Greg Stillson
Greg Stillson is a fictional character and the primary antagonist
An antagonist is a character, group of characters, or institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend...

 in Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

's 1979 novel The Dead Zone
The Dead Zone (novel)
The Dead Zone is a horror novel by Stephen King published in 1979. It concerns Johnny Smith, who is injured in an accident and enters a coma for nearly five years. When he emerges, he can see horrifying secrets but cannot identify all the details in his "dead zone", an area of his brain that...

. Played by Golden Globe-winner Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen
Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez , better known by his stage name Martin Sheen, is an American film actor best known for his performances in the films Badlands and Apocalypse Now , and in the television series The West Wing from 1999 to 2006.He is considered one of the best actors never to be...

 in the film adaptation
The Dead Zone (film)
The Dead Zone is a 1983 horror-thriller film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg, the film stars Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and Tom Skerritt...

 and Sean Patrick Flanery
Sean Patrick Flanery
Sean Patrick Flanery is an American actor known for such roles as Connor MacManus in The Boondock Saints, Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone and for portraying Indiana Jones in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as well as Bobby Dagen in Saw 3D.He is currently known for his role as Sam Gibson on The...

 in the USA Network
USA Network
USA Network is an American cable television channel launched in 1971. Once a minor player in basic cable, the network has steadily gained popularity because of breakout hits like Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains, Covert Affairs, White Collar, Monday Night RAW, Suits, and reruns of the various...

 television series, Stillson is a rising politician and future U.S. President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 whose rise to power will eventually bring on Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...


Novel biography

Stillson is introduced at the beginning of the novel as a travelling Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 salesman in 1955. During a stop at a house in rural Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

, Stillson is attacked by the absent homeowners' dog and, enraged, sprays ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

 in the animal's eyes before beating it to death. As he drives away, Stillson comes to the blind realization that he is destined for greatness. It is revealed later that Stillson held a series of odd occupations in the years following this incident, among them being a successful rain maker
Rain maker
Rain Maker can refer to:*For process see Rainmaking*For 1997 Film see The Rainmaker...


Stillson moves to the fictional New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

 town of Ridgeway in 1971, where he is eventually elected mayor. He blackmail
In common usage, blackmail is a crime involving threats to reveal substantially true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. It may be defined as coercion involving threats of physical harm, threat of criminal prosecution, or threats...

s biker gang leader Sonny Elliman into becoming his hired thug. He also develops a reputation in Ridgeway for his ability to "straighten out" delinquent teenagers, utilizing a clandestine process that often involves physical and emotional torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

. In 1976, Stillson campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 as an independent
Independent (politician)
In politics, an independent or non-party politician is an individual not affiliated to any political party. Independents may hold a centrist viewpoint between those of major political parties, a viewpoint more extreme than any major party, or they may have a viewpoint based on issues that they do...

, gaining national attention for his unconventional behavior during rallies; he often dons a construction helmet and makes bizarre campaign promises. Meanwhile, Stillson's security detail, led by Elliman and his fellow bikers, are implicated in several beatings involving rally attendees.

During a rally in the fictional town of Trimbull, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, Stillson shake hands with psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...

 Johnny Smith
Johnny Smith (Dead Zone)
John Smith is a fictional character and the main protagonist originally appearing in the Stephen King novel, The Dead Zone, then in the film and the television series of the same name.-Novel:...

. The physical contact causes Smith to see a vision of Stillson as president of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 many years into the future and then has a sense of complete desolation. As he eventually relates in a letter to his father, Smith believes that President Stillson will worsen an international conflict and start a full-scale nuclear war
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...


Stillson is elected to Congress, and proves so popular during his first term that he wins his next election in a landslide. Smith, with the terrible knowledge of Stillson's future deeds, contemplates assassinating the congressman. He eventually leaves New Hampshire and finds a public works job in Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the U.S. state of Arizona, as well as the sixth most populated city in the United States. Phoenix is home to 1,445,632 people according to the official 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data...

. However, after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor
A tumor or tumour is commonly used as a synonym for a neoplasm that appears enlarged in size. Tumor is not synonymous with cancer...

, Smith realizes he has precious little time to deal with Stillson.

