King devotees will also find visual nods in those photos to works such as “The Dark Tower” series, “Misery” and “The Dark Half,” as well as to more obscure titles from the King bibliography, such as his still-unfinished pay-as-you-go serial experiment “The Plant.”

“The great thing about Stephen King is that his books all link together,” Coulson says. “We thought it would be fun to see how much of the Stephen King universe could be embedded in the background of these stories…. There are layers in this project that only some hard-core fans will appreciate. Only some puzzle-solvers will appreciate. Some eye-spy puzzle lovers will appreciate. Lots of different things going on.”

Click through the gallery above to see a selection of photos from the site. And be sure to turn captions on if you want hints to just a few of the King references hidden there.

– Patrick Kevin Day


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