TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Public Library challenged writers of all ages to write original horror stories with a “Moonlit Masquerade” theme in its Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest. Six winners were chosen, and for the first time ever, one of the winners isn’t local. The winner of the Over 21 category, Carrie Donovan, lives in Germany.
The Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest was split into two categories: Over 21 and Under 21. First, second and third place winners in both categories were selected by a panel of judges including local civic leaders, librarians and published authors. Criteria for judging included originality, fear factor and quality of writing.
In the “Over 21” category
- Carrie Donovan of Gelsenkirchen, Germany, took first place for “Walpurgisnacht,” a story of discovery about an amnesiac woman on Walpurgis Night.
- Second place went to Catonsville resident Mike Martin for “The Falling Moon,” about a farmer’s descent into madness.
- Gary R. Beard of Timonium took third place for “Nowhere to Hide,” about a man looking for love but instead faced with his worst fear.
“Over 21” winners received VIP tickets to A Toast Among Ghosts, Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library’s annual Poe-themed outdoor festival. They are invited to read their winning stories next to the fire pit at the October 15 festival, which takes place at the Reisterstown Branch. When she heard the news, Donovan was sad she cannot travel to the event because of the distance but is excited to be able to share her piece with the community. When picking a story to write that included masks and/or the moon, she imagined some sort of ritual performed by moonlight. “I then remembered that this yearly event can be just as spooky as Halloween. The more I learned about the history behind it, the more the story came together,” said Donovan.
In the “Under 21” category
- Ivy McKnight, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Cockeysville Middle School, won first place for “Dead Space,” a sci-fi horror story set on the space station on the moon.
- Second place went to Baltimore resident Sophia Kantsevoy, a 14-year-old at The Bryn Mawr School, who told the story of a house flip gone wrong in “Lunatine Lane.”
- Lucy Bray of Baltimore, an eighth-grader at Dumbarton Middle School, took third place for “House of the Impathegens,” about an alien invasion on Halloween night.
McKnight says she loves writing and hopes to become a writer one day. When creating “Dead Space,” she drew inspiration from books and movies she enjoys. “I wanted the main character to be more realistic so I made her a typical curious young adult who would be excited at the prospect of going to space,” said McKnight. The eighth-grader and other “Under 21” winners will read their stories at an October 7 reception at the Reisterstown Branch. The young winners receive a prize package including a 2021 A Toast Among Ghosts T-shirt and gift card.
The Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest started in 2016, inspired by the 1816 ghost story challenge that led to the creation of Frankenstein’s monster and the first modern vampire story. The contest is held in conjunction with A Toast Among Ghosts. The winning stories will be published on the Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library’s website after October 15th.
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