Secret Window, Secret Garden

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"Secret Window, Secret Garden"
Secret Window, Secret Garden was published in Four Past Midnight
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Horror,
Thriller novella
Published in Four Past Midnight
Publication type Anthology
Publisher Viking
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Publication date September 1990

Secret Window, Secret Garden is one of four novellas published in the Stephen King book Four Past Midnight in 1990. It is similar to King's earlier novel The Dark Half. Both are about authors who are thinly veiled analogues of King himself—Thad Beaumont in The Dark Half and Mort Rainey in Secret Window, Secret Garden.


Mort Rainey is a successful novelist in Maine. One day, he is confronted by a man from Mississippi named John Shooter, who claims Mort plagiarized a story he wrote. Mort vehemently denies ever plagiarizing anything. Shooter leaves, but not before leaving his manuscript, "Secret Window, Secret Garden". Mort notices that Shooter left without his story; he drops it in the trash can. When Mort's housemaid recovers the manuscript—thinking it belongs to Mort—he finally reads Shooter's story, discovering that it is almost identical to his short story "Sowing Season". The two differ, but very slightly; they share the same plot elements. The only differences are the title, the character's name, the diction, and the ending. Mort becomes disturbed by these findings.

Shooter returns a few days later. Having learned that "Sowing Season" was published two years before Shooter claimed to have written "Secret Window, Secret Garden", Mort confronts Shooter with this information. An enraged Shooter accuses Mort of lying and demands proof, giving Mort three days to show him his published story. Overnight, he kills Mort's cat and burns down the house of Mort's ex-wife, which contained the magazine issue in which "Sowing Season" was published. Mort orders a new copy of the magazine; he also asks his caretaker Greg Carstairs to tail Shooter and to talk to a man named Tom Greenleaf, who drove past Mort and Shooter. Shooter, angry that Mort has involved other people in their business, kills both men and plants evidence framing Mort for the murders. Upon receiving the magazine and returning home, Mort finds that "Sowing Season" has been removed.

Mort realizes that John Shooter is really his own split personality. Tom had not seen Shooter while driving by—he saw Mort, by himself. Mort realizes he burned down his own home, killed his own cat, and murdered two people. He blacks out; fifteen minutes later he awakens, only to hear who he believes to be Shooter pulling into his driveway, at the time they'd arranged to meet. Desperate for any sign of his own sanity, he rushes outside only to find his ex-wife, Amy. Devastated, he loses control of his body and mind to Shooter. Amy discovers that Mort has gone insane, having written the word "Shooter" all over the house. She goes to Mort's study, where "Shooter" attempts to kill her in an ambush; she manages to escape. "Shooter", chasing Amy outside, is shot by her insurance agent. Mort becomes himself again, addresses Amy, and dies.

Later, Amy and Ted Milner—a man she had an affair with before divorcing Mort—discuss her ex-husband's motives; she insists that Mort had become two people, one of them a character so vivid it became real. She then recalls something Tom witnessed; when he drove past Mort alone, he took a look in his rear view mirror...and saw Shooter with Mort, although transparent. Amy then reveals that while digging through Mort's house, she found Shooter's trademark hat; she took it out to the trash, and planted it right-side up on a trash bag. When she returned, she found a note from Shooter inside the overturned hat, revealing that he has travelled back to Mississippi. Amy remarks that Mort had created a character so vivid, he actually came to life.


A film adaptation called Secret Window was made, starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello and Timothy Hutton. The storyline of the movie differs from that of the novel, most notably in their respective endings. In the movie Mort kills his wife and her lover, while in the novel he is killed before he has a chance to do so. In the movie, after months it is shown that Mort grew corn in his wife's garden, where it is implied that he buried her and her lover. Another difference is the titles of the short stories: in the movie, Mort Rainey wrote a story called "Secret Window" and John Shooter wrote "Sowing Season". The story in the movie version is set in upstate New York instead of Maine. [1]

A radio adaptation was broadcast in 2003 on BBC Radio 4 starring Lee Montague and Kerry Shale. [2]


King has been the subject of unfounded accusations of plagiarism. A woman claimed that King stole several of her story ideas and based characters from his books on her. All of her cases have been dismissed.[3] In another incident a deranged man broke into King's home, and when discovered by King's wife, claimed that King stole the plot of Misery from the intruder's aunt and that he had a bomb in the shoebox he was holding and was going to blow up the house. The dud bomb was made of erasers and straightened paperclips.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Koep, David (Director) (Audio Commentary) (2004). "Secret Window" (DVD) (Motion Picture). Columbia Pictures. 
  2. ^ "Stephen King Radio Drama's". Talk Stephen King, February 13, 2010
  3. ^ "Stephen King - King Sued By 'The Real' Annie Wilkes". 8 June 2005. Retrieved 6 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Rogak, Lisa; "Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King", macmillan