In 1985, Richard Tozier is driving in his rental car from Bangor International Airport and switches off the radio, which has been playing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” He pulls the car over, feeling a sudden burning in his eyes. A deer walks into the road and he launches into his Irish cop voice. He laughs at his own joke and finds that he is calm enough to get back behind the wheel of the car. He starts thinking about Mr. Nell and the day at the dam.
The burning in Richie’s eyes is associated with a memory that he cannot yet identify. The motifs that King includes in this scene allude to a reversion to youth and innocence, even the ironic inclusion of the Madonna song. Mr. Nell’s voice is important because Richie’s impression of him (the “Irish cop”) will later save the group during a confrontation with It.
Ben confesses to Officer Nell that he is the one who showed the boys how to build the dam. Then, all of the boys step forward and claim responsibility for the dam. Richie cannot resist mocking the officer’s accent, prompting a dry response from Mr. Nell and an order from Bill to keep quiet. Mr. Nell explains how waste flows through the Barrens and that the boys’ dam has caused a small back-up. He tells them that they should not play in the Barrens, but Bill tries to explain that it is the only place where they can be left alone. Mr. Nell knows that he cannot forbid the boys from coming to the Barrens, but he asks them to come together only for their safety. Mr. Nell tells Richie to work harder on his Irish accent. He then praises Ben’s engineering ability, but he orders the boys to dismantle the dam while he watches and sips from a flask of whisky.
In a gesture of solidarity, all of the boys take responsibility for building the dam, showing that their friendship and commitment to each other is stronger than any fear that they have of adults. Still, the children do not understand the implications of what they have done or the risk of playing in the unsanitary space. As filthy as the Barrens may be, it is the only place where the children can be themselves without fear of being mocked or chased by bullies. Mr. Nell sympathizes with their need to have a space of their own, as well as the childhood impulse to be in spaces that are typically forbidden.
Later, Bill and Richie are walking up Witcham Street. Bill is pushing Silver. Richie has the idea that the boys should go to Bill’s house and look around George’s old room. Bill explains the moving picture as a ghost in the photo. Richie considers this. He thinks about what he has learned at church. His parents are Methodists. He figures God is at least “one-third ghost.” Bill thinks that George’s ghost is mad at him for causing him to get killed. Richie insists that the incident is not Bill’s fault. This makes Bill feel better but he persists in thinking that he is not supposed to feel better.
Bill’s guilt persists, largely due to his parents’ unwillingness to acknowledge him in the aftermath of George’s death. Richie provides Bill with assurance, but Bill really requires it from his parents. It seems that Bill also thinks that the ghost in the photo belongs to George. Due to his family’s religious faith, Richie finds this plausible.
Richie insists that they go to George’s room. A clue may exist there about who has been killing all of the kids in Derry. Richie and Bill slip into the Denbrough house like ghosts, but Sharon Denbrough hears them. Richie announces himself and Bill’s mother invites Richie to dinner, which he politely declines. They go down the hall to Bill’s room. George’s room is across the hall, its door shut. They walk inside. Richie finds it “spooky.” There are posters all over the walls of characters who would appeal to small children. Mrs. Denbrough has stacked all of George’s report cards on a table by the window. Bill then points to the photo album lying on the floor.
Bill’s mother has tried to preserve George’s memory in an unhealthy way. Her fixation on keeping all of his things and displaying his report cards is an effort to keep him alive and constantly present, instead of moving on. Richie finds the macabre obsession “spooky,” and It is able to use Bill’s parents’ obsession as a trick to reanimate George and make it seem as though the boy has been preserved in the photo album.
Bill tells Richie that the album was open before. Richie does not think this is out of the ordinary. However, it is not just the pages that have closed, but the cover, too. Richie gets up and walks over to the photo album to get a better look at it. He sees a dried maroon stain coloring the pages in the middle of the book. He opens the book and sees the faces of all of the relatives who have donated pictures, as well as pictures of Derry in yesteryears. Bill takes the book and starts looking for George’s picture. When he stops, the pages start to turn by themselves. They come across an old picture of Center Street and see themselves in the old photo.
The photo album is a site of memory. However, the maroon stain suggests the presence of a living, animated being, as do the moving photographs. It uses the album to disorient the boys’ sense of space and time. They are in George’s room in 1958, but they are also a part of old Derry. Its placement of the boys in the photo suggests that It has been waiting for Bill and Richie.
