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The Needful Things Shop

The Needful Things shop.

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Needful Things was a this 'n that shop opened and run by its sinister owner Leland Gaunt. The store sold whatever the customer wanted most, for a price of their very soul. It is the titular location in the 1991 Stephen King horror novel Needful Things and the 1993 supernatural horror movie adoption of the same name.

History

Novel History

Leland Gaunt

Leland Gaunt

"Needful Things" opens in the town of Castle Rock, Maine, sparking the curiosity of its citizens. The proprietor, Leland Gaunt, is a charming elderly gentleman who always seems to have an item in stock that is perfectly suited to any customer who comes through his door. The prices are surprisingly low, considering the merchandise - such as a rare Sandy Koufax baseball card, a carnival glass lampshade, and a fragment of wood believed to be from Noah's Ark - but he expects each customer to also play a little prank on someone else in Castle Rock. Gaunt knows about the long-standing private grudges, arguments, and feuds between the various townspeople, and the pranks are his means of forcing them to escalate until the whole town is eventually caught up in madness and violence.

Polly Chalmers buys an ancient charm that relieves the arthritis pain in her hands. Gaunt eventually hires petty criminal John "Ace" Merrill as his assistant, providing him with high-quality cocaine and hinting at buried treasure that could relieve the debt he owes to a pair of drug dealers. Ace's first assignment is to retrieve crates of pistols, ammunition, and blasting caps from a garage in Boston; Gaunt soon begins to sell the pistols to his customers so they can protect their property. He has traveled the world for centuries, selling useless junk that appears to be whatever the customers desire most. They become so paranoid about keeping their items safe that they eagerly buy up the weapons that he inevitably offers and trade away their souls. Ace begins to suspect the supernatural background of his new employer, but Gaunt keeps him in line through intimidation and promises of revenge against Alan and the town. Eventually, Needful Things causes so much violence in the town that a riot breaks out, resulting in much of the town being destroyed, including Needful Things. Alan uses a bunch of magical goods from Needful Things to force Gaunt back and grabs his valise, which contains the souls of his customers. Gaunt flees the scene, his car turning into a horse-drawn wagon as he becomes a hunchbacked dwarf, and the survivors are left to ponder an uncertain future.

The novel ends as it begins, with a first-person narrative indicating that a new and mysterious shop is about to open in a small Iowa town - an implication that Gaunt is ready to begin his business cycle all over again.

Movie History

Needful Things Shop

Needful Things as seen in the 1993 live-actiom film Needful Things.

Leland Gaunt, claiming to be from (Akron, Ohio), opens his antique shop "Needful Things" within the small town of Castle Rock, Maine. The store sells various items of great personal worth to the residents (some of which, like a pendant that eases pain or a toy which predicts the outcome of horse races, are clearly supernatural). Gaunt demands payment both in cash and in small "favors", usually pranks played by his customers on their neighbors. Gaunt's first customer is a young boy named Brian Rusk who buys a rare baseball card featuring Mickey Mantle in exchange for 95¢ and a prank on his neighbor Wilma Wadlowski Jerzyck.

Gaunt makes an impression on the town's people, who he also has pull some pranks. One of whom is a corrupt boat salesman and gambler named Danforth "Buster" Keeton who embezzled $20,000 of the townpeople's tax money to pay off his gambling debts. Keeton finds out from Sheriff Alan Pangborn that people are on to him and in turn he relays his fears to Gaunt and his hatred of those whom refer to him as 'Buster' Keeton. To help Keeton with his problems, Gaunt sells him a toy horse-race that predicts the outcome of any horse-race from which he might re-coup the $20,000 and replace the money before the towns-folk find out officially. Gaunt sells Frank Jewett a 1st Edition of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. He also learns of the rivalry between the Catholic priest Father Meehan and Baptist minister Reverend Willie Rose when he sells each of them objects from his shop.

The first hint of Gaunt's true nature is when he has Brian throw muck from the Turkey Farm onto the newly laundered crisp white sheets hanging on the washing-lines at the house of Wilma Jerzyck. On returning, home Wilma assumes the devastation was caused by her long-time enemy Nettie Cobb. She goes to loudly accuses her of this at Nettie's workplace, the Castle Rock diner. Brian Rusk meets Gaunt at the Lighthouse where he informs Brian he has not fully repaid his debt and expects payment in full right away. Brian returns to Wilma Jerzyck's house and throws apples at her house to smash all the windows.

Nettie Cobb has 'bought' a small statue from Gaunt that is identical to one her violent ex-husband had smashed in a fit-of-rage. In return she goes to Dan Keeton's house and places post-it notes, allegedly from Deputy Sherriff Norris Ridgewick all around the interior, accusing him of all his misdemeanors. In the meantime, Gaunt has Hugh Priest kill Nettie's dog, in return for a 1950s jacket, like he wore at college. This sparks a violent fight between Nettie and Wilma, which gets them both killed. Gaunt takes a personal measure towards Sherriff Pangborn by giving a necklace to his fiancée Polly Chalmers that cures her crippling arthritis. Gaunt tells Polly for it to work she must never take it off.

