MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nearly 17 million people tuned in to CBS’ newest hit ‘Under the Dome’ last Monday, but those who watched the show may not know that there’s a big secret behind the mystery dome.
The show takes place in the mythical town of Chester Mill where the residents find themselves trapped inside a mysterious barrier with no way to communicate with the “outside world.”
Executive producer and author of the book, Stephen King, based Chester Mill on the town that he makes his summer home in Bridgton, Maine.
“I live 18 miles out of town and I’ve lived there for a long time,” said King. “I looked at the police station, that’s the police station in the book. I just used the geography, the lake; everything is there.”
So what do residents of the small town think of the show?
“Bridgton is a very close-knit community, there’s approximately 5,200 residents. The town explodes in the summer time because of the summer residents that come into town,” said a Bridgton police chief. “They are all from walks of life, from all areas in the country.”
In the series, many characters are based on real life people that King has known in town, like newspaper editor Julia Shorey who is a local legend and is portrayed as Julia Shumway in the show.
“Well my mother was the longtime editor of the Bridgeton News and Julia Shumway was crafted around my mother’s work and my mother’s intrepid spirit,” said Shorey’s daughter Mary Shorey. “She loved Bridgton, she loved newspaper work and she was very successful.”
Downtown features places like Bridgton Books, which is one of King’s favorite shopping destinations.
“Yeah, he shops here. Usually he’s looking for a certain book, and sometimes he gets a lot of books and he’ll sign some of the books that we’re selling and that’s automatic sale,” said owner Justin Ward. “But I usually leave a couple out to surprise people.”
Another local, Elain Roux, had been with the Bridgton news just about all her life and loved the connection the town has to ‘Under the Dome.’
“I think it’s very exciting. I think that the town will be looking forward to it too,” said Roux. “It could be based on anything, but it’s based on here and because of that it’s just very exciting.”
King frequently visits his favorite sandwich shop Main Street Variety.
“He’s been coming here since 1979 and his favorite sandwich is Roast Beef Italian,” said the restaurant’s owner. “When he comes in here everybody just goes crazy and wants his autograph, it’s just fantastic.”
King may be a local legend but in Bridgton he likes to keep a low profile.
“He comes into town very often, frequents the town. He comes in, sits down, you could catch him on a park bench anywhere reading a book,” said a police officer.
“We have an awful lot of people though who come to town who hear that he’s around here,” said selectman and local motel owner Woody Woodward. “The residents of Bridgton try to keep his privacy for him. We don’t tell the people where he lives because after all, he’s one of the Bridgton residents.”
During a recent interview on CBS News Sunday Morning, King talked more about his book.
“If you think the often creepy characters depicted in the ‘Under the Dome’ are true to life, think again,” said King.
Residents feel like they are pretty normal.
“There’s nobody that’s that creepy in this town,” said Roux.
“The residents here are not like what you would see in a Stephen King novel, they’re very caring people,” said a police chief.
Woodward, who said that he’s no Jim Rennie, asked King at a book signing did the book reflect the current group of selectmen.
“He said ‘No, no, no, no. There’s just conglomeration of people, not necessarily the selectman,’” said Woodward. “So I was just very pleased to hear that. I was a little nervous at first.”
The people of the town hope the added exposure the series gives Bridgton will bring in tourist dollars.
“I like to think of Bridgton as a place that people haven’t yet discovered, you hear that a lot but it’s very true and Stephen King has, you can tell in his books,” said Woodward.
For now, the town will enjoy the success ‘Under the Dome’ has brought but will never lose its small town identity.