It was a creature from an unknown realm outside the regions of space. When It came to planet Earth to feed, the creature would disguise itself as a colorful circus clown named "Pennywise", or morph into any other being it pleased (generally based on its target's loved ones or friends to lure them into traps or simply appear to them as their very worst fears).
It preferred to attract children, so it could capture and kill to devour them. It liked preying on innocent human children because they were easier to scare. According to the creature, frightened flesh tastes better.
A Nameless Evil
"I am eternal, child! I am the eater of worlds! And of children! And you are next! " -It to the Losers' Club
It apparently originated in a mysterious void containing and surrounding the Universe, a place referred to in the novel as the "Macroverse" (a concept later established as the Todash Darkness of the Dark Tower Novels). It's real name (if, indeed, It has one) is unknown—although at several points in the novel, It claims its true name to be Robert Gray—and is named "It" by the group of children who later confront It. Throughout the book, It is generally referred to as male; however, late in the book, the protagonists come to believe that It may be female (due to its manifestation as a monstrous female spider). This is, however, not It's "true form," it is simply the closest the human mind can come to approximating it. It's natural form exists in a realm beyond the physical, which It calls the "deadlights" (described as writhing, destructive orange lights). Coming face to face with the deadlights drives any living being instantly insane. Bill comes dangerously close to seeing the deadlights; after looking into It's eyes, he saw the shape behind the shape for a brief moment. He described the sight as an endless, crawling hairy creature made of orange light. But he and Richie successfully defeat It before the deadlights can impact Bill. The only known person to face the deadlights, survive, and regain her sanity is Audra Phillips.
It's natural enemy is "The Turtle," another ancient Macroverse dweller who, eons ago, created our Universe and possibly others. The Turtle appears in King's series The Dark Tower as Maturin, one of the Guardians of the Beam. The series suggests that It, along with the Turtle, are themselves creations of a separate, omnipotent creator referred to as "the Other" (who may be the entity Gan). The Turtle and It are eternal enemies in a battle of creation against consumption. It may in fact be either a twinner of or the actual one of the six greater demon elementals mentioned by Mia in Song of Susannah, as the Spider is not one of the Beam Guardians. It arrived in our world in a massive cataclysmic event similar to an asteroid impact, in the place that would much later become Derry, Maine.
Throughout the novel It, some events are described through It's point of view. It describes itself as the "superior" being, with the Turtle as someone "close to It's superiority" and humans as mere "toys." It states that it prefers to kill and devour children, not by nature, but rather because children's fears are easier to manipulate and then interpret into a physical form. Thus children are easier to fill with terror, which It says is akin to salting the meat.
It is continually surprised by the Losers' victories over it and near the end, It begins to question if It is not as superior as it had once thought. However, It doesn't believe that the individual children are strong enough to defeat it. Only with "the Other" working through them as a group does It believe they can harm it.
"You have no power. This is the power; feel the power, brat, and then speak again of how you come to kill the Eternal! " - IT to Bill Denbrough in the Macroverse.
For millions of years, It dwelt underground, awaiting the arrival of mankind which It somehow knew would occur. Once people came, and settled over the resting place where It dwelled and Derry would be eventually built, It adopted a pattern of hibernating and waking approximately every 27 to 30 years to kill prey and feast on flesh of innocent children. Whenever It awakens it is always marked by a great and brutal act of violence such as a murder. The one and only way It can be stopped and the killing spree will end, is by another act of violence or tragic death as brutal or as significant as the first act. Then It will be forced back into a long hibernation.
- 1715 – 1716: It awoke.
- 1740 – 1743: It awoke and started a three-year reign of terror that culminated with the disappearance of over 300 settlers from Derry Township, much like the Roanoke Island mystery.
- 1769 – 1770: It awoke.
- 1851: It awoke when a man named John Markson poisoned his family, then committed suicide by eating a white-nightshade mushroom causing him an excruciating death.
- 1876 – 1879: It awoke, then went back into hibernation after murdering a group of lumberjacks who were later found near the Kenduskeag.
- 1904 – 1906: It awoke when a lumberjack named Claude Heroux murdered a number of men in a bar with an axe. Heroux was promptly pursued by a mob of townsfolk and hanged. It returned to hibernation when the Kitchener Ironworks exploded, killing 108 people, 88 of whom were children engaged in an Easter egg hunt.
