Gather round boys and ghouls: Hallmark’s Writing Studio has a few sinister stories to share.
To celebrate the spooky season, we held a ghost story writing session on the 25th October. Inspired by an atmospheric soundtrack, mysterious prompts and tricky treats, our editors created a creepy collection of terrifying tales.
You can read a few of the stories below…if you dare!
‘The Witch with the Wandering Eye’ by Ruth Turner-(Vampire) Blood
The witch with the wandering eye once possessed a key.
She used the key to lock away all the happiness in the sacred forest, turning it from a woodland wonderland to a grim and gruesome grotto.
Anyone who possesses the key of the witch with the wandering eye will be eternally cursed with unhappiness. And a dodgy squint.
‘Valeria San Chihuahua’ by Clare (Gruesome) Gowney
She was the best and worst opera singer ever. Valeria San Chihuahua: the most exquisite voice in the universe, but, sadly, with a tone capable of shattering hearts. Few, though, could resist.
A month after Valeria’s death, the handful of admirers who had survived her charms (because they were already heartless, some say) perched on the worn wooden chairs in the Creaking Oaks Auction House, eager for the chance to bid on Valeria’s possessions.
Valeria’s ghost, though, had other ideas, and the audience watched wide-eyed as her perfume bottles, shoes, paper knives, bracelets and sheet music shuffled into the shape of “NO”, before spiraling into the air and heading for the exit.
‘The Cottage and The Circus’ by Emma (Boo) Bragg
I had always felt drawn to the cottage in the meadow. It sat empty, left abandoned for decades. Nobody had lived there since the original owner died suddenly and mysteriously.
Though I had walked past many times, on this occasion I felt an overwhelming compulsion to take a look inside – to venture into the bowels of this forgotten dwelling. I gently pushed on the wooden door, broken and covered in thick dust and years of grime. It groaned as it opened but instead of feeling frightened, I felt welcomed. A warm glow emanated from the end of the corridor that stretched out before me. A faint sound of music was beckoning me to step further. I complied, moving trance-like towards the sound. With each step I could hear the music clearer and louder than before. It was the jaunty, music-box sounds of a circus. I continued walking until I reached the end of the corridor, which opened up into a large empty room.
In the corner was a shadow which appeared to be moving. As I got nearer I noticed the shadow was human-shaped. Mesmerised, I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t take my eyes from the dark, ghostly figure projected on the wall. Quickly, the shadow lurched and in front of me stood the solid figure of a man. He was dressed in a red coat, black trousers and a top hat. His legs and arms moved as if dancing with an invisible partner. Forwards and backwards he danced, arms outstretched and performing the steps of a waltz. His head was down, his eyes watching his feet, his lips gently moving as if silently counting.
Suddenly, the door behind me slammed shut. The bang awakened me from my trance and caused the ringmaster to stop dancing. His head shot upwards, his eyes met mine and he rushed towards me, arms outstretched. I turned and ran.
I hurtled down the corridor towards the now-closed door, but I wasn’t fast enough. I felt icy cold hands grab my arms from behind. I screwed my eyes tightly shut and screamed at the top of my lungs, terrified and sure that my own death was upon me. I screamed until I could scream no longer. When I stopped, all I could hear was the gentle ‘whoosh’ of wind-rustling leaves. I dared myself to open my eyes and found myself on the other side of the door, outside in the meadow once again with the cottage behind me. I felt something in the clenched fist of my hand. I slowly opened it and saw a crumpled piece of paper. Yellowed and brittle, I gently unfolded it to reveal the words printed upon it:
VISIT THE CIRCUS MACABRE. WE’RE DYING TO MEET YOU!
‘A Vortex of Words’ by Amy (Ghostly) Gibson
At a glance, the bookshelves were entirely normal. Books lined the wall, a series of worlds just waiting to be explored again and again. The names of my favourite authors glinted in the light, the rainbow of spines offering a comforting sense of familiarity.
I moved towards the shelf, reaching for ‘Jane Eyre,’ but my hand just kept on going, as though the books weren’t even there. I could see my arm through a kaleidoscope of translucent colours, the paperbacks now ghostly versions of their former selves. No matter how many times I tried, the same thing still happened, but I kept trying, dipping my arm in and out of the vortex of words and pages, hoping that I’d just imagined it, that I was just too tired to be thinking straight.
On what felt like the thousandth attempt I stopped and stared at the unreachable shelves. My entire body trembled with fear and frustration and I had to grab onto my wardrobe door to stop myself from collapsing. Tears streamed down my cheeks, leaving trails of black in their wake. Nothing felt real any more.
‘Beloved Book’ by Angela (Heart of) Stone
In the depths of the Black Forest in Germany is an old cabin. Now open for visitors wanting to escape city life for a rural retreat, the cabin was originally built in 1868 by a judge named Klaus von Winter. However, tourists have reported strange happenings…
Legend has it that the judge’s last case had been a poor father accused of theft. Wanting to make an example of the man, Winter instantly sentenced him to execution. After witnessing his hanging, the stolen item fell out of his satchel: a book of fairy tales for his children.
Realising the man’s innocence, the judge came face to face with the horror of his actions. He fled for the sanctuary of the deep and dark forest where he built a cabin and vowed never to see a book again, spending the last of his days haunted by the papery face of the dead man.
To this day, visitors bringing books to the cabin will wake up to a nasty surprise – opening their eyes to see hundreds of torn pages hanging from the ceiling and the carcass of their beloved book at the foot of the bed.
‘A Familiar Tune’ by Hannah (WoooooOOOooo) Woodcock
The Mortimer Library on Chapelton Lane closes at 6pm on the dot. For the living, at least.
Venture into the caverns of hardback pillars at the stroke of midnight and you may hear a familiar tune. Follow the strained notes of ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’ (just past the horticulture section) and you’ll encounter Rosemary.
Your first thought may well be, “Why would an apparition choose to haunt an unassuming Yorkshire library?”
When Rosemary notices she has company and turns towards her singular audience, you’ll wonder, “How can she sing without a face?”
Happy reading and happy Halloween 🎃