Smith arrives in Jackson, New Hampshire
Jackson, New Hampshire
Jackson is a town in Carroll County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 816 at the 2010 census. Jackson is an elegant resort area in the White Mountains. Parts of the White Mountain National Forest are in the west, north and east...

, which is to host a town hall meeting
Town hall meeting
A town hall meeting is an American English term given to an informal public meeting. Everybody in a town community is invited to attend, not always to voice their opinions, but to hear the responses from public figures and elected officials about shared subjects of interest. Attendees rarely voted...

 featuring Stillson. Posing as a news photographer, Smith finds a decent sniper's nest in the town hall's second floor gallery, with a clear view of the podium. However, when the rally starts, Smith misses Stillson several times when he opens fire. Stillson grabs a nearby child and uses him as a human shield
Human shield
Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of civilians in or around combat targets to deter an enemy from attacking those targets. It may also refer to the use of civilians to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing the civilians to march in...

. Smith then hesitates, and is subsequently shot and mortally wounded.

Smith's efforts are not in vain, however; a news photographer he had met earlier took a picture of Stillson cowering behind the child, and escapes from Stillson's bodyguards. Smith touches Stillson again when they meet the final time, discovering that he has changed the future and that Stillson will never come to power. With this knowledge, Smith dies content. It is implied that Stillson's political career ends in disgrace after the damning photo of him holding the child against Smith's fire is published.

In the film, it is shown that Stillson commits suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 in the wake of the scandal. However, this is not evident in the novel.

Role in the TV series

Stillson's backstory is established in flashbacks during Season One, in which his con artist father, James, uses him as a ploy and accomplice in his various petty crimes and get-rich-quick schemes. Stillson encounters Johnny Smith when they are both nine years old; Smith suffers a vague vision and passes out upon meeting him. Later, Stillson — by then the mayor of Cleaves Mills, Maine — passes Smith's car accident on his way to the office of Charlie Richardson, where he and Elliman threaten to throw him out of a fifth story window for leaking stories about Stillson to the press. As Smith wakes from his coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

, Stillson is sworn in as a member of the Maine House of Representatives
Maine House of Representatives
The Maine House of Representatives is the lower house of the Maine Legislature. The House consists of 151 members representing an equal amount of districts across the state. Each voting member of the House represents around 8,450 citizens of the state...


In Season Two, Stillson runs for Maine's 2nd congressional district
Maine's 2nd congressional district
Maine's 2nd congressional district is a congressional district in the U.S. state of Maine. Covering , it comprises nearly 80% of the state. It is the largest district east of the Mississippi River and the 24th-largest overall. The district consists of all of the state north of the Portland and...

 seat, running a platform of strong morality. However, behind the scenes, Stillson manipulates a young campaign volunteer into sleeping with him. He visits a disaster site to make a speech, only to have all the reporters abandon him when they spot Smith, who had saved hundreds of lives by foreseeing the event. Stillson becomes aware of Smith's investigations into his background. He meets with Smith and offers to give him connections after he is elected — but only if he stops digging around. Smith helps Stillson's rival, Harrison Fisher, best him in a debate. Smarting from the defeat, Stillson vents his hatred for Smith; Elliman warns and assaults the psychic. After scandal forces Fisher from the race, Stillson meets with Smith, asking to "join forces" with him to put their combined resources behind the campaign. Smith declines the offer.

In Season Three, Stillson hires a student filmmaker named Rachel Caldwell to make a documentary about the campaign. The two form a romantic relationship. Stillson's assistant, Jake Truax, demonstrates a voting machine
Voting machine
Voting machines are the total combination of mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic equipment , that is used to define ballots; to cast and count votes; to report or display election results; and to maintain and produce any audit trail information...

 that will steal votes for Stillson in the election. Rachel walks in, but does not see anything incriminating. She later goes missing. Stillson lies to Sheriff Bannerman about his "strictly professional" relationship with her, and devotes his campaign's resources into finding Rachel. He is confronted by Smith, who voices his suspicions of Stillson's involvement. When Rachel is found murdered and Smith is arrested for the crime, Stillson gives Elliman photographs of Smith's "Armageddon Board" with instructions to distribute them to the press to discredit Smith. However, Smith is eventually exonerated, and resumes his investigation into the murder.

