Updated date:

The Old Curiosity Shop, a Poem

John is a freelance writer, ghost-writer, storyteller, and poet. He always tries to include a message or social commentary in his writing

December 1941. "Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. Along the main street." Medium format negative by Jack Delano.

December 1941. "Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. Along the main street." Medium format negative by Jack Delano.

The Old Curiosity Shop

In a part of town where very few stop

The dark atmosphere makes you shiver,

A hanging sign, "Curiosity Shop"

Fronts an old store down by the river.

With no thought or care for current trends,

The proprietor is most reclusive.

With few relations and fewer friends

And his customers very exclusive.

A wooden Indian stands by the door,

A cracked wind-up clown cackles laughter,

Antiques and oddities cover the floor,

And cobwebs hang down from the rafters.

Paraphernalia adorns shelves and walls,

The interior fills you with wonder.

But few people visit and fewer still call

Unless upon the small shop they blunder.

Leather goods on display, coats, wallets and bags

But something about them's not right.

On the wall heads of bear, cougar, and stag

Pose an eerie and unsettling sight.

A shrunken head sits on its own little stand,

The mouth and eyes stitched tightly closed.

Hair black and tangled hangs down in long strands.

From where this was sourced no one knows.

A shelf full of bottles contents grotesque

Have attraction for curious eyes.

Appliances with uses complex,

Like thumbscrews for torturing spies.

The shopkeeper talks in an unfriendly growl

Even though he must be very lonely.

A customer asks, "How much that stuffed owl?"

"It's taxidermed! Ten dollars only."

He places the owl in a box, which he ties

Then pushes it towards the man.

But he doesn't see what the counter hides,

The knife in the shop keepers hand.

Should you happen to wander to this part of town,

It is hopeful you don't stroll alone.

Rumours are always accompanied by frowns,

And they say people don't make it home.

Off the Shelf

Thank you for reading this far, and if you didn't realise already that this is another in my Off the Shelf series, well, you do now.

For those of you that are new to my writing, this is where I select a book from my shelves and use the title as inspiration for a poem, short story, or article.

This time it is obvious that I selected a classic Charles Dickens' tale The Old Curiosity Shop. * I reiterate here that my poem in no way based on the story by Charles Dickens. I just use the title for inspiration of my own storyline.

Dickens was only 29 years old when he began writing The Old Curiosity Shop but he was already riding a wave of popularity after writing three previous novels The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.

In fact, it was the success of those three that literally forced Dickens to write The Old Curiosity Shop. He had just launched a magazine called Master Humphrey's Clock, which was to feature stories and articles written by himself and others. Purely on Dickens' reputation, 70,000 copies of the first issue were sold, but when readers discovered that he had no new novel in the works, orders dropped off dramatically.

Not wanting to disappoint his readers, Dickens immediately scrapped the idea of further issues of the magazine and instead focused his attention on writing another novel using a minor character from one of the short magazine stories as the heroine. Little Nell, through her ventures in The Old Curiosity Shop, became one of the best-loved heroines of the 19th century.

Though I have a few of Charles Dickens' novels (David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist) The Old Curiosity Shop remains my favourite. If you like Dickens and 19th-century novels, I am sure you will enjoy it too.

© 2019 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on July 29, 2019:

Thank you Devika i am glad this revived those memories.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 29, 2019:

Awesome! You got me thinking of Old Curiosity Shop and that's what I remember.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 21, 2019:

Hi Brenda, good to see you. I am glad you enjoyed the read. I appreciate your comment. Hmmm where did those shrunken heads originate I wonder?

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 21, 2019:

What an interesting piece of work. It grabs your attention all the way through...and the end with the knife in the shop keepers hand my mind flashes back to the reference of the shrunken head with black tangles.

Good read.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 21, 2019:

Hi Alyssa, sorry about the ending being a little more unpleasant then you expected lol. Thanks for reading and enjoying though.

