So Young, So Creative, (So Deliciously Macabre): We Have a Winning Ghost Story

cartoon ghosts, bats, and eyes in a dark forest

A midnight walk into the woods. Pale moon shining full. Suddenly, a chilling presence …

Ten-year-old Addison Achberger delivered a delightfully goosebumpy tale of an eerie and (ahem) bloody encounter in winning the Library’s 2022 Ghost Story Contest. Her nearly 500-word piece, Into the Night,” was selected from some three dozen submissions from youngsters ages 10-14 who live in the Kansas City Public Schools and Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools districts.

Part of the reward for Addison’s ghoulish work: seeing it performed Saturday, October 22, as part of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s third annual Ghost Light: A Haunted Night of Songs and Stories from KC’s Cultural Crossroads.

A video version of Addison's story will be available on the Library’s Youth & Family YouTube account soon. In the meantime, enjoy the videos spotlighting previous Ghost Story Contest winners!

Three entrants earned 2022 honorable mention:

The Kansas City Public Library partners on the annual Ghost Story Contest with the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library and KC Rep. Kudos, too, to all the caring adults who assisted young entrants in the submission process.

On behalf of Addison and all of our creative young writers, we bid you Happy Halloween … and a friendly BWAH ha ha ha.


Winner: Addison age 10 – “Into the Night”


Illustration by Irving Montagu of man looking at ghostly figure
Courtesy of the British Library

What would you find if you walked out of the house alone, just as the clock struck midnight?

What would you feel underneath your feet if you journeyed into the woods on a full moon?

What would you hear if you called out to the crows, asking them for help?

One second, I’m looking out the window, and the next, I’m tumbling, head over heels, getting closer and closer to the leaf-covered ground. When I land, I find myself on my feet, which is lucky. But when I try to lift my right foot to walk home, I stumble and land on my face. I have a broken ankle. I can’t walk.

My breath is fast and hard as I lie there, helpless. Before I can do anything about it, a seven-foot creature with staring-empty eyes like black holes, cold-wrinkled fingers, a long, sweeping black cloak, chilling breath, and a gliding-swooshing walk picks me up. I gulp. My eyes practically come out of their sockets in terror. I feel frozen. Then I am frozen. As cold, and ice-covered as a glacier. I can’t move. And I’m in the arms of a zombie. After about fifteen minutes, we reach a forest of pine trees. The moon looms over them, making the whole place look eerie. A couple of sharp turns and we’re at something of a graveyard. The windchimes in the single oak tree play a slow, haunting tune, but my heart sings faster.

But then again, my heart seems to be the only part of my body that actually WORKS. The rest of me… well… I can’t feel, let alone MOVE.

Then it happens.

The zombie takes me to a gravestone… then drops me. I hit the ground hard. The ice cracks. I look up at the zombie. He looks down.

I try to stand up. To my surprise, my ankle is healed!

I'm suddenly caught up in a bubble. The zombie makes a spinning gesture with his wrinkled, pale green hands and the bubble slowly starts spinning upwards. Faster and faster, I spin, higher and higher I go.

The bubble stops high in the air. I glance down nervously. The zombie’s holding his blistered palms flat, facing straight upwards. It’s almost as if his hands are a table, holding up the bubble.

Then he puts down his hands.

I’m falling into the black night, and I don’t stop until a cold chill runs up my spine and blood comes pouring out of my mouth.

It comes rushing over to him.

The first sip he takes, the zombie turns bright red.

Second, he looks just like Dad. I gulp. Dad wouldn’t want me dead like that! But… Dad and the zombie are so alike! They smile the same, walk the same… but it couldn’t be…

More blood floats over to Dad. He takes a gulp with his gaping, merciless mouth and… he looks identical to me.

I get up to try to stop him from doing whatever he’s about to do, but chains tie me to the ground. Plus, I feel really faint from all the blood loss. When the creature walks away, a crow flies past.

Help, I think.

“I will help you,” a voice inside my head answers.

It’s definitely not my thoughts. Just a voice. I touch my chains. They turn to dirt. Then I race home. I touch the door. It turns into dirt once again, and I stand there, staring at what I once called home. Everyone’s dead. Everything’s gone.