- 1929 – 1930: It awoke when a large group of Derry citizens gunned down a small group of gangsters known as the Bradley Gang. It returned to hibernation when the Maine Legion of White Decency, a Northern counterpart to the Ku Klux Klan, burned down an African-American army nightclub known as "The Black Spot."
- 1957 – 1958: It awoke when Dorsey Corcoran was beaten to death by his stepfather, Richard Macklin; Its first known victim at this time was Georgie during one of the floods that hits Derry every few years. It then met its match when the Losers' Club forced It to return to an early hibernation when wounded by the young Bill Denbrough (Georgie's older brother) in the first Ritual of Chüd.
- 1984 – 1985: It awoke when three young homophobic bullies beat up a young gay couple, Adrian Mellon and Don Hagarty, throwing Mellon off a bridge (echoing real life events in Maine). It was finally defeated in the second Ritual of Chüd by the adult Bill, Richie, Beverly, Eddie, and Ben, though this triggered the collapse of the water tower and flooding of the town.
In the intervening periods between each pair of violent bookending events, a series of child murders occur in Derry which are never solved. The book's surface explanation as to why these murders are never reported on the national news is that location matters to a news story—a series of murders, no matter how gruesome, don't get reported if they happen in a small town. However, the book's implied reason for why the atrocities go unnoticed is far more sinister: It won't let them be noticed in the larger world.
Powers and Abilities
"We all float down here, Henry! We all float! When you're down here with us, you'll float too! Kill them all! Come visit, anytime. Bring your friends!" - It in the form of the moon when speaking to Henry Bowers about killing the The Losers in 1958.
- Shapeshifting. It can immediately transform itself to any kind of being, taking the frightful image directly from the victim's mind, regardless of the size or nature of the mental image. It took the form of a giant plastic statue, several small life entities - flying leeches - or several human-sized entities when the adult Eddie is confronted by the cadavers of Greta Bowie, Patrick Hockstetter, and Belch Huggins at the baseball field. Between shapeshifting, It is an orange amorphous goo, which is somewhat close to It's true form. Some may disagree, however, saying that the spider is the closest to It's true form. Others may argue that the clown is It's true form. This is untrue, however, the clown is only It's most favored form.
- Illusions. It can create many different illusions, which are realistic enough to harm its victims. These illusions include balloons floating against the wind, moving photographs, blood gushing, small but shocking entities such as a cricket, a mutant fly, teeth, and an eyeball (which were hidden in the fortune cookies at the Losers' reunion), different noises and music (including human speech), and various smells (popcorn, cotton candy, rotting). The partial invisibility fully applies on all of these illusions, as only the chosen victims can actually see and sense them. After a short period of time, or when the victim actually sees through the illusion, these illusions will cease to exist. It is imperative, however, to see through the illusion perfectly. Another illusion created by It is the huge interior of a house in a building.
- Partial Invisibility. This was clearly stated in several cases, most notably when the adult Beverly encounters Pennywise at the place where she used to live or when the adult Ben Hanscom encounters It in the public library. This suggests that only those who actually believe or have knowledge about It's existence are able to see It although It can become fully visible to anybody when it is necessary or wishes to do so. One notable moment was when It helps Henry Bowers to escape from Juniper Hill, one of Henry's cellmates and then the guard also witness It next to Henry. (Again, in order for this to be partial invisibility it would also have to not be felt as Bev left the blood in the sink long enough for her father to have used it multiple times without noticing. It was more likely that the blood was a psychic projection, and that it either left a psychic imprint or was perpetually maintained; the fact that "IT" was able to instantly respond when the blood was cleaned the first time implies that there might be at least a combination of the two (if not entirely and perpetually maintained).
- Regeneration. While It is clearly not invulnerable, and in fact can be wounded and damaged in lesser to greater degrees, It can almost spontaneously regenerate. This ability of It appears to be untrustworthy, as seen during the young Mike Hanlon's encounter with the giant bird. After Mike hit the bird's eye and its feet with broken tiles, the bird quickly decided to retreat. On the other hand, when Bill and Richie encounter It in its werewolf form at 29 Neibolt Street, It can almost instantly regenerate itself after Bill's headshot with the Walther PPK and then chase the boys for a somewhat long period. It is unclear how It utilizes Its quick regeneration abilities, but it might be a necessarily-corporeal ability. Opinions differ about whether or not It could be killed merely with heavy firepower and weapons in It's physical form.