Suddenly, Bill reaches into the picture. Richie prompts him to stop. He sees Bill’s fingers turn into the old white of the photos. A series of diagonal cuts go through Bill’s fingers where he stuck them into the picture. Richie grabs Bill’s forearm and gives it a big yank, sending them both back and the album to the floor. Richie tells him not to open the book again; he could have lost his fingers. Bill shakes him off and opens the book to the old photo of Center Street again. This time, there is no one in the photo. However, an arc shows over the low concrete wall at the edge of the Canal. It looks like the top of a balloon.
Bill is tempted to enter old Derry in his search for the thing that killed his brother. The temptation is a trick that could have resulted in It killing Bill, if not for Richie’s intervention. Bill’s wish to understand how his brother died overrides his fear of being sliced up. Still, when he reopens the book, he finds the clue of the balloon’s arc. The balloon is reminiscent of Ben’s story about the clown / mummy on the frozen Canal, which held a bunch of balloons.
Bill and Richie leave George’s room. Sharon Denbrough calls up from the foot of the stairs and asks if the boys have been wrestling. They lie and say that they have, and she tells them to stop, because of all of the thumping on the ceiling. Bill gets some Band-Aids for his fingers. Bill realizes that the clown was pretending to be George when the photograph winked. Richie also thinks that the clown was pretending to be the mummy that Ben saw and the hobo that Eddie saw. Bill then wonders if it really is a clown. Richie surmises that It is a monster that has been killing kids.
The boys are trying to understand what It is. They assume that It is a clown, which transforms Itself to commit a series of cruel gags and deceptions. However, they then start to realize that the clown takes on different forms, depending on who sees It. Even Richie’s description of It as a “monster” is merely the concoction of his own imagination and may not be Its true nature.
On Saturday, Richie, Ben, and Beverly go to see Michael Landon play in I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Ben is quiet during the show, and Richie figures this is because he has nearly been spotted by Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and “Belch” Huggins. However, Ben has forgotten about them and is quiet due to feeling overwhelmed by Beverly’s presence next to him.
The children are excited to see the new schlock horror film, particularly Richie. Richie’s simultaneous fear and enjoyment of the film distracts him from the real fear of confronting the bullies.
Richie wanted to see this film so badly that he convinced his father to give him additional allowance money, albeit less than what Richie wanted, in exchange for mowing the entire lawn. As he mows, he practices his voices. He calls Bill, Eddie, and Stan to go with him but none can make it. He decides to look Ben up and finds Arlene Hanscom’s name in the phone book. Ben has spent his allowance, but Richie offers to pay his way. They meet outside of the Aladdin Theater. Halfway up Center Street Hill he sees Beverly Marsh approaching. Richie likes Beverly because she is tough and has a good sense of humor. She shows Richie how to make his yo-yo sleep and other tricks. He invites her to attend the movie with him and Ben, and offers to pay her way.
For Richie, the experience of going to the movies is incomplete without friends to share it with. Part of the pleasure of being frightened during a horror film is to watch the frightened reactions of one’s friends, as this shared experience of fear is a form of bonding. Beverly here shows how adept she is at performing childhood tricks that the other boys do not know. Richie’s willingness to allow her to teach him something reveals the relatively egalitarian nature of her friendship with the boys.
Richie and Beverly look around for Ben when the movie is about to start. They see Ben rush around the corner of Center and Macklin Streets. They wait until the show starts before going in and sitting in the balcony to avoid Henry Bowers, Victor Criss, and “Belch” Huggins. They see a double-feature. First, they watch I Was a Teenage Frankenstein. During the film, Richie spots Henry and his friends. He also sees Foxy Foxworth tell them to put their feet on the floor. They obey, then put their feet up again when Foxy leaves. The second feature is I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Richie finds the second film scarier. At the end, the werewolf is killed. The audience applauds, and Richie is somehow relieved.
The films tap into fears that the children harbor but did not previously recognize. Richie fears the notion of a normal teenage boy turning into something horrific, which could be a reflection of his own fears about what he will become when he grows up, due to his parents’ negative attitude toward him and his form of humor. On the other hand, the Frankenstein film will play an important role in tapping into the imagination of Henry Bowers, whose friends are later killed by a Frankenstein-monster.
