The mayor is enthused. He says the show will attract attention.

LEWISTON – Go ahead. Frighten people. Haunt Lewiston.

That’s the sentiment of local leaders as Stephen King unveils his newest scary tale, “Kingdom Hospital.” The 15-hour TV series about a haunted hospital begins Wednesday night on ABC.

And it’s set here in Lewiston.

If the series draws an audience, locals imagine drawing tourists who want to visit the places portrayed in the TV show, even though the series was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“This is the type of publicity that the city could never afford to buy,” Lewiston Mayor Lionel Guay said. “This is going to be national.” International, even.

The network, ABC, has unleashed a juggernaut of advertising to promote the series. Previews have run regularly for weeks. Producers have released a quasi-novelization to accompany the series, a book titled “The Journals of Eleanor Druse.” Druse is a character played by Diane Ladd in the mini-series.

The network has even built a corporate-style Web site to represent the fictitious hospital. The address is www.kingdomhospitalofmaine.com.

The action is placed here in Lewiston, “where the ground is uneasy and old secrets have begun to rise to the surface.”

As the story goes, the city suffered a catastrophic fire in 1869. The Gates Falls Mill burned, killing 200 people. Many of them were child laborers. Kingdom Hospital was built on the site.

The narrative begins when a man is struck by a van on a rural road and taken to the Lewiston hospital for care.

The series is inspired by a Danish miniseries, “The Kingdom,” by Lars von Trier. King adapted it, loosely basing some events on his own 1999 accident.

He, too, was stuck by a van while walking along a roadside. And much of his recovery happened right here in Lewiston, at Central Maine Medical Center.

“We provided security for him when he was at CMMC,” said Lewiston Police Chief William Welch, who will be among the people watching Wednesday night’s 9 p.m. debut, titled “Thy Kingdom Come.”

As part of the costuming for the series, producers asked Welch’s department for official police patches. He supplied them. He was also told to expect cops in the first episode.

“I keep looking for the patch in the previews,” said the chief, who was assured by show staffers that Lewiston police would be portrayed in a positive way.

“I think it’s all in good fun,” said Phil Nadeau, Lewiston’s assistant city administrator. He doesn’t worry that Lewiston could look bad because its hospital is described as evil.

After all, Stephen King knows the area.

He grew up in Durham, attended Lisbon High School and often visited Lewiston as a young man. He used the library and watched movies here.

Following his recovery from the van accident, King donated thousands of dollars to Central Maine Medical Center and praised the care he received.

It hasn’t stopped him from having fun, though.

The Web site for his fictitious hospital gives the address as 686 Kingdom Road, which doesn’t exist. The address is followed by a disclaimer:

“Anybody who actually follows these directions will arrive at the gates of Hell, where they will be greeted by the walking dead.”



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