- Telepathy. It can read minds when in close proximity. This ability is the one It most exploits, usually when taking on a form, but in several cases It can clearly read the Losers' thoughts and exploit them to It's own advantage. It can also communicate telepathically, as seen in the library scene with the adult Richie Tozier or in the Juniper Hill scene with Henry Bowers.
- Brainwashing/Mind Control. It has the power of brainwashing several minds simultaneously. This also suggests that It has the ability to erase particular things from a person's memory or knowledge. During the two confrontations between The Losers Club and It, Bill discovers this and warns his friends that "Derry is It" and that "any place [they] go, they won't see, they won't hear, they won't know." This hugely affects the minds of the locals who live within Derry making them indifferent about the terrible events that are taking place. Generally, it appears that the weaker willed citizens and visitors succumb to It's powerful mind control. This ability presumably has no effect on people outside Derry's boundaries.
- Teleportation. It can teleport itself to limited distances by disappearing without a trace and re-appearing somewhere else a bit later. Although a very useful and effective ability, It does not seem to exploit this too often.
- Plant/Flora-cide. With a touch It can instantly cause plants to die. This is shown when Eddie (young and adult) encounters It in its leper form. It must be distinguished from the illusions mentioned earlier as this effect persists long after It's appearance although it does not serve any practical purposes.
- Telekinesis. It can manipulate inanimate objects making them fall, float around, and behave supernaturally. This includes locking doors and electronic devices.
- Weather Control. It may be able to effect the weather in Derry's region. On more than one occasion when the Losers face It the weather changes into a thunderstorm (most notably at the final confrontation which actually results in the devastation of Derry's downtown region).
- Possibly Photokinesis (light manipulation), as suggested by It's true form, the Deadlights, in addition to being able to create illusions.
It has many powers, one of these being the ability to shapeshift to scare the children of Derry. It has changed into a number of things, including:
- Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Its favorite form and primary disguise). Mainly used when hunting children. Often carries balloons.
- George Denbrough, when Bill examines his brother's photo album. In 1985, when the Losers encounter It under the city, It appears to them as Georgie.
- Dorsey Corcoran's re-animated corpse and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, when pursuing Eddie Corcoran.
- The voice of Betty Ripsom, one of Its victims, overheard by her parents through a drain to taunt them. Her voice, along with the voices of Matthew Clements and Veronica Grogan, coming from the drain, were heard by Beverly as well.
- A giant bird, inspired both by a crow that attacked Mike Hanlon as a baby and also Rodan, a giant Pteranodon featured in a Japanese horror movie from 1957, when pursuing Mike Hanlon (oddly, It also appears as a giant bird to Will Hanlon, Mike's father, thus making him one of the few adults who can see It).
- The Werewolf, when It encounters Richie & Bill (wearing a Derry High School blazer inspired by the 1957 horror film, I Was a Teenage Werewolf) while in the house on 29 Neibolt Street.
- The Leper/Diseased Homeless Man, when Eddie first encounters It under the porch of the house on 29 Neibolt Street.
- The Mummy. Ben Hanscom recalls seeing a mummy (from the original movie) in Pennywise's clown costume walking along the frozen Canal towards him. It carried balloons that floated against the wind.
- The Eye, when encountering the Losers under the city.
- Alvin Marsh, Beverly's abusive father, of whom she is terrified.
- A swarm of winged leeches, when attacking Patrick Hockstetter.
- A swarm of piranhas, when Eddie is frightened of crossing the stream.
- The shark from Jaws, seen by a boy named Tommy Vicananza in the Derry Canal in 1985.
- Dracula, seen by Ben in the Derry library in 1985. It does not look like any of the traditional variations of Dracula, but rather resembles Kurt Barlow from King's own Salem's Lot: very old and with razor blades for teeth. He asks Ben: "What did Stan see before he committed suicide?" The vampire then chomps down on his own mouth and causes his lips to split open and bleed onto the floor.
- The Paul Bunyan statue (referred to as the Giant), when encountering Richie outside of the town.
- Tony Tracker, manager of a trucking depot in Derry during the Losers' childhood, Greta Bowie, a female classmate of the Losers in 1958 who died in a car crash a few years later, and Patrick Hockstetter's decomposing corpses, seen by Eddie at Tracker Brothers in 1985, when he visits an old baseball diamond near the depot.
- Frankenstein's Monster. When encountering Henry Bowers and his sidekicks, Victor Criss and Belch Huggins in the sewers under Derry.
- A Doberman Pinscher. When It appears to Henry Bowers in 1985 at Juniper Hills Mental Institution, It turns into an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) dog of this breed because it is the only animal that the guard on duty fears.
