Given the rural setting and young characters battling elements of the supernatural, Stranger Things has always clearly been inspired by Stephen King. With the second season, the show introduced Bob (Sean Astin), whose backstory almost exactly mirrors the events of Stephen King's IT.
Throughout the series, Bob reveals that he grew up in Maine in the '50s and was deathly afraid of clowns. In IT, young characters confront the villainous clown Pennywise in the '50s in Derry, ME. Matt Duffer, who co-created the show alongside brother Ross, revealed to Vulture that this connection was totally intentional.
"Well, we both have a problem with clowns," Matt pointed out. "I’ve had it my entire life. I had it when I was really little, so when there were clowns at a party, it was a real problem for me. Then in 1990, we saw the IT mini-series and Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise really messed me up. Like, it scarred me in a major way. It was one of the first true horror things I had seen, and I had not experienced Stephen King before."
This viewing would go on to impact Matt for the rest of his life, in a variety of ways.
"That was my first experience with Stephen King, so that was a really huge point in my life," Matt confessed. "It was two weeks, at least, of no sleep because of that. So yeah, I think [Bob’s clown story] was really me describing something that just freaked me out. I didn’t have that experience myself. I just had nightmares like that."
While the development of this character trait might have been an organic incorporation of the creator's own childhood fears, he wanted to fully embrace the true origins of that phobia.
"I’m sure we were just like, 'It would be cute if [Bob] suggests moving to Maine, right next to Stephen King,'" he shared. "Stephen King exists in this world. Some of the characters have read Stephen King. But Bob definitely does not read Stephen King. He’s not interested at all in Stephen King because he hates that kind of story."
The second season of Stranger Things is currently available on Netflix.