The Samson Museum, by Matthew Pegg

© DM7 -

© DM7 –

The Samson Museum is hidden within a remote wing of the Royal Hospital in Greenwich. Old and new sit in uneasy juxtaposition: oak panelling, dark with the patina of decades, ice white LED lighting. Cabinets and specimen jars contain bleached animal and human remains, biological curiosities collected by Sir George Shadrach Samson (1846-1921). Their innermost workings are exposed to the scientific eye, nerve, bone, epidermis, marrow.

New and most lowly museum assistant Simon gazes at the specimens fascinated.

His superiors, Miss Coult, Mr Valentine, Mr Hudson, are detached, cool, aloof and capable. He finds them intimidating, longs to be like them.

In the second week he notices the locked room, the private collection, not for public display.

“Can I see?” he summons up the courage to ask.

“Later,” says Mr Valentine and flares his right nostril.

In the tenth week they give in, hand him the key.

What’s so special?

Behind the door are the wonders: fairies pinned like butterflies, the devil’s hoof print, a bottled ghost. He is rapt. The world should know he thinks.

He sees the mahogany cabinet by the door. Inside, on a shelf, something coiled in a jar. Simon looks closer. The cockatrice opens its jewelled eye.

He looks round again. Now he sees stitches, paint, shabby fairground artifice. The mermaid is stuffed with newspaper, the fairies are cut outs, the demon skull, papier-mâché. No wonders here after all.

He leaves the room, locks the door behind him, returns the key.

In the months and years that follow Simon becomes detached, cool, aloof and capable. Perhaps it is better if there are no dragons. His superiors nod their approval. The false cockatrice did not turn them to stone, but made them stone of heart.


Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. He writes fiction and plays. His last play ‘Escaping Alice’ was produced by York Theatre Royal in 2012 and he is working on his first novel.

In the past Matthew worked as an actor, director, graphic designer, and teacher. He lives in a small village and fosters cats for the RSPCA, some of which have refused to be re-homed and stuck around.

Posted on October 6, 2013, in Issue 10: The Little Magazine of Magnificent Monsters and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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