Morris Novelty


From Investigators on Tuesday tried to determine what caused a three-alarm fire that destroyed a former costume shop in Pawtucket. Heavy smoke and fire could be seen coming from the Morris Novelty on Main Street at about 8:15 p.m. Monday.

No injuries were reported, but the three-story building that once housed the popular Halloween destination was burned beyond repair. “We’re really at the beginning stages of the investigation at this time,” Fire Chief William Sisson said Tuesday. “Take an overview of the whole entire structure inside, then we’ll try to determine where and how the fire started.”

While the shop closed a few years ago, the building was being used for storage.

Firefighters said they had to break through boarded-up windows to reach the fire in the three-story building. With no one inside, firefighters avoided the potential house of horrors and fought the fire from outside.

Sisson said debris and plastics inside posed a danger to firefighters.


A sad story... I went into this shop a few years back to get some gory supplies for our Kickball team, Zomboree. Our theme was zombies, wouldn’t you know, so this was the perfect place to get some fake fingers and the like. Most fly-by-night Halloween stores are only around for a month or two, and then are replaced by a Christmas store, which is replaced by a Valentine’s store, etc... This place was open year round.

The inside was dusty, and most of the product was pretty old-looking. But how “young” of a fake rubber finger did I need? There were the typical masks and gag body parts of course, but there were also whole set-ups that could be rented to turn your living room into a Casino or a foggy bog or a Superhero’s lair. Popcorn machines, roulette tables, a fully-articulated skeleton, tiki themed decorations, general party supplies, and lots of odd life size cardboard cut outs of celebrities.

I loved it... they had just what I needed, and they felt like a mom and pop store from way back.

Sadly, probably with the help of competition from the internet and year-round party stores like iParty, MOrris Novelty closed. Perhaps the owners also finally set to retire anyway. Their website (which no longer exists) said that they were in business since 1933. I can’t tell from any records whether they have always been at this location.

Last fall (2008) I noticed a sign for an upcoming real-estate auction on the building. I can’t tell if anything happened to the building’s ownership after that. Now (June 2009) it looks much the same as it did in these photos taken about a year and three months ago.


From a Pawtucket Historical Society survey, 1990 (with our additions)

Three story mill building. Two lower stories are brick and of typical construction (with a raised cornice of repeating brick along the top). The upper floor is wooden with mininum pitch roof (that has now been vinyl-sided). Has full height brick facade facing the street behind a later single story storefront addition. Most windows have been painted or boarded over.

George B. Feb 13 2018 My dad owned the games at a local amusement park in the 70s and we often stopped by Morris Novelty to buy prizes. There were innumerable cats; one pretty much everywhere you looked. Novelties stocked on shelves up to the high ceilings in no discernible order. But old man Morris always knew exactly where everything was, from spider rings to Chinese finger traps. Rumor was, there was a back room where were certain off-limits movies could be sampled, but I was just a kid and never confirmed this. Across the street was a large meat packing operation and the Blarney Stone bar, where in future years my friend Henry and I sometimes sampled a draft Guinness (rare in RI back then). It adjoined the Triple Diamond social club... to us a mysterious association with some Irish connection. Interestingly, other than negotiating craftily on pricing for a grand gross of live boxed chameleons (for real), the only thing I remember about old man Morris was his anger at the fire department. He hated firefighters with an obsessive passion, and could go on for a long time about how often they water-damaged his goods and axed his doors for no good reason. Ironic that the place eventually succumbed to fire.

ElJiffy Apr 7 2015 Mineral Spring cemetery is worth a stroll. And across the street there’s a pocket park with a statue of a 19th century fireman.

Mike P Aug 19 2011 Before this location, Morris Novelty was in the Slater Cotton building around the corner at Church & Pine Streets. Not sure exactly when they moved, but it was probably in the late 1980s/early ‘90s.

Scott Allen Jul 27 2011 Sadly, Morris Novelty burned down Monday night. Thanks for your fantastic website. Too bad we’re losing some of these great old buildings.

mike Aug 6 2008 It was a furniture store before morris novelty.

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