As Richie, Beverly, and Ben leave the theater, Ben is confronted by Henry Bowers. Beverly tells Henry to leave Ben alone. Henry calls Beverly a “bitch” and Richie sticks out his foot to trip Henry; though he does not mean to. Henry spills forward and “goes skidding like a shuffleboard weight.” Until this moment, Ben is terrified, then he grabs a garbage can and throws it as the group runs away. They run toward an opening in an alley and Victor Criss jumps in front of them. “Belch” Huggins grabs Beverly’s pony-tail and flings her against a wall. He then swings his fist at Richie, who has picked up a garbage lid as a shield, which “Belch” hits instead. The three then successfully run away from the bullies.
Henry’s insult toward Beverly gives Ben the courage to forget about his own fear of the bully so that he can make a chivalrous attempt to save her from getting hurt. Richie’s haphazard defense move also gives him the courage to defend himself more assertively from the three bullies. The children realize that they have some power in numbers. Later there are seven of them and this number has often shown up in popular culture in films about groups of fighters, including “The Seven Samurai” and “The Magnificent Seven.”
Richie proposes that they go down to the Barrens. Beverly has not yet been there with them. When they arrive, she declares it “beautiful.” They hear voices in the distance and suddenly, Bill Denbrough emerges. He has another kid with him, probably from Bangor, which is where he went for speech therapy. The boy’s name is Bradley. Richie feels that Beverly is a part of them, but not this new kid, this Bradley-somebody.
What makes Bradley separate from the rest of the group is that he is not from Derry. Therefore, Richie knows that he will not have a story about It. The children’s stories are the primary source of their bond. Without it, Bradley does not really belong.
At the end of June, Bill tells Richie that he wants to go to the house on 29 Neibolt Street and investigate the leper that Eddie thinks he has seen. Beverly Marsh shows up around three o’clock and the three children play in the Barrens. Later, Bill and Richie go to Richie’s house. Bill decides that he wants to kill the clown and tells Richie that he will do it, using his father’s pistol. Richie asks what they will do if a gun does not stop It. Bill says that they will have to think of something else.
Richie reminds Bill of the fact that the clown is not human, and so cannot be killed in the same way as a human. Still, Bill only knows that things tend to die when shot and his father’s pistol is a memento from World War II—an emblem, to Bill, of good triumphing over evil.
The next morning, Richie and Bill walk their bikes up Kansas Street beside the Barrens. Bill brings a Bullseye slingshot out of his back pocket. Bill received the slingshot for his birthday the year before. It was Zack Denbrough’s compromise between the .22 Bill wanted and Sharon Denbrough’s adamant refusal about the boy having a firearm. Bill is not very good at using his slingshot, but Richie has also brought his sneezing powder to use on It. Bill then unzips his duffel bag and takes out his father’s pistol. Suddenly, the house on Neibolt Street seems less frightening.
With their weapons, the boys imagine that they are prepared for anything. In keeping with his admiration of TV heroes like the Lone Ranger, Bill foresees that he and Richie will be able to conquer the evil that resides in the house on Neibolt Street. Richie’s choice of a gag tool is a bit ironic, but also indicative of his belief that he can defend himself with comedy, as he does when confronted by the bullies.
Bill and Richie mount Silver and ride away. Richie is sure that they will crash. They turn onto Neibolt Street, get off of the bike, and start walking. The house was once a “trim red Cape Cod.” Now, the red paint appears to be “a wishy-washy pink that [is] peeling in ugly patches that look [like] sores.” Bill and Richie squat, looking under the porch. Bill takes out the Walther pistol, which Zack Denbrough had taken during World War II, and examines a broken window to the cellar. He slithers through the cellar window, barely missing a chunk of glass that would have badly cut him. Richie follows Bill inside. Both boys suddenly hear a snarling sound.
The house mirrors the decay of those who inhabit it from time to time, as well as the decaying body of the phantom hobo who haunted Eddie. Bill and Richie expect to see what Eddie saw, but the hobo is not a reflection of either of their fears. The glamour that takes shape in this section is a reflection of Richie’s fear—a werewolf. Bill later reveals that he saw something quite different.
