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"1408" is the second in the audiobook collection titled Blood and Smoke, by Stephen King, released in 1999 and published by Simon & Schuster Audio. In 2002, it was reprinted in written form as the twelfth story in the compilation Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales. In the introduction to the story, King says that "1408" is his version of what he calls the "Ghostly Room at the Inn", his term for the theme of haunted hotel or motel rooms in horror fiction. He originally wrote the first few pages as part of an appendix for his non-fiction book, On Writing, to be used as an example of how a story changes from one draft document to the next. King also noted how the numbers of the title add up to the supposedly unlucky number 13.
As in many of King's works, the protagonist of the story is a writer, Mike Enslin, who writes non-fiction works based on the theme of haunted places. His book series, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards and Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Castles, prove to be best-sellers, but Enslin internally reveals some guilt and regret at their success, privately acknowledging that he is a believer in neither the paranormal nor the supernatural elements he espouses in these books.
Nonetheless, he arrives at the Hotel Dolphin on 61st Street in New York City intent on spending the night in the hotel's infamous room 1408, as part of his research for his next book, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms. At first Enslin is unfazed by 1408's morbid history. According to the hotel's manager, Mister Olin (who has purposely left it vacant for over 20 years), room 1408 has been responsible for at least forty-two deaths, twelve of them suicides and at least thirty "natural" deaths, all over a span of sixty-eight years. While remarking that he doesn't believe there are ghosts in 1408, Olin insists there is "something" that resides inside, something that causes terrible things to happen to people who stay within its walls for anything but the briefest periods of time, something that affects various electronic devices, causing digital wristwatches, pocket calculators, and cell phones to stop functioning or to operate unpredictably. Mister Olin also reveals that due to the superstitious practice of never recognizing the thirteenth floor (the room is listed on the fourteenth), it is a room cursed by existing on the thirteenth floor, the room numbers adding up to thirteen making it all the worse. Mister Olin pleads with Enslin to reconsider, believing that a skeptic such as he is even more susceptible to the room's curse. Enslin is shaken, but his determination to follow through with his research and to not appear frightened before Mister Olin wins out. Olin reluctantly leads him to the fourteenth floor, unwilling to accompany him farther than the elevator.
Enslin's problems with Room 1408 begin before he even sets foot through the door; in fact, the door itself initially appears to be crooked. He looks again and the door appears to be straight - then again, and it appears to be crooked again (though this time leaning to the right instead of the left).
As Enslin enters and examines the room, and begins dictating into a hand-held tape recorder, his train of thought immediately takes unwelcome and chaotic turns - he compares it to "being stoned on bad, cheap dope". He begins experiencing what may or may not be hallucinations; the breakfast menu on the nightstand changes languages and finally turns into a woodcut of a boy being eaten alive by a wolf, pictures on the walls shift into frightening visions, (a still life of orange fruit becomes Enslin's severed head), and Enslin's thoughts become bizarre and incoherent. He tries to make a phone call, but only hears a nightmarish voice chanting bizarre phrases, for example, "This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is Ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six!"
Enslin finds a book of matches and sets himself on fire, which breaks the spell of the room long enough so that he can escape. As he collapses, on fire, outside the room, another hotel guest who is getting ice from the ice machine sees him and is able to put out the fire. The other guest looks inside the room and something about it is tempting him to enter, but Enslin warns him not to.
In the aftermath, Enslin gives up writing. He has various problems stemming from his night in the room. These include sleeping with a night light "so I always know where I am when I wake up from the bad dreams", removing the house's phones and closing the curtains at sunset, because he cannot stand the shade of the yellow-orange hue that reminds him of 1408.
Notes & Trivia Edit
- Stephen King also authored the 1978 novel The Shining, the plot of which, likewise involved a haunted hotel.
- In the film adaptation of "1408", Mike Enslin's novel was titled "The Long Road Home", which is the name of the Dark Tower comic series.
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