Kids in the Doings area did their best to scare the pants off judge Jack Fredrickson, but he was able to select the top three stories for Pioneer Press’ annual Scary Stories contest for local third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.
“Judging the Scary Story Contest was tough, because writing short stories is tough,” Fredrickson said. “I write them myself, for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and for various anthologies, and often find them more difficult to write than novels. There is so little space to do so much.”
How did he go about selecting the winners?
“Every student story I read was remarkable, and showed a writer of great promise. Each one could have been polished to win first place,” he said. “The ones I selected as the best offered the most unusual character(s), the scariest plot, and the most unique ‘voice’ — the author’s choice of which words would best tell the story.”
The Halloween Eve Curse
It was an ordinary Tuesday at the third grade lunch table. Miranda, Liam, Joe and Kristy were talking about their Halloween costumes until they overheard the fifth-graders talking about a curse.
“I hope the Halloween curse doesn’t strike again this year! Remember what happened to those kids five years ago? No one ever saw them again!”
Miranda asked, “What is the curse?”
“The curse warns kids. Don’t get caught in the school after midnight on Halloween Eve. If you do, be back home before sunrise or else!” replied a fifth-grader in a spooky voice.
“That sounds scary!” said Kristy. “I don’t think it’s real,” Joe said. “Let’s try it out,” suggested Liam. “I’m in!” shouted Miranda.
So, on Halloween Eve, when the last school bell rang, the four third-graders hid silently in the dark, smelly janitors closet. Once the teachers all left, they came out, and waited and waited.
At last the clock chimed midnight and suddenly everything went black. The kids screamed in shock. They were no longer in the school. They had each transformed into their Halloween costumes.
Miranda was underwater in the Pacific Ocean and she could breathe like a mermaid. Liam was in Korea in a dojo wearing a martial arts uniform. Kristy became a fairy in Ireland. Joe was a wolf in an Australian forest.
They each saw something glistening by their feet, a golden map leading to a key. Maybe the keys were the answer to getting home before sunrise. They got moving.
Kristy fluttered through the air and ended at a pixie dust pile. Miranda glided through the water towards a pyramid of sand dollars. Joe sprinted on all four legs towards a picture of a full moon carved in tree bark. Liam kicked away rows of pads until he found a black belt. There they each found a carefully hidden key.
As each of them lifted the key, they all magically returned to their beds. They could tell people their story, but no one would believe it had happened. But they each still had a key to prove it.
— Abby McMillin, Prospect Elementary School, Clarendon Hills
Every year, the night before Halloween, in a small town called Kesslerville, Ephira, the most powerful and scariest witch in the Universe came to Earth with all the other scary creatures who want to cause trouble. Every time they came they always landed in the Kesslerville graveyard. After waking up the dead, they all went over to the broken and unused mansion. That was where they lived until the day they had to travel somewhere else.
The day before Halloween a family moved in. The family had two kids, Holly and Jake. They asked their parents if they could go explore their new town. Their parents said “yes.” They went all over town and stopped when they got to the graveyard with the broken down mansion in it.
Suddenly the kids felt cold, and scared.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Holly said. “Maybe we should just turn back.”
“Are you kidding! We got this far already” said Jake.
“Don’t you feel that sudden chill?!” asked Holly.
Meanwhile, “Ephira,” someone called. “There are two kids outside.”
“Yeah, kids. Hello, we’re on earth”
“No Milady there are two kids standing right outside the house.”
“Well they can’t know about our plans. So just get rid of them, kill them. Actually bring them here.”
“Look Jake, there’s someone coming out of the house over there.”
“No Jake, this is freaking me out we should just leave.”
“No I want to go inside!”
“We can’t do that the person is guarding it.”
“Wait, that’s not a person what is that?”
“Hmm. I kinda want to investigate now”
“See? It is interesting.”
But just when the kids looked back at the house the thing was gone. So, they started walking towards the mansion when a horrible voice made them jump. It was like nails on a chalkboard, only much, much more terrifying. The kids slowly turned around, eyes widening. There was a tall, well you could say woman, with big black bumps all over her, peeling skin, bleeding nails, and holes for eyes with yellow goo oozing out.
