Corn

Is Children of the Corn Based on a True Story?

Summary

  • “Children of the Corn” is not based on a true story; it is entirely fictional, created by Stephen King.
  • The story may have been inspired by real cults and the violent trends of the 1970s, including the Manson Family and serial killers.
  • Corn gods like “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” have real mythological significance, particularly in Mesoamerican cultures such as the Mayans.


After spawning eleven different movie adaptations, Children of the Corn is one of Stephen King’s best known movies and creepiest stories, however, many are unsure about whether it is based on a true story or if it is entirely fiction. Children of the Corn tells the story of a couple, Burt and Vicky, who are on a cross-country drive to save their failing marriage when they get sucked into the strange and disturbing atmosphere of a rural Nebraska town. Unbeknownst to the pair, they have entered into a place run by children who are loyal to an all-knowing corn god. The story was originally published by Stephen King in 1977.

For more context, Children of the Corn sees Burt and Vicky first fall into the childrens’ trap when they run over a little boy who has had his throat slit. Seeking help, they enter a church where they find a list of names of the deceased, all of whom have not made it past the age of 17. Soon after, they are taken hostage by a horde of children in a cornfield. Burt and Vicky discover that these children are part of a society wherein they are killed before they can become adults. Furthermore, they do this because they are followers of the god, He Who Walks Behind The Rows.

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Children Of The Corn Isn’t Based On A True Story

Vicky and Burt From Children Of The Corn (1984)

Ultimately, Children of the Corn is not based on a true story. Burt and Vicky are fictional characters that Stephen King created, and so are the aforementioned “children” that inhabit the corn. Gatlin, Nebraska, which is where the story takes place, is a fictional town also created by Stephen King, similar to Derry, Jersalem’s Lot, or Castle Rock. Overall, Children of the Corn does not include any characters, settings, or events that happened in real life. All of it was imagined by the terrifying mind of Stephen King. In fact, aspects of Children of the Corn even appear in other King works, such as It.

Although some of Stephen King’s works can be traced back to certain real life events, with the author writing alternate histories, Children of the Corn is not one of these. Of course, this idea is not entirely out of the ordinary though. King is very open about what real life events or people inspire his stories. For example, one Stephen King story uses real life serial killer, the BTK killer, as inspiration. In this way, it doesn’t seem too extreme that King would have written a story based on a real cult of children, however, that is not the truth.

Stephen King’s novella inspired by the BTK killer is called “A Good Marriage.”

The Children Of The Corn Short Story May Have Been Inspired By Real Cults

Although Children of the Corn does not portray real events, the story is most likely inspired by things that really did happen. Namely, it seems likely that Children of the Corn was inspired by the cults that were prominent during the 1970s, when King was writing the story. In particular, in the 1970s, society was still reeling from the rise of The Manson Family, led by Charles Manson, who were responsible for the murders of nine different people. In turn, many cults arose in the 1970s because of The Manson Family. Stephen King, who published Children of the Corn in 1977, probably took inspiration from this phenomenon.

Another major and violent trend that cropped up in the 1970s was serial killers. During the decade, several prominent serial killers became active, including Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and Ed Kemper. This was likely another source of inspiration for Stephen King. All in all, the 1970s were quite an aggressive and bloody time for American society, and it makes sense that King would publish a story at that time that had similar themes of cult-followings and the murder of young people. In many ways, Children of the Corn reflects the unjust loss of life that occurred from 1969 through the 1970s.

There Are Real Mythological Corn Gods Like He Who Walks Behind The Rows

He Who Walks Behind the Rows in Children of the Corn

Furthermore, Stephen King was not totally fictionalizing when he created the corn god, He Who Walks Behind the Rows. As it turns out, corn gods do exist in real life, particularly in Mesoamerican cultures. For example, because the Mayans saw corn, or maize, as their staple food, it was often raised to places of honor in their culture. The Mayans believed that humans were made from maize, and furthermore, the Hero Twins, important Mayan figures, had alter egos that were made from maize. In all, the use of a corn god in Children of the Corn is definitely prevalent in real life.


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