Stillson and his cadre decide to "borrow a trick from our friends in Florida
Florida election recount
The Florida election recount of 2000 was a period of vote re-counting that occurred following the unclear results of the 2000 United States presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, specifically the Florida results. The election was ultimately settled in favor of George W. Bush when...

" by discounting voters' names that are even remotely similar to convicted felons. Stillson is "elected" in the election. During the victory party, Stillson walks in on Sarah searching his office. He attempts to seduce her, promising political power by his side. His sexual advances are cut off when an aide bursts into the office, giving Sarah an opportunity to escape. Later, Stillson throws his support behind a crime bill being renamed "Rachel's Law". Stillson is visited by Rebecca and Smith over "Rachel's Law", and asks that Rebecca attend the bill-signing ceremony in Washington D.C. Rebecca declines the offer. Smith shakes hands with Stillson, but collapses from the resulting vision. Stillson phones for paramedics.

Stillson learns that Smith is due to undergo brain surgery that may destroy his psychic ability, thus eliminating him as a threat to his career. Later, Stillson is visited by Rebecca, who has now decided to attend the ceremony. James warns his son not to "make the same mistake [he] made with her sister", and orders Elliman to place wiretaps in Rebecca's apartment. Smith escapes the hospital and finds Elliman's wiretaps in Rebecca's apartment. Elliman tries to clear out the equipment, but is caught by Bannerman. On the morning of the signing, Stillson and Rebecca are hustled to his suite when Smith is spotted nearby. Stillson attempts to seduce Rebecca, but she tries to kill him. Smith bursts into the suite and stops her, revealing that James killed Rachel. When James admits to the deed, his son strangles him in a fit of rage.

In Season Four, Stillson authorizes House Appropriations subsidies
A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsidies are made by the government to producers or distributors in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry or an increase in the prices of its products or simply to encourage it to hire more labor A subsidy (also...

 to fund the biomedical Portland Chemical firm in Maine, whose research would in turn provide soft money for Stillson's re-election campaign; Stillson meets with representative Judith Peck to discuss their mutually beneficial agendas. Stillson and Malcolm Janus
Malcolm Janus
Malcolm Janus, played by Martin Donovan, is a later antagonist of the USA Network original television series The Dead Zone, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King...

 — a newly-hired and calculating advisor replacing Truax — also discuss the work of Portland Chemical engineer Dr. Alex Connors, a former student of Smith's. Stillson visits Connors, learning that he and Smith has a falling-out over his current work. Stillson tells Janus that Smith must be kept out of Connors' research in order to maintain Portland Chemical's funds for the campaign. Stillson later runs into Smith, who offers to avoid Stillson if he lets go of Connors and his work. Stillson seems to agree, but then orders Connors kidnapped.

Over the next several months, Stillson and Miranda Ellis, the daughter of Maine senator Harlan Ellis, become romantically involved. One night, an inebriated Stillson confesses to Miranda about murdering James. When the couple sail her family's private yacht, Miranda goes missing. Desperate, he turns to Smith for help. The psychic reluctantly agrees, but swears to bring Stillson down if he is involved. Smith and Stillson's joint investigation turn up no leads, and they determine Miranda to be dead. Later, Janus tells Stillson that Miranda is alive and gives him her whereabouts; Stillson admits to telling Miranda the truth about James' death. Stillson holds a press conference to announce Miranda's safe return, and publicly proposes to her; she accepts. Smith also attends, and Stillson makes a point of thanking him in front of the cameras for his role in Miranda's rescue.

As Stillson goes over wedding details with Miranda and Harlan, he learns that Patrick Kelley, one of his rivals in Congress, has been invited to the ceremony. He also learns that Miranda has been seeing a doctor for a heart condition. Stillson meets with Kelley to discuss an intelligence leak to a newspaper, as Kelley is the committee chairman for Homeland Security
United States Department of Homeland Security
The United States Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet department of the United States federal government, created in response to the September 11 attacks, and with the primary responsibilities of protecting the territory of the United States and protectorates from and responding to...