“I’ll just have to take care of this myself,” the thing cackled.
The kids were too scared to scream. The monster dug her claws into the kids arms, and dragged them towards the house where Ephira was waiting in the darkness.
— Jia Sunkara, The Lane Elementary School, Hinsdale
Once there was a beloved doll and she loved being a doll. That doll had a soul. She also loved Gabriela who was her owner. Gabriela had an older brother, Alex, who always tried to rip the doll’s hair and tug her arms, but Gabriela always won the battle. The doll never got lonely or tired of standing.
One day the doll had a feeling in her leg. Then the doll fell with a boink. Gabriela ran upstairs to see what the noise was. She went into her room and the doll was sitting there. She said, “Please help?”
Gabriela screamed and ran down the stairs and told her parents that the doll talked to her. Her dad said that he did not have time for her stories. Her mom convinced her that she imagined it.
When she went to bed that night, the doll asked, “Why did you scream when I was talking?”
Gabriela whispered, “Ooohhh, I never heard a doll talk before. What, what, what’s your name?”
“Anne,” said the doll.
Anne and Gabriela would talk every night before bed. Anne warned her to never tell anyone that she can talk. If people found out that she can talk, she would lose her soul.
Gabriela did not listen. She told her friends, teachers, and parents about their conversations. Her friends thought that Gabriela was crazy. Adults thought that she was making up stories.
News spread all over the school that Gabriela was crazy. Alex told Gabriela’s parents about how all the kids at school are saying that Gabriela has conversations with her doll. Anne was in the next room and heard this. She hissed, “Never cross a doll.”
That night Anne set the house on fire. The family heard the fire alarm. They raced out of the house, leaving Anne behind. Anne climbed out of a window and climbed into their neighbor’s bedroom window. Anne discovered a 2-year-old little girl asleep in her bed. Anne smiled at the sleeping girl. THE END or was it?
— Mia Stobart, Ogden School, LaGrange
The Coaster of Death
Bob was a courageous person; he would do anything even if he didn’t want to do it. One time his friends bet him he couldn’t hop a fence. Bob was gonna wish he never had made that choice to go into the abandoned amusement park.
When he got in the amusement park his friends said it was abandoned. All Bob could see was the glimmering roller coaster lights. The merry go round was rusty with green vines and dripping dark red blood.
“The story about the kids that died here must be true,” he thought.
Nobody knew how there were fingerprints of someone named Joe. Bob went to the roller coaster and saw a man working it. He slowly walked over and it said get out or else, death ahead. He thought it was just that they dressed up the coaster to make it scary, but he didn’t know what was ahead for him. He got to the coaster and saw that there was blood all over the seat. He could smell the oil dripping and hear the ride creaking.
He got strapped in and over the intercom he heard the guy say, “Once you get on there is no getting off.”
Bob thought he was joking but he wasn’t. The first time around was fun then the worker wouldn’t let him get off. Then the worker started spraying Bob with liquid nitrogen. For every time he got sprayed it felt like a knife in the body. Bob had a pocket knife with him. He tried to cut open the latch. If he could unbuckle the seat belt the latch would just pop open. He would fall to his death. Bob thought he had to time his fall perfectly; he knew it was a matter of time before he died. Bob went around for a few more times. He was about to jump. Bob had timed it out. Bob thought he would die.
He closed his eyes and unbuckled the seat belt. It felt like it took forever to fall. He’s falling...and falling...and falling...
— Charlie Mclawhorn, Field Park School, Western Springs
Lost in the Haunted Airport
One rainy morning a family was driving to the airport. They had two kids named Daisy and her brother Harry. The family was going on a trip to China. The plane to China was leaving in 20 minutes so they had some time. Daisy and Harry went to a smoothie stand to get a smoothie. When they got back the plane had already left. With their parents...
It was the afternoon. There was nobody at the airport besides Daisy and Harry. There was one other person there. He was a worker at the airport. He was very mean and old. People called him Old Man 22. Nobody knows why they started calling him that. He always had a giant guard dog next to him. He heard Daisy and Harry talking softly. Old Man 22 started walking to them. Then all out of nowhere the light went out. Daisy and Harry saw his shadow and his heard his footsteps. Old Man 22 had a candle. They could see the light getting closer. Daisy and Harry could smell the candle. It smelled like burning wood.