Alyssa from Ohio on May 21, 2019:

oooo that took a turn from where I thought it was going to go, haha! At first, I really thought I would like to visit this little shop, but on second thought, I think I'll pass. :) Excellent poem!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 19, 2019:

Haha, Li-Jen, I am glad you got to explore the shop and get out alive. I am pleased I succeeded in making it as creepy as I intended. Thank you for reading and for your kind and funny comment.

Li-Jen Hew on May 19, 2019:

Haha, you are "glad I made it this far". The shopkeeper didn't do any harm to me. The poem is creepy and I'm sure that was the intended effect. It's night time now and you were right about curiosity. The title is intriguing. Enjoyable poem. A great reminder to be cautious. Thanks!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 13, 2019:

Thank you for re-reading this Flourish. Thank you for sharing about the odd clothing store and the "dog lady." I bet now you wish you had of been brave enough to venture inside when it was open during the day.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 13, 2019:

I liked your description of that odd place so much I had to read again. When I was in college, a friend and I happened upon an odd clothing shop late at night. It was closed but in the window display instead of a woman in fancy clothes walking a dog on a leash it was the other way around. We were disgusted and yet drawn to the picture window of what we called “the dog lady.” We kept returning and would just stare (always at night and they were always closed).

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 11, 2019:

Hi Genna, thank you so much for that uplifting comment. I had to get to a Dickens’ book eventually.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on May 11, 2019:

"It's Dickens!" What fun it was to read your poem, inspired by The Old Curiosity Shop, and with such descriptive imagery and foreshadowing -- like the "clocks with drowsy faces and heavy lazy hands." Well done, John! :-)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 07, 2019:

You are right Patty. The novel was a little disappointing as far as what I imagine a curiosity shop to be, but more about the characters. It is still a good read though. I am glad you enjoyed my poem though. Cheers.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 07, 2019:

Yes, Mary, I too love these type of stores as you never know what you will find...maybe not as creepy as the one in my poem though. Thanks for reading.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 07, 2019:

Hi John - I enjoy this poem very much and wish some of the events of it took place in the book. When I read the novel I was expecting more odd stories about objects and people in the shop, but was wrong - guess I was looking for Night Gallery or Nightmare Cafe. How good it is that your poem more than satisfies the quest for mystery and suspense in the shop!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2019:

I love Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop and I always explore places like these when I see one but your description made me think twice if I'll go in there. Maybe, with a group but not alone. It begs to be explored though.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 07, 2019:

Shauna thank you for reading this poem and also for the kind birthday wishes. Much appreciated.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 07, 2019:

What a dark and morbid tale! I love thrift stores and antique shops, but I'll be a little more careful when entering one with a wooden Indian guarding the doorway!

Excellent story by way of rhyme, John!

And Happy Birthday yesterday!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 07, 2019:

Hey PoetikalyAnointed. Haha, no "over-kill" ..no pun intended I'm sure. Thanks.

PoetikalyAnointed on May 07, 2019:

Nice Piece, John!

You hit the nail without over-kill...(winks)

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Thank you for reading and for your generous comment, Matthew. Yes, the use of titles for inspiration makes life easier.

Matthew Scherer from Corpus Christi on May 06, 2019:

Excellent poem and really interesting way of inspiring yourself with titles!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Cheers Eric, you too.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Thank you for the kind words, Dana. Glad you liked the ending especially. That, I find, is always the hardest thing to get right.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Hey MsDora, thanks for confirming I created the scary atmosphere. Your comments are always greatly welcomed.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

The poem started a little shorter, Bill, but I kept thinking of new things to add to try and make the scene a little creepier. I am glad the ending wasn't too obvious. Thanks as always for your encouragement.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on May 06, 2019:

This was a good story which got better towards the end. You never disappoint Jodah.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 06, 2019:

Love on you friend

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 06, 2019:

Since your title mentioned curiosity, I guessed that the store would be more scary than dangerous. You succeeded in creating that curious, scary mood for sure.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on May 06, 2019:

Though you set out a number of dusty clues in the aisles and on the shelves, I had no idea I was going to be knifed until I saw the flash of a blade captured by a weak ray from the bare bulb hanging by a chain from the ceiling. Ah but thankfully it was a paper knife and I survived to congratulate you on a read that was fun and one with an ending that, even though I was forewarned, I did not see coming.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Good to se you Eric. “Yesterday House” what a marvellous name for an antique store. What fun for a kid. An Aussie hunchback with great opals and a duster...I can picture it lol. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Hello Marie, thank you for visiting. Glad you enjoyed reading a little of Charles Dickens’ history. Take care.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

I appreciate your kind words Rinita. I am so glad you enjoyed this. I would have chosen a Dickens’ novel sooner, but I had my classic collection still packed away in a box since my last move. I just came across the box and rearranged my book cases to fit them in.

