This is the scariest place I know:
Ever read one of those comic book stories where the villain holes out in some semi-abandoned area, using a run-down store as a front? The dilapidated seafood store along the docks, the unloved curio shop, the forgotten magic emporium? Behind such facades lurk the likes of Captain Squid, Hugo Strange, and Eivol Ekdal. There seem to be an endless supply of such places in Gotham City. They reek of evildoing; they obviously do no real business and couldn't possibly remain open if they were legitimate.
One wonders, in fact, why, whenever some malefactor threatens the city, the GCPD doesn't simply go out shopping until they inevitably arrive at the appropriate storefront. The dusty merchandise, the ex-con at the register, the red light bulb that starts flashing above the door to the backroom as soon as the cops enter: it would all be so obvious to spot!
Of course, that's just the comic books, we say to ourselves. Such places are merely convenient plot devices; there aren't such places in the real world.
Oh; but that's what they (the villains) want you to think. Because there are. And Monarch Novelties is the king of them all.
Monarch Novelties is, improbably, smack-dab in the middle of downtown DC. It should have folded, or its building been sold out from under it years ago. DECADES ago. And yet it remains, purporting to purvey "rain bonnets", "glasses drinking" and "reunion favors".
Don't call that number.
If you do, someone you love will die with 24 hours.
I have never seen anyone go in or out of it. After years of building curiosity, I myself ventured in... once. There was a bewildered proprietor, obviously unfamilar with the concept of a 'customer', and I discovered that, impossible though it might seem, the merchandise displayed in the window was much better than most of what was inside, stacked in unappealing mounds, floor to ceiling.
Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for your seriously disturbed child?
I feigned nonchalance, but I was terrified, expecting to be walloped by a giant rubber mallet at any second, and then dragged to some dungeon workroom where I'd undergo some torturous cyborgification into one of the Toyman's playthings of doom. However, I did, to my surprise, make it out alive.
"Rescue us!', the toys cry; "Save us from the horror and the screams!"
Monarch Novelties is like a building on the cover of a '70s issue of House of Mystery, where the kids are going in the front door, and one ringleader kid is egging the others on with "C'mon, this'll be killer!', and the scary monster/witch/psycho is in shadow, just beyond the door... .
If you visit Washington DC, forget the Mall and the White House. Make sure you stop by Monarch Novelties... if you DARE.