They both hid behind the counter at the sandwich shop. Daisy and Harry kept sneaking around to all the hiding places in the airport. After they hid under some chairs they didn’t know where else to hide. They saw Old Man 22’s shadow. They also saw the giant dog coming right to them. Old Man 22 had a evil look on his face like he just ate something bad. He saw Daisy and Harry, and there was no time to leave...
When Old Man 22 was about to touch them a head peered around the corner. It was a pilot that looked like he was sick because he was pale as a vampire. He might be a vampire because he had two razor sharp teeth. The vampire man yelled 22 your flight to China leaves now.
Daisy and Harry were relieved. They wondered if Old Man 22 was following their parents because their parents were in China.
— Maureen Patrick, Field Park School, Western Springs
“We will have so much fun!” said Devin as she walked to the dance. This was her first high school dance and she adored Halloween,
“Unless Jackie comes,” joked her date, Sean.
Devin shivered, Jackie was the town’s scary myth. Even though she knew Jackie was fake, it scared everyone in the town. Jackie apparently preyed on helpless people, and Devin was a total nerd. Devin had long brown hair, oversized glasses and braces. People picked on her at school.
When they got there the music could be heard from there to Florida, it was that loud.
“Wow,” said Sean. “Everyone’s costumes are so realistic!”
Devin looked around; everyone there was dressed like a monster and the costumes were so good they looked real! There were spider webs everywhere and fake blood splatters. Thriller started to play on the stereo as Sean walked away from her. The power went out, and Thriller stopped playing. A little light flickered just enough for her to see Sean on the floor with bruises on his neck.
The next thing Devin knew, she heard a song, “la la la la la la la la la la,” song got louder. Devin turned around she saw two red eyes floating next to her. Then the light flickered again and she saw the eyes, a face and a long dress with a red splat on the side.
“Jackie?” asked Devin. The thing replied with a with a whisper. Then Devin heard something behind her, though it was just Thriller it made her feel a little calmer. Devin heard a moan behind her.
“Sean,” she replied. “I thought you died!”
She turned around and it wasn’t Sean, it was all the other high schoolers in their monster costumes. She touched one of the students. It snapped its jaw, and it fell to the floor. They weren’t students; she knew that now.
Devin ran for the knife on the snack table. She grabbed the knife but dropped it in fear, the zombies had surrounded her. Devin felt pain and everything went black.
— Owen Slad, Field Park School, Western Springs
The Masked Lady
It was a dark and stormy night in Hinsdale. Hundreds of people gathered at the Community House for a masked ball. Little did they know that evil would arrive soon.
Everyone at the ball was having so much fun. People were laughing and dancing and everyone wore a mysterious mask that hid their faces. Even husbands and wives didn’t know each other.
Outside the building a mysterious black limousine arrived. The door to the car slowly opened, but nothing appeared. Moments later, the door shut on its own. The Masked Lady had arrived but nobody knew about her presence.
Out on the dance floor, the mayor of Hinsdale, Herman Shmerman, was dancing up a storm. Nobody in the room liked him. He was a big bully and did nothing for the town of Hinsdale except spend its money. Then, the band played “The Hokey Pokey,” and it turned ugly because Herman always won the Hokey Pokey.
Because of that, everyone decided to go have cocktails in the gym leaving Herman alone on the dance floor. He didn’t care, because he just wanted to dance.
At the other end of the room, the door slowly creeeeeeeeeeaked open. And then it slowly creeeeeeeeeeaked shut. Herman did not notice. While out on the dance floor, he felt a cold breeze even though he was sweating.
All of a sudden, the lights and music in the grand ballroom disappeared.
A scream rang through the entire building.
All the other masked people ran back into the ballroom. It was empty. Herman was gone.
And he was never seen again.
To this day, nobody has ever danced “The Hokey Pokey” in the Community House ballroom again.
— Phoebe Goebel, Monroe School, Hinsdale
Invasion of the Gingerbread Men!
Have you ever had a dream; or rather a nightmare about gingerbread men invading your house? Well today that nightmare, dream (whatever you want to call it) comes true.
