While Not Filmed Here, Haverhill Plays Prominently in AMC’s ‘NOS4A2’

Ashleigh Cummings as Vic McQueen on Haverhill’s supposed “Shorter Way Bridge.” (photograph by Dana Starbard/AMC.)

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With the recent excitement about the Hulu TV series “Castle Rock” filming in Haverhill, it is easy to forget Haverhill is already appearing on television in the AMC series “NOS4A2.”

In the original Joe Hill novel NOS4A2 (2013), Victoria McQueen discovers she has the gift of “finding” things presumed lost by crossing the condemned old covered bridge over the Merrimack River. As the novel starts, Vic McQueen leaves the family house while her parents are fighting about a lost bracelet. She crosses the derelict Shorter Way Bridge and suddenly finds herself in Hampton Beach. Somehow, she has been transported 15 miles beyond the bridge to the sub shop where the bracelet was lost. Vic will discover this gift may also be a curse.

It is on one of her trips across the bridge she ends up at the “Sleigh House” of Charlie Talent Manx and has her first encounter with Manx, who kidnaps children and carries them away to Christmasland in his car, a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith with the license plate NOS4A2. Years after Vic escapes Manx, he comes looking for revenge by taking her son to Christmasland to steal his soul. Vic is the only one ever to escape Manx’s grasp. But can she do it twice?

The novel by Hill doesn’t specify where in Haverhill this bridge is located, but the logical assumption has been the Rocks Village Bridge, which was Haverhill’s last covered bridge (replaced with steel in 1916). However, Hill’s references to the river, I-495 and the mysterious bridge seem to place it in Ward Hill near the town line with North Andover.

The adaptation on AMC spends more time in Haverhill than the original novel, modifying the plot so the focus remains on teenage Vic, played by Ashleigh Cummings. In this version, Vic is a townie, hoping to graduate high school and escape Haverhill by attending art school. She discovers the decrepit covered bridge while riding her dirt bike to avoid her home. The problem is, her father (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) was part of the demolition crew that took that bridge down 15 years earlier. And crossing the bridge brings her to the attention of Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto).

Although Haverhill is the primary location, the scenes were entirely shot in Rhode Island. The bridge, the “Essex County Hospital” and other interiors were all shot on a soundstage in North Kingstown, R.I. The exterior of Vic’s house is in West Warwick, the high school is actually Woonsocket High School and the Art School’s campus is Moses Brown School in Providence.

It’s nothing to take personally. The fictional Here, Iowa was filmed in Warren, with the Providence Athenaeum serving as a remarkably large and ornate small-town library. The burger joint at Lake Winnipesaukee? It’s really a seafood restaurant in Narragansett.

Zachary Quinto as Charlie Manx. (Photograph by Zach Dilgard/AMC.)

There is a glimmer of hope—although Haverhill was not used as a filming location as itself, the city does appear in the series, sort of. The opening credits feature a montage of images from the show. And one of the first is a close-up of Charlie Manx’s baleful eye, the veins becoming a map Haverhill. The map is a familiar one in Haverhill, the lines and lettering clearly show it to be the map in George Wingate Chase’s 1861 History of Haverhill. Other images that quickly flash by are a triple-decker on River Street, and ironically, the Rocks Village Bridge.

Of course, Haverhill isn’t going to do any better with “Castle Rock.” Since the series is set in Maine, the scenes shot in Haverhill are going be scenes of a river town in Maine. The city has experienced some success with the film industry. Perhaps this is the start of a career in television as well.

David Goudsward, raised on the summit of Scotland Hill, Haverhill, brings his New England sensibilities and respect for historical perspective his work. Although living in Florida, his bibliography consists primarily of New England topics. He recently compiled and edited, “Wittier than Thou,” tales of mirth and whimsy inspired by the life and works of John Greenleaf Whittier His latest book, “Horror Guide to Northern New England,” co-written with his brother Scott, is available via Amazon.

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