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"The Crate" is a short story by Stephen King, first published in the July 1979 issue of Gallery. In 1982, the story was adapted as a segment in the movie Creepshow, and included in comic-book form in the Creepshow graphic novella.
An old wooden crate, marked from an 1834 arctic expedition, is discovered by a janitor beneath the basement stairs at the zoology department of Horlicks University. He notifies Dexter Stanley, the school's biology professor, and together they open it to discover the crate contains a small yet powerful - and hungry - beast still alive after 140 years. The creature kills and eats the janitor as well as Stanley's grad student Charlie Gereson - consuming them entirely, leaving only scraps of clothing behind. In a daze, Stanley flees to the home of his friend, English professor Henry Northrup. He tells Henry the whole story, and Northrup believes him, seeing the crate-dwelling beast as a way to rid himself of his verbally abusive, alcoholic wife, Wilma.
He dopes Stanley's drink, and while Stanley is unconscious Henry writes and leaves a letter for Wilma to find and then drives to the University where he cleans up the blood and remaining scraps from the beast. Wilma meanwhile comes home and finds the letter and after reading it races up to the University. Henry had led her to believe in the note that Stanley had attacked a female grad student earlier and that she was now hiding underneath the stairs and that only Wilma would be able to talk her out. As Wilma peers under the stairs looking for the girl Henry quickly comes up and pushes her from behind up against the beast's crate and starts screaming for it to come out and feed on her. After an initial delay that sees Wilma start to berate Henry, the beast - Northrup likens it to a Tasmanian devil, albeit possibly having six legs - does indeed appear and attack and eat Wilma completely then retreat back into its crate. As Henry carefully loads the crate into another larger crate for disposal he notes that Wilma's face (and only her face) is still visible in the crate. Northrup drives the crate within a crate to a local quarry and tips the entire cargo into the deep quarry lake. Upon his return home Stanley wakes up, and the two decide to keep quiet about the entire incident - Stanley has gained a friend, and Northrup has lost his abusive wife, a situation both are happy with.
The story was adapted as a segment in the film Creepshow. Although there are numerous small changes, the film version remains essentially faithful to the written source material. The changes include the appearance of the beast to an ape-like creature with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, and the beast destroying the water-logged crate after being dumped in the 400-foot-deep (120 m) lake and escaping into the outside world.
In the 9th installment of the Friday the 13th Franchise, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, an Easter Egg of The Crate can be seen - labeled "Arctic Expedition Julia Carpenter Horlicks University". Julia Carpenter may be a tip of the hat to director John Carpenter who directed The Thing, about a doomed Arctic Expedition.
There were 3 original prop crates made for The Crate segment of the film Creepshow by production designer Cletus Anderson (1938-2007). A bloody crate, formerly owned by director George A. Romero, is owned by David Burian, prop collector and film archivist. The other two crates are owned by KNB FX co-owner Greg Nicotero (who purchased it from legendary special effects artist Tom Savini) and Creepshow soundtrack composer John Harrison.
"The Crate" has not yet been collected in a Stephen King collection, but it has been printed a few times:
- Gallery (July 1979, magazine)
- Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural - edited by Bill Pronzini (Arbor House/Priam Books, 1980) ISBN 0-87795-309-0
- Great Tales of Horror & the Supernatural - edited by Bill Pronzini (Galahad Books, 1981) ISBN 0-88365-699-X
- Fantasy Annual III - edited by Terry Carr (Pocket Books, 1981) ISBN 0-671-41272-8
- Creepshow - as a graphic novella with art by Berni Wrightson (Plume, 1982) ISBN 0-452-25380-2
- Classic Tales of Horror & the Supernatural - edited by Bill Pronzini, Barry Malzberg, Martin Greenberg (Quill, 1991) ISBN 0-688-10963-2
- Shivers VI - edited by Richard Chizmar (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2011) ISBN 1-58767-224-3