Shadow Campaign
Photograph by Hailey Crabtree

Shadow Campaign

A bookshop owner saves a shapeshifting clown’s political ambitions from going down the drain.

Two years ago, roadside signs urging poll-goers to “Vote Pennywise” popped up overnight around Bangor. Who was behind them, no one knew. But Pennywise the clown — the corporeal manifestation of eternal evil in Stephen King’s It — was yet another unsavory political aspirant in a divisive election cycle. Then, as suddenly as the signs had appeared, they were gone. Did the candidate, realizing the stacked odds, retreat into the interdimensional ether?

Not exactly.

“I’d see people driving down the road and stop the car, get out, grab one, and jump back in the car,” says Gerald Winters, owner of Gerald Winters & Son, a local bookshop specializing in manuscripts, first runs, and rare copies of Stephen King novels. He instituted an amnesty program: anyone who’d pinched a Pennywise sign could stop by the shop and sell it to him, no questions asked. He acquired several dozen and, ahead of midterms, started reselling them for $30 a pop.

The weather-resistant plastic signs wouldn’t have been cheap for their anonymous creator to produce. The going rate is upwards of $400 per batch of 100. “You spent a lot of money, and you didn’t take credit for it,” Winters muses. “There had to be a reason, but nobody knows it.”

Pennywise didn’t win in 2016 — actually, it wasn’t clear which office he was running for — but the campaign has even broader reach this year. Winters has shipped orders to buyers as far away as Los Angeles and the D.C. area.