- The ghost-moon while convincing Henry Bowers do It's dirty work.
- Victor Criss, while convincing Henry Bowers to help It.
- Jimmy Donlin, one of the inmates at Juniper Hills, sees It as his mother.
- The head of Stan Uris, full of feathers, inside Mike's fridge. Also appears again as a jack-in-the-box when Henry fights Mike in the library. Mike sees Stan's head again, before changing to Belch's head, while Henry sees Victor's head.
- The witch from "Hansel and Gretel." Beverly Marsh visits her former home to find a woman named Mrs. Kersh living there. Mrs. Kersh then transforms into the witch, revealing that she is actually It.
- Decomposing/waterlogged corpses of children perceived by Stan Uris as he enters the Standpipe and remembers the tale of the kids who drowned in the water tower's reservoir.
- Reginald "Belch" Huggins in zombie-like form. It takes this form when It gives Henry Bowers a lift to the Derry Town House (to murder the remaining Losers' Club members) in 1985. It picks Henry up in a 1958 Plymouth Fury, a direct reference to King's novel Christine.
- The Deadlights, when Henry Bowers and the Losers encounter It. This is Its form in the Macroverse. People will see this form of It if they look too long in the Spider's eyes.
- The Giant Spider, which is Its closest physical representation on Earth.
"I'll kill you all! Ha ha! I'll drive you crazy, and then I'll kill you all! I'm your every nightmare you ever had, I'm your worst dream come true! I'm everything you're ever afraid of!" - It in the form of Pennywise the Clown in 1958 threatening to kill The Losers.
George Denbrough: In the opening of the book and film, George is murdered after It (appearing as Pennywise) tears his arm off and leaves him to bleed to death. He was killed in October, 1957. His death leads to the chain of events of that summer.
Betty Ripsom: A female classmate of the Losers and Henry's gang. She was killed by It in the form of Pennywise. Her parents heard her voice in the sink. She was killed on December 26th, the day after Christmas.
Edward "Eddie" Corcoran: Whilst sitting on a bench to cool down, It (in the form of Dorsey's re-animated corpse) grabs Eddie on the ankle and chases after him. Afterwards, It changes into the Gill-man (Creature From the Black Lagoon) and tears his head from his body. He was killed on June 19th.
Veronica Grogan: Beverly Marsh reveals to the Losers that a friend of hers, Veronica Grogan, was killed by Pennywise in late June.
Patrick Hockstetter: After Henry threatens to tell Patrick's secret about trapping small vulnerable animals in a refrigerator and leaving them to die by suffocation, Patrick leaves to dispose of the corpses but is attacked by It in the form of several winged leeches which makes large holes in his body. He falls unconscious due to blood loss and shock. When he awoke, It had started eating him. He was killed in late July.
Butch Bowers: After Henry receives a switchblade from Pennywise in the mail, he goes inside his home and murders his dad by pressing the knife to his neck and then releasing the spring-loaded blade into his neck. Although Butch's death is not a death committed by It, It telepathically dispatched Henry to carry out the killing. His son was later arrested for Butch's demise. Butch was killed in mid-August.
Vic Criss and Belch Huggins: While searching for the Losers in the sewers with Henry Bowers, Victor and Belch are both killed by It in the form of Frankenstein's Monster. In this form, It decapitates Victor. After killing Vic, It pursues Henry but Belch defends him. Despite Henry leaving fleeing and Belch's strength, It easily overpowers him and mutilates his face. Both were killed in mid-August, making them the final victims of the summer.
"Take your pick! Bill-Bill-Bill...Billy boy! Oh, all except the one on the end. That's already taken, sorry!" - It in the form of Pennywise, taunting Bill Denborough in 1985.
Adrian Mellon: The first victim of It in 1984. A gay man was assaulted by three homophobic youths, John "Webby" Garton", Steven Bishoff Dubay and Chris Unwin. Adrian was thrown over a bridge and killed by Pennywise while Chris and Adrian's boyfriend, Don Hagarty watched in horror. He was killed in July 1984.
Stan Uris: Even though his death was not directly caused by It, Stan uses his own blood to write "IT" on the bathroom wall. He died on May 28th.