Honorable Mention: Rory age 11 – “The Cursed Grave”


Almon Strowger
Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections

I sit here looking at the decorations: creepy pumpkins, white ghosts and skeletons, green witches and zombies, and the gray moon. So many people walking in costumes I might as well faint. I do not know if any of my friends are here. All I know is there are a lot of people at this Halloween party in the park across from the cemetery.

“James, James! Over here!” exclaimed Kylee.

“Oh, hi Kylee.” I replied.

“Hi!” said Josh, Joe, and John in unison.

“What’s up?” I asked

“Nothing.” replied the triplets.

We walk over to the swings because that is the only spot open. We all carefully sit on the rusty, old swings. No one wants to get hurt on Halloween, one of the most fun holidays of the year.

“I’m bored. Are you guys bored?” questioned Kylee.

“Yeah, I am bored.” said John

“I’ve got it! We should play Truth or Dare!” exclaimed Kylee as she walked to the snack table.

The snack table had all sorts of snacks: Pirates Booty, Zombie Goldfish, etc. There were so many snacks I thought the table would collapse!

“Who is going to go first?” asked Josh.

“I’ll ask the question first.” said Kylee.

“I’ll answer first.” I said.

“Truth or Dare?” questioned Kylee.

“Dare!” I excitedly replied.

“I dare you to stick a knife in Samuel Wortens grave” said Kylee, “Then turn it around once clockwise.”

Samuel Worten was a man who lived many years ago. He was in his house when someone saw him levitating and then accused him of using wizardry. In court he pleaded guilty and confessed to floating to his bedroom. On September 21, 1878, he was hanged alongside seven other people accused of wizardry and witchcraft.

“Are you serious? He was hanged because he used wizardry.” said Josh

“Yeah.” agreed the triplets.

“That stuff is all fake, guys.” I said. I hope, I said in my head. “Here is the knife.” said Kylee pulling a knife out of her ninja costume.

The knife is sharp like a scrap of metal. There is a Swiss army knife logo on it. You could rip through buffalo skin with this knife! It is curved, pointy, jagged, and smooth. It made me shudder because of how sharp it was.

“Where did you get this?” I asked

“My grandpa gave it to me before he passed away.” replied Kylee.

“Okay, here I go.” I said.

I cross the street into the graveyard. I see an old gravestone. It says “Samuel Worton: A Bad Man, 1838-1878.” The headstone has cracks all through it. Moss is covering most of it.

I’ll never forget the scary feeling of when I saw the headstone. I walk up to the headstone. I hesitate to stab the knife into the grave. But finally do. Then, I turn it. I stand up relieved then say, “I told you that stuff is all fak—” BOOM!

I fly through the air, and I hit another headstone. I lay there and open my eyes. To my surprise there is a floating skeleton in front of me.

“Get away from him,” yelled John.

WOOOSSSHHHH. John hits the rock wall and lies there motionless.

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” screeched Kylee, Josh and Joe as they ran away.

The skeleton looks at me, screeching, “James Blonde, your great grandfather turned me into the police, and I was executed. I am here to end you and your family

The skeleton then cast a spell on me, putting me in a deep sleep.

The skeleton maniacally laughed, “Mwahahahahahaha!” and disappeared into the night.


Honorable Mention: Isaac age 11 – “The Legend of Alek and the Golden Coin”


Illustration of the ascent of Mont Blanc
Courtesy of Harvard University

It was a cold winter afternoon, and three adventurous mountaineers were getting ready to climb Mt. Konstantin, a huge mountain in northern Russia. Their names were Viktor, Igor, and Anna, and they were very determined to climb this mountain and come down alive.

For there was a legend. A long time ago, there was a man named Alek. It was said that he tried to climb Mt. Konstantin, but on the way, he found a golden coin. The legend says that the golden coin possessed Alek. He never came back down. After that, no one who tried to climb the mountain ever came down again.

“We must get going,” said Igor. “I’m starting to change my mind about ignoring the legend of Alek and the golden coin.”

When they left, they were feeling confident. But after the first five hours, when they stopped to rest at a lodge, they were feeling sore and tired.

“Let’s get to sleep,” Igor said when Viktor suggested going exploring. “We have a lot of climbing ahead of us.”

