Stephen King and Joe Hill: What’s in a Name?

Posted on: November 9th, 2007 by Anthony Rapino 9 Comments


It’s clear that everyone in the horror field, and many outside it, know that Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. I’m not here to break that particular scoop, though I might just have another, albeit less interesting, one.

At work the other day, I began daydreaming, which is not uncommon. I can’t remember my exact line of thoughts, but it brought me back to Joe Hill’s popular debut novel, Heart Shaped Box. I was reliving the book in my head when I changed gears and considered Hill’s interest in names.

In the book, he names the dogs after different rock stars, which makes sense because the main character is a rock star.

That’s when I thought, “Gee, if he put so much thought into character names, there must be some significance to the name he chose for himself: Hill.”

Now, I’m pretty darn lazy. I wasn’t about to go research the poor guy’s life to try and figure out where “Hill” comes into play. But, I did make an obvious connection, that most people probably realize on some level. Hill and King both have four letters.

Okay, big whoop.

Ah, but I haven’t finished yet. I took it one step further.

Now, there’s a little game I sometimes play when I write stories. I like to put little numerical clues and allusions into the text. I figure, as I do this, that no one will ever notice it. But then, who knows.

So, with this in mind, I present the following:

K = 11 I = 9 N = 14 G = 7

(11 + 9 + 14 + 7) = 41

H = 8 I = 9 L = 12 L = 12

(8 + 9 + 12 + 12) = 41

That’s right! If you take the numerical designation for each letter in both names, they each add up to 41.

Did Joe Hill do this on purpose, as a way to honor his father and family name? Maybe…but only one person knows for sure.

I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence, but I guess there’s a chance it is. Either way, it’s a nice bit a trivia, and as far as I can tell, I was the first to figure it out. But again (as if I really need to say it) I’m pretty lazy and did absolutely no research…so I could be wrong.

9 Responses

  1. Hope Glidden says:

    Davinci Code meets The Shining. Interesting.

  2. Steve says:

    Very interesting. I think that I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that Joe Hill was the name of a charecter in one of King’s books or stories. Not saying it’s true, just that I read it somewhere (I think).

  3. onipar... says:

    Hope,

    That’s funny. I was thinking the same thing.

    Steve,

    That actually sounds familiar, you might be right about it.

  4. Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) says:

    Ha, great bit of trivia, well done for tracking down 41 and 41, father and son.
    I love the aspect and importance of names for principal characters – I can spend a good age ploughing my way through the meaning of names sites on the internet.

  5. onipar... says:

    Same here AbV. I almost always try to have meaning behind character names…within reason. 🙂

  6. Billy says:

    Didn’t know that, even though I am a huge King fan. I know that Joe Hill was a famous union organizer, mentioned in “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Think it was by Woody Guthrie, though I’m not positive. Gosh, the kid does indeed resemble his dad.

  7. phen says:

    I think we are all forgetting…
    Joe Hill changed his name from Joe King.
    Joe King = Joking
    That’s funny. Why would you change that? Stephen clearly put some thinking into that one (speaking of putting thought into names).

  8. Anonymous says:

    Joe Hill’s real name is Joseph Hillstrom King, because he WAS named after the revolutionary IWW worker Joseph Hillstrom (often called Joe Hill). When he started writing, he didn’t want anyone to read his work just because of Papa Steve, and he definitely didn’t want to be favored because of his parentage, so he shortened it to Joe Hill and started publishing. So basically, it wasn’t any of that weird numerical conspiracy-theory crap.

  9. onipar... says:

    Well hello, “anonymous.”

    I appreciate your info. That does make a lot more sense. Although, I have to admit, no matter how true your first few sentences may be, your last sentence insists that I give you the old middle finger and a wave goodbye.

    Of course, on the off chance you really didn’t mean anything by it, which I admit is possible, I apologize. With the amendment that you choose your words more carefully.

    Cheers.

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