Laurie Anne Winterberger: (The little girl on the tricycle.) She's the first person that we know is a victim in the movie. It starts the chain of movie events, which leads Mike to call the rest of the Lucky Seven due to the pact they made as children. In the novel, she is a victim of It, although her death did not start the chain of events of the novel in its present time (1984-1985). She was attacked between 7 and 14 of February 1985, seven months after the death of Adrian Mellon.
John Koontz: When helping Henry escape from Juniper Hill, Koontz intervenes but is killed when It turns into his worst fear a Doberman Pinscher and mauls him to death while Henry watches in horrified fascination.
Henry Bowers: When he finds the hotel the Losers are staying at he finds Eddie's room and engages in a fight between himself and Eddie. Eddie (and Ben in the film) kills Henry in self-defense. Henry was killed in June of 1985.
Tom Rogan: When he arrives in Derry to kill Beverly, Pennywise hypnotizes him. It convinces Tom to capture Audra Phillips and bring her to It's lair beneath the city. Upon seeing It's true form, Tom drops dead in shock. He was killed in June 1985.
Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak: The last tragic victim of It. During the final fight between It and the Losers, Eddie uses his inhaler (which he imagines as battery acid) on It, managing to severely injure It and free Bill and Richie from "It's Void" (Deadlights). However, It manages to tear his arm off in that moment leaving Eddie to die of shock and blood loss (the same manner in which Georgie was killed).
Despite It seeing Itself as the superior being and stating that Its brain embraces the whole continent, It is far from being almighty. Though It does seem to have significant power over Derry and the town's citizens, It displays several weaknesses which the Losers exploit.
For instance, It clearly underestimates and scorns all of mankind, including the Losers. It is notable in many cases that It leaves an open escape route for the victims and lets them run away. This was seen when the young Ben Hanscom encountered the mummy and when Eddie saw the leper under the porch of 29 Neibolt Street. As a result of this superiority complex, It constantly makes mistakes and does illogical things. When Henry Bowers and his sidekicks chase the Losers into the sewer tunnel system, It attacks Henry's gang instead and turns on the Losers after killing two of Henry's friends. It is also mentioned in the novel that It killed a child named Frederick Cowan by emerging from the toilet, and yet It was unable to finish off the Losers one by one using this same method because It didn't believe that It needed to do so in order to kill them.
It is a psychically sensitive entity, so courage and heart can overcome It, even in its most diabolical forms. Once the Losers are together, their strong shared will and love for each other successfully overpower It and Its fiendish machinations. Their strong faith in their various methods of fighting It eventually lead them to victory. The Losers' assault on 29 Neibolt Street forced It to quickly retreat after being hit by a silver slug (because of the Losers' commonsense solution of using silver against supernatural entities).
The novel also states that when It transforms into a shape, It must obey the laws of that form. This clearly means that It is not invulnerable, and its physical forms can bleed and can be significantly damaged and perhaps even destroyed.
It goes into hibernation for approximately 30 years between killing cycles. During Its hibernation, It may be extremely vulnerable to surprise attacks. However, despite having been defeated for good, it has been heavily implied in other books (such as the Dreamcatcher and Hearts in Atlantis) that It may be still alive. It's natural enemy, The Turtle "Maturin," is mentioned in The Dark Tower series and the character Father Callahan even managed to defend himself from a large group of demons using a cross and the Turtle image, in spite of the latter having "died" during this novel. So, it can be speculated that only a part of Its form was destroyed.
"There was a clown in the stormdrain. The light was far from good, but it was good enough so that George Denbrough was sure of what he was seeing. It was a clown, like in the circus or on TV. In fact he looked like a cross between Bozo and Clarabell, who talked by honking his (or was it her?-George Denbrough was never really sure of the gender) horn on Howdy Doody Saturday mornings-Buffalo Bob was just about the only one who could understand Clarabell, and that always cracked Georgie up. The face of the clown in the stormdrain was white, there were funny tufts of red hair on either side of his bald head, there was a big clown-smile painted over his mouth. If George would have been inhabiting a later year, he would have surely thought of Ronald McDonald before Bozo or Clarabell. The clown held a bunch of balloons, all colors, like gorgeous ripe fruit in one hand. In the other he held George's newspaper boat..."-(IT Novel)
"Then the clown’s face changed. And what little George Denbrough saw next was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the things in the basement look like sweet, angelic dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke. And George knew no more..." -(IT Novel)
- It (film)
- Gray Matter (mentioned)
- Dreamcatcher (mentioned)
- The Tommyknockers (possibly a hallucination)
- 11/22/63 (mentioned)
- Insomnia (mentioned)