Oh, yes, see my reply to manatita about Great Expectations, but you are certainly right about it being one of his greatest works. Thanks for 5he birthday wishes too.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Ah, manatita, yes Great Expectations! One I don’t have in my collection but how could I forget? I did read it and Oliver Twist for school. Yes it is a classic for sure. Thanks for reading. Enjoy your week.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 06, 2019:

Great writing my friend. Perhaps not scary but curious? My mom did well running the "Yesterday House" antique store for a while. Much to keep a young boy's imagination refusing dreams for a bit. My first wife and I loved a shop run by a hunchback in Jerome Az. So spooky. Gave you a brush to clean dust off purchases.

Funny enough he was an Aussie with the best opals in the world.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Hi Elijah. If I managed to keep your attention glued then I succeeded. I appreciate your comment. Ah, that is a guestion that remains unanswered lol.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Thank you for visiting The Old Curiosity Shop, Rasma. I am glad you enjoyed the poem.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on May 06, 2019:

Enjoyed this. Thank you for the wonderful poetic journey to the Curiosity Shop.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on May 06, 2019:

I really enjoyed the bit of Dickens' history.

I think I'll stay out of the Curiosity Shop, though, thank you.

The accompanying images are well selected.

Rinita Sen on May 06, 2019:

It's your birthday? Happy birthday John.

Agree with manatita on "Great expectations".

Rinita Sen on May 06, 2019:

A gem, this one. I was waiting for you to pick a Dickens title, my favorite author, ever.

You are the master storyteller. The flow, the description, the mysterious warning in the end, all extraordinary. Goosebumps are inevitable.

manatita44 from london on May 06, 2019:

For me, Dickens Great Expectations is a masterpiece!

Nice poetry and with great rhyming skills. Have a great Monday!

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on May 06, 2019:

Somehow I got the feel early in it, brother John, and was glued to paying carful attention to how you led up to the conclusion I expected. It was worth the time it took to read it but the question remains, does he or doesn't he?

Thanks for sharing it.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Hi, Linda, it is nice that I was able to capture the atmosphere of a real curiosity shop you have experienced. Thank you for the birthday wishes too.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 06, 2019:

John, here's another classic that I missed and need to add to my collection. In Seattle, Washington (USA) there is a curiosity shop. I remember visiting it years ago, fascinated by the oddities--mummies, two-headed animals, and (of course) the shrunken head from "deep in the Amazon rain forest."

Your poem really captured the feel of the place. Well done (and happy birthday my friend).

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Glad you enjoyed this poem Kaili. I am sure the place in New Oxford was worth the visit.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Yes, Ruby, those things have always held a fascination for me too. Thanks for the compliment on the rhyme.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

Thanks Pamela. Sorry for the twist to turn it into a somewhat darker poem than it promised at the start. Glad you enjoyed it though.

Kaili Bisson from Canada on May 06, 2019:

This is wonderful John. Reminds me of a place I love to visit in New Oxford, PA. Well, not the knife part :-)

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 06, 2019:

Scary tale! I love to go to garage sales, curiosity shops. Your rhyming is a joy to read.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 06, 2019:

At first when I started reading I thought what neat shop to visit, but by the end, of course, I definitely would not go there. This was fun to read, and Charles Dickens was such an interesting writerr. Very clever John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 06, 2019:

I love these type of places, glad it brought back memories. Thanks Bill.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 06, 2019:

Great place to enter, but few leave. Fun read, John! I remember old shops like that, with bizarre finds, a look, really, into our histories.

Related Articles