The Dark Life And History Of Annie Wilkes From Stephen King’s 'Misery'
While many of Stephen King’s antagonists are of supernatural origin, there's something especially insidious about his mundane villains. Those seemingly “normal” people are driven to frightening lengths to have their way, regardless of their morals or rationale. Perhaps that’s what makes these enemies the scariest - they could be anyone, from your best friend of a decade to a random stranger on the street.
Ghosts and demons are mysterious and seldom treated as serious threats, but people who commit unspeakably evil acts towards others can be anywhere, anytime, and deep down, we all know they exist.
Annie Wilkes is undoubtedly one of the most chilling enemies from the Stephen King pantheon, made even more terrifying by her likeness to real-life killers who lived similar lives. In this list, we’ll dive deep into Annie’s history and psyche to see how just one woman could inflict a lifetime of damage on almost everyone she met.
Anne Marie Wilkes-Dugan Took Her First Lives At Just 11 Years Old
Born on April 1, 1943, in Bakersfield, CA, to Carl Wilkes and Crysilda Berryman, Annie displayed troubling signs from the very beginning. As a child, she was notorious for having anger issues and was homeschooled early on by her father.
A sugar junkie obsessed with character plays and clearly exhibiting unstable behavior, Annie wasn’t dealt a great genetic hand; an episode of Castle Rock reveals how, after Annie's father left, her mother attempted to kill herself and Annie by driving their car into the river. While Annie survived, her mother did not. The show makes clear that Annie inherited mental illness from her mother, offering a nuanced and almost sympathetic view of a young girl who would later commit terrible crimes.
While her upbringing was peppered with misfortune and trauma, Annie’s actions were indefensible by the time she was 11, when she committed her first murderous act. While babysitting for some neighborhood kids, Annie grows tired of her “bratty" wards and decides to set the basement of their shared apartment on fire, thus killing five: three children and two adults. This event marked the beginning of a long series of “suspicious” deaths that followed in Annie’s wake.
Annie’s Father Passed In July Of 1957 Under Suspicious Circumstances
By the time Annie was 14 years old, her father had died from injuries resulting from a fall down the stairs. In the book and the 1990 film, newspapers report that Carl Wilkes tripped over some laundry, leading to his fatal fall at only 44 years old, but it’s heavily implied Annie may have been involved. In Castle Rock, we learn the details of that fateful day.
Angry that her father dedicated his novel to his girlfriend Rita and not to her, Annie pushed him in a moment of anger, causing him to fall down the stairs to his death. His death was seemingly accidental, however, judging by how upset Annie was at his loss and how his image seemed to haunt her.
After her father’s death, she stabbed Rita and kidnapped her half-sister Evangeline, intending to commit a murder-suicide as her mother attempted. However, when she heard Evangeline laugh, Annie changed her mind.
Annie’s Roommate Died Under Similar Circumstances In January 1962
Annie’s next crime occurred in her sophomore year while attending nursing school at the University of Southern California. Her motivations aren’t known in this case; all we do know is that she lived with her 21-year-old roommate, Andrea Saint James, and their pet cat, both of whom she killed.
In a situation eerily similar to her father's death, Annie pushed Andrea down the stairs, claiming she stumbled over the cat. Sadly, the cat died as well after Annie poisoned it. At this point, Annie had killed a total of eight people before even graduating college. Of course, her murder spree would truly start after she graduated Magna Cum Laude from USC (UCLA in the movie).
Annie Graduated With Honors From Nursing School And Began Working
After graduating in 1966 (1972 in the film), Annie took her first nursing job at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Manchester, NH. One might expect this to be a fresh start for an accomplished graduate, a new proving ground for Annie to reverse her path of violence and start caring for people.
Instead, it’s here that Annie began establishing her methods as a serial killer, targeting the most vulnerable population in her pursuits.
Elderly Under Her Care Began To Pass Away
During the few years she spent at St. Joseph’s, Annie's victims were very old and often very ill. From Ernest Gonyar at age 79 to Hester “Queenie” Beaulifant at age 84 (as well as a few more unnamed victims), Annie dispatched her patients with drugs and sedatives.
She seemingly viewed these as mercy killings at this time, as many of these elderly patients suffered from age-related ailments or long-term illnesses. Annie never garnered suspicion, and the deaths were ruled to be illness-related with no suspected foul play.
She Took A Job Heading An ICU In 1970, Where She Continued Taking LivesPhoto: Misery / Columbia Pictures
Despite never being suspected at St. Joseph’s, it’s likely Annie moved to avoid suspicion, taking a job heading the ICU at Riverview Hospital in Harrisburg, PA. Here, Annie took the lives of at least two more elderly and notably killed a comatose 3-year-old who was admitted for falling down a well.
Around this time, she also took up martial arts, undoubtedly making herself a more dangerous adversary later on.