. Stillson tries to threaten Kelley with the leak, but is rebuffed. Later, Janus shows him photographs of Miranda at Smith's residence. Enraged, Stillson orders Janus to "handle the situation", leaving the method up to his advisor.

At the wedding, Kelly is harangued by reporters over the intelligence leak. However, as Stillson waits at the altar, Miranda collapses and stops breathing. Stillson comes to her side as she dies. Later, during a congressional recess, Smith confronts Stillson over the deaths of James and Miranda. Stillson is instructed by Janus to join Vice President
Vice President of the United States
The Vice President of the United States is the holder of a public office created by the United States Constitution. The Vice President, together with the President of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people, through the Electoral College, to a four-year term...

 Eric Danbury on a hunting expedition. During the trip, Stillson witnesses Danbury's assassination. He returns fire in the direction of the assassin, and is publicly credited with taking down the triggerman
Patsy is a given name often used as a diminutive of the feminine given name Patricia or sometimes the masculine name Patrick, or occasionally other names containing the syllable "Pat" or "Pet" .-Historical usage:...

. He is appointed vice president upon Danbury's death.

When Reverend Purdy decides to give the speech instead, Janus forces him to acquese after blocking Faith Heritage's satellite feed. Stillson tries to convince Purdy otherwise, but Purdy expresses "serious concerns about the people behind" Stillson's career. Stillson also visits the Winterfest game, run by Sarah Bannerman, and wins a panda bear, promising to take J.J. for a flight on Air Force Two
Air Force Two
Air Force Two is the air traffic control call sign used by any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the Vice President, but not the President. The term is often associated with the Boeing C-32, a modified 757 which is most commonly used as the Vice President's transport. The C-40 Clipper, a...

 — or Air Force One
Air Force One
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term refers to those Air Force aircraft whose primary mission is to transport the president; however, any U.S. Air Force aircraft...

, should he win the Presidency.

A few days later, Stillson attends the wake of Penobscot County Sheriff Walter T. Bannerman, along with Sarah and J.J. Bannerman, Bruce Lewis, Johnny Smith, and Reverend Purdy. Stillson laments the loss of Sheriff Bannerman, but agrees with Smith that "certainly no one's going to miss Malcolm Janus". When Smith shakes hands with Stillson on this occasion, he receives a vision of the future again of Washington D.C., but this time without armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...


In episode "Re-Entry," Stillson shows up at Smith's house to ask for his help to use his psychic powers to help three stranded astronauts in an orbiting Space Shuttle whom are marooned in space. Despite Smith wary about trusting Stillson, he helps get the astronauts back safely and Stillson, surprisingly, does not have any agenda to the plot for he tells Smith that he is a changed man in the wake of Janus' death.

A little later in episode "Drift", Stillson arrives back again in Penaboscot County to visit Sarah whom is having relationship trouble with Smith whom she learned that he has a vision about Walt's death and kept it from her. Stillson speaks at J.J.'s school about Green Peace and saving the environment as his new change in political strategy which wins him admiration from both Sarah and J.J.

In episode "Exile", Sarah visits Stillson in Washington, where he is holding a fund raiser for police veterans, and he further charms her with his admiration for her late husband and offers to look into what Walt Bannerman was involved with prior to his death. Eventually, Smith discovers Sarah's interest in Stillson and tries to persuade her not to get involved with him.

In the final episode of the series, "Denouement", Johnny Smith learns more about Stillson when he finds his father, Herb Smith, though to be long dead, and learns that Stillson in fact had taken the late Janus' place in the Corporation for a Better American Society and has orchestrated nearly everything that has been going on. While still charming Sarah and J.J., Stillson asks them to move with him to Washington. When Sarah refuses, Stillson becomes violent and knocks J.J. to the floor of her house. Upon hitting his head, both J.J., as well as Johnny at another location, have a vision of the nuclear apocalypse again. Sarah angrily tells Stillson to leave and he dejectedly returns to Washington. However, J.J. keeps his vision of the nuclear apocalypse to himself.

Other Stephen King works

The robot Nigel the Butler mentions Stillson and his campaign motto in The Dark Tower.
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