The next day, they set out, with Igor insisting that they eat a good breakfast of eggs and bacon, despite the complaints of Viktor.

“We must have energy for the climb, or we will be hungry after just two hours of climbing,” was what he told Viktor.

After three hours of climbing, they came to a tree. Under that tree, in the snow, there was a gold coin. Anna picked it up and studied it. Engraved on it were the words, Beware, for there may be danger on your journey.

“What do you think ‘danger’ means?” Viktor asked an hour after they had found the coin.

“I don’t know, but we should keep a lookout for the rest of the trip,” said Igor.

The rest of the day went smoothly, until they stopped to rest at a lodge for the night. Igor was eating a sandwich he had packed for the trip. While he was eating, a golden coin slid out from the sandwich right on the floor. He let out a yell.

It took Igor a long time to calm down, Anna and Viktor took him out for some fresh air.

They had walked a good distance when they heard a sound. Someone was walking nearby. Before Igor could stop them, Anna and Viktor started running. He couldn’t find them. He realized that he didn’t know where he was. He tried to turn around to find his way back to the lodge, but he couldn’t move. He heard someone laughing in the distance. Igor realized there were bodies lying around him. He saw Viktor and Anna lying by his feet.

A voice said, “Another has fallen to the legend of Alek and the golden coin.”

Igor dropped down, dead, never to be seen again.


Honorable Mention: James age 11 – “Doors”


3 human skeletons in various poses near grave
Courtesy of National Library of Medicine

Thomas woke up sweating, “Emily, Emily wake up!” Thomas demanded.

Emily groaned, “What do you want, Thomas?”

“Did you hear that?” Thomas said quietly.

“Hear what?” Emily said despairingly.

“A creaking sound.” Thomas said frightfully.

Emily ignored Thomas and checked the time. Emily blurted out, “It’s 3:54am, are you insane?!”

Without hesitation Thomas said, “I swear I heard something!”

Emily said, “It’s probably your stupid brain. Go to sleep!”

Thomas said, “I heard something, what do you think?”

Emily said, “It's probably Char Char.” Char Char was the nickname of their Border Collie, Charlie.

Emily fell asleep, but Thomas was concerned so he called Char Char who came dashing up the stairs. Thomas brushed Char Char’s footlong, silky, clean, smooth hair and fell asleep comfortably.

Thomas, Emily and Char Char woke up to a booming, piercing creak at 4:00am.

“Did you hear that?” asked Emily.

”Yes I did, I don’t know what it is though ” said Thomas.

Char Char whimpered. Thomas, Emily, and Char Char knew it wasn’t a prank, so they went up to the attic and opened the door cautiously. They found nothing but a black corner. The corner started spreading like it was alive. Thomas and Emily rubbed their eyes once and it was gone. They rubbed their eyes again and all of the sudden it came out of nowhere! Thomas and Emily could feel their heart beating hard. They sprinted for the door, but the goop covered the door and once they were through it, they realized that they made a huge mistake.

They tried dashing back, but it was too late. They hit the wall and realized that it was black, and it was bubbling. They also realized that they were in a whole different room.

They saw a table with a light, one that was dimly lit. It was hanging from the ceiling, and it had a tiny, long, beaded string on it to turn on and off. The ceiling was made of smooth concrete, the only thing that wasn’t black goop. There was one crack in it and grains of concrete were falling from it.

Thomas, Emily, and Char Char walked to a table. It was an oak wood table. They found the goop in the chair and it was… it was… in a human shape.

Thomas said nervously, “Why is it in a human shape?”

Five grains of concrete fell on Char Char’s nose and he sneezed. The sneeze blew away the old goop revealing seven skeletons.

Emily said anxiously, “I... I think it's real... real bodies.” All the skeletons were looking at the light, but one, the one looking in the middle. The one in the middle was looking at a yellow ripped piece of paper.

“What does it say?” asked Emily.

“It says, At 4:44 in a house around the world this door will appear, in this room the goop will muck on your feet and hands will drag you in like quicksand and nothing can help you…” said Thomas,

“What does the last word say?” Emily asked. Thomas didn’t say a word. “What is it?”

“We are standing in the goop,” said Thomas.

The goop sucked them in like it said then they just disappeared. No one knows what happened to them.