The sound is coming from a wild animal. Richie and Bill see someone—or something—in loafers coming down the stairs. It is wearing faded jeans but has paws instead of hands. Bill is calling for Richie to climb the pile of coal to a window, but Richie is frozen. Bill gives Richie “a gigantic shove.” Richie seizes the latch to the window, but it won’t move. The snarling gets closer, and Richie hears the gun go off below him. Bill screams at It in anger for killing his brother. It snarls back that It will kill Bill, too.
Like Ben and Eddie, Richie is transfixed by the glamour, which takes the form of a werewolf. This is Richie’s first encounter with It, but he is so stunned by the movie image having come to life that he underestimates the real-life danger he is in. Bill, on the other hand, recognizes the evil that the boys are confronting.
Richie gives the window “a tremendous shove,” but it does not break. Bill fires the Walther a third time. Bill cries out that It has him. Bill is being pulled backward. Richie sees what It is: the teenage werewolf from the movie he saw at the Aladdin. Bill scrambles back up the coal. Richie grabs his forearms and pulls. Then, with no thought at all about why he is doing it, Richie launches into the voice of the Irish cop. The creature lets out a sound of rage but is distracted enough for Richie to pull Bill up and out of the cellar. The werewolf’s claws paw at the grass where Richie and Bill are now sitting.
Richie does not realize it, but he is performing the ritual of Chüd even before Bill researches the Himalayan ritual. Like the sneezing powder, comedy is Richie’s self-defense, what he uses to disarm those who threaten him or put him ill at ease. The creature lets out a sound of rage because, when Richie speaks in the other voice, he becomes less afraid of the werewolf and less conscious of his fears.
Bill pulls the trigger on the Walther and takes off a chunk of the werewolf’s skull. Still roaring, the werewolf climbs out of the window. Richie goes back into his Irish cop voice. He puffs a cloud of the sneezing powder at the monster. The werewolf stares at Richie for a moment, with slight surprise, then it starts sneezing. The boys see “greenish-black clots of snot [fly] out of its nostrils.” The werewolf looks angry but it is also in pain. Richie stares at the werewolf in wonder until Bill pulls him away. The werewolf is still coming, “snarling and slobbering.” Silver is leaning against a tree.
The boys succeed in repelling It, mainly because their preparations cause them to feel less afraid. Bill’s ability to take a chunk out of the werewolf’s skull and Richie’s ability to cause It to sneeze make the werewolf seem more vulnerable and more real. King creates suspense by turning this into a chase scene in which the boys struggle to get back to Silver—which, like the trusty horse, will carry them away from danger.
Richie takes another look at the werewolf and sees that there are “big fluffy orange buttons, like pompoms” on its jacket. Stitched on the left breast of its jacket is the name “Richie Tozier.” Silver begins to move, but much too slowly. The werewolf comes closer and grabs at Richie with one of its paws. Richie can see its teeth, which are crooked fangs, and smells the “sweet rotten meat on its breath.” Bill pumps the pedals on the bike, which finally stops wavering, and they take off. The werewolf roars again and Richie feels as though it is right beside him. The paw swings again. Richie closes his eyes, holds on to Bill, and waits for the end.
The orange pompoms establish the werewolf’s connection with the clown that Ben saw, which demonstrates to Richie that it is the same creature. Richie’s vision of the glamour is so vivid that he can both see and smell it. The chase scene ensues, but Richie imagines himself getting the best of the werewolf. His trust in Bill and their reliance on each other’s individual strengths help them both get out alive.
Bill does not see a werewolf but a clown. Unlike Richie, he does not turn around to look at his monster. However, he, too, sees the clown wearing a Derry High jacket with pompoms for buttons. Bill rides Silver toward the intersection of Neibolt Street and Route 2. The street is empty. Nearly too late, Bill notices that Richie is sliding off of Silver. His glasses hang askew and blood drips from his forehead. They crash in the street. Richie half-consciously goes into his Pancho Vanilla voice and Bill smacks him in the head to bring him fully back into consciousness. Richie begins to cry and Bill hugs him. He tries to say something, but Bill urges him to remain quiet.
Bill’s fear is of the clown that he knows killed George. He is not only afraid of the clown, but also obsessed with killing it in revenge. The fact that both the clown and the werewolf are wearing Derry High jackets could be a reflection of both boys’ fears about approaching adolescence. Perhaps with age they will be too cautious or less dependent on each other. For now, their solidarity lies in their friendship and their shared commitment to kill It before It kills them.