One ordinary day in Candybrook, two gingerbread men, Tutti and Frutti, went exploring. And I know what you’re thinking — Candybrook is so not real. But it is. I’m writing about it. They hiked over the fluffy Marshmallaw Mountains, swung through the sweet and sour Gumdrop Forest, eating a couple on the way. Rolled around in the bright green creamy Frosting Meadows and at last they came to ....... AN ALIEN HOUSE!!!
“Whaddda we do now?” asked Tutti. “Well, I think we should go explore inside,” replied Frutti. “I’ve never seen a house like this before and I think it looks deeeelicious!” exclaimed Tutti. “First of all, you can’t eat this house, second of a...”
That’s all Frutti managed to say before Tutti rushed for the house. “I don’t care, let’s go!”
So in the house they went. Beeeeep! The alarm sounded. This man with striped boxers came rushing downstairs with a baseball bat. Ahah! Now I’ve got you! Boom, bash, boom! Clunk, crash, shatter. There went Mamma’s antique flower vase.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!” screamed Tutti. “We’re being attacked!” yelled Frutti. “I told you this wasn’t a good idea!” yelled Frutti again. “We come in peace!” exclaimed Tutti and Frutti at the same time.
“Woah, woah, woah. Are you gingerbread men?” asked the crazy man in boxers. “Okay, one question. Why are you in my house?”
“Because we are exploring,” replied Tutti. “Um, we wanted to see an alien house?” said Frutti.
“You know, I don’t care. You guys look deeeelicious!” exclaimed the man. “Hey, that’s my line!” replied Tutti. “Hmmmmmm. Where’s the frosting?” the man wondered out loud. “NOOOOOOOOO!” yelled Tutti and Frutti together.
Chomp, chomp, chomp. The man chewed and chomped up the gingerbread men all in one gulp.
And that is why, to this day, people have always eaten gingerbread men, rather than let them break into people’s houses.
— Kate Ursillo, Prospect Elementary, Clarendon Hills
Instead Of Trick-Or-Treating
On a Halloween night, the trees were shaking violently. Amy was disappointed that she couldn’t go trick-or-treating for Halloween. Her parents said it was too windy. So she sat on the couch to watch TV instead.
All of a sudden there was a knock at the door. Amy called for her parents that somebody came, but no one answered. So she went to open the door. There was a person standing outside all dressed in black. In one swift movement a bony hand reached out and grabbed Amy. She was really scared. She couldn’t call out for help. She was too surprised. Amy was thrown in a car and someone forced something down her throat.
Amy was starting to become sleepy and soon fell asleep. When she awoke everything was dark at first, but her eyes slowly adjusted. Amy saw that she was in a glass cage with the word kid written it. She saw another glass cage where her parents were. It was labeled parents. How did they bring her parents here without using the front door? There was no time to think about that. Amy peered around. When she studied her parents’ cage she couldn’t find her parents inside. Instead she saw two zombies.
Slowly Amy could feel the gentle rocking of a ship. She was sailing. Where was she going? Suddenly somebody grabbed her from behind and stuffed the same thing down her throat again. Slowly Amy fell asleep. By the time she woke up the trip was over and she was in a beautiful living room. The room had so many life-like statues. Two skeletons came over and carried her to a different room and shut the door. This time she saw two people all dressed in black.
One said, “Here you go boss now you can have your own girl statue.”
Then he left the room. The other man told his zombies (including Amy’s parents) to put clay on Amy. This type of clay will make anyone freeze.
Slowly Amy’s body started freezing, she shouldn’t have opened the door in the first place.
— Anuha Parvataneni, Monroe Elementary School, Hinsdale
About the judge: Jack Fredrickson’s first and third Dek Elstrom mysteries, “A Safe Place for Dying” and “Hunting Sweetie Rose,” fooled judges into Shamus nominations. The New York Times said Dek, “with his rich back story” in “Honestly Dearest, You’re Dead,” “has lost none of his initial appeal.” The Wall Street Journal called it “quirky and affecting.” The fourth Elstrom, just out, is “The Dead Caller from Chicago,” and people are lying well about that one, too. JackFredrickson.com.