Keeton is found by Gaunt cowering in his shop with a gun. He tells Gaunt that he is thinking of killing Norris Ridgewick to stop him telling everyone about his misdemeanors. Gaunt talks him out of it and takes the gun off him. Brian witnesses the investigation at Wilma Jercyzk's house and hears the Sherriff musing over where all the apples came from. Brian is shocked that his actions might in some way have caused this tragedy and tries to talk to Sheriff Pangborn about what Gaunt had him do, but is too scared to do so. At this point it becomes apparent that Gaunt is enjoying what is happening to the townsfolk and is not human, but a demon (heavily implied to be Satan himself).

Sheriff Pangborn later approaches Brian when he is alone at the Lighthouse and asks what cared the boy to death. Brian explains that Gaunt is a monster, before trying to shoot himself in the head. The gun goes off but Pangborn manages to save him and Brian is hospitalized. Meanwhile, Pangborn begins to suspect that Gaunt may not be what he seems.

Reverend Rose slashes the tyres on Hugh Priest's truck. Hugh Priest sees what has happened to his truck when he is thrown out of the bar for being too drunk. Sherriff Pangborn returns from meeting with Brian and is now very suspicious of Gaunt, he tries to warn Polly and asks her to get rid of the necklace, but she is unwilling to remove it. After Pangborn has gone she tries prying the necklace open to see what is inside and gets an electric shock which throws the necklace across the room. Polly is immediately crippled by her arthritis and cannot reach to pick up the necklace. Gaunt appears in her bedroom and replaces the necklace on Polly's neck. He states the price for necklace will be $20 and a small prank. Polly is so grateful, she pays him immediately and is clearly mesmerized by Gaunt whom then seduces her. After which he states that Pangborn is corrupt and has been embezzling money from the town with Keeton for years. He convinces her to go to Pangborn's yacht to look for this money. She does and sees lots of money strewn over Pangborn's desk. She phones Pangborn from the yacht, accuses him of the crime and in disgust; calls off the engagement.

Keeton becomes afraid that everyone including his wife Myrtle Keeton is out to get him, and Gaunt convinces him that he is his only ally. Gaunt also has Keeton attack Sherriff Pangborn and his deputy Norris Ridgewick at the police station. Pangborn breaks up a fight between Ridgewick and Keeton. Shortly after this, Keeton manages to escape Ridgewick by kicking him in the groin. He then drives home where he accuses his wife of having and affair with Norris and kills her with a hammer. The phone rings and it is Gaunt he tells Keeton to come to see him as he has something for him that will make him feel better.

Hugh Priest goes into the bar with a shotgun and straight up to the owner, who also pulls out a shotgun from behind the bar and they shoot each other. Gaunt's pranks spread throughout the town and its citizens, creating mistaken suspicion, paranoia and anger spread with it. Gaunt starts selling his customers guns, encouraging them to kill whoever wronged them, playing on their greed and fear. Gaunt has Keeton place explosives in the town's Catholic church, where Sherriff Pangborn is inside talking to Father Meehan relaying his new suspicions that Gaunt is the Devil incarnate, but Meehan refuses to believe him. The church explodes, but Pangborn and Meehan manage to escape with their lives. Father Meehan believes that Reverend Willy Rose is behind the attack on the Church and leaves to fight him.

A riot sparks throughout the town, with Gaunt watching from the sidelines. Sherriff Pangborn tries desperately to restore order. He pulls a gun on Father Meehan who is trying to behead Reverend Rose and Gaunt encourages him to shoot them. Pangborn fires into the air, much to Gaunt's disappointment. Getting everyone's attention, Pangborn convinces the townsfolk of Castle Rock to come to their senses, exposing Gaunt's true nature and his web of lies and manipulation.

Everyone stops fighting and admits their pranks, but Keeton, despondent after everything, walks up to Pangborn and Ridgewick, pointing a gun at them with a bomb strapped to himself, threatening to blow everyone up. He is talked down by Pangborn and turns him against Gaunt. Keeton walks up to Gaunt whom taunts his inadequacies and is heard to repeatedly refer to him as 'Buster'. Keeton is infuriated by this and tackles Gaunt through the store window, setting off the bomb and destroying Needful Things.

Defeated but completely unharmed, Gaunt emerges from the burning wreckage of his store saying that this wasn't his best work. Gaunt walks up to Pangborn and Polly, telling them they make a cute couple, and he will encounter their grandson in the year 2053 A.D. - then departs, presumably to continue his vicious evil work elsewhere. He leaves in the same sinister black car (revealed as similarly supernaturally indestructible in the film's extended cut), in which he arrived into Castle Rock.

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Needful Things shop made a satirical appearance in the hit Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty'.
  • In Halo 5: Guardians' February update "Hammer Storm" added an emote called "Knee-dful Things".

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