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Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween

San Diego Writers, Ink contest winners read their stories

Photo by Beth Accomando

Barbara Huntington, author of the Poe Scary Story award-winning "Obtain a Black Light," holds up the blood-stained copy of her work.


Steven Clapp, "Gentlemen's Agreement" author

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter



Barbara Huntington, "Obtain A Black Light" author

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter


Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween


Sara DeSantis, "A Rose For Me" author

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter


Earlier this month San Diego Writers, Ink held its annual Edgar Allan Poe Scary Story contest and now the winning authors read their stories as a Halloween treat.

San Diego Writers, Ink asked me to judge this year's Poe Scary Story contest and I was so impressed with the top three stories that I wanted to share them with a wider audience. So I asked each of the winning authors to come in and talk about why Poe still holds readers rapt and then to read their stories as the perfect countdown to Halloween this Wednesday.

Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most influential writers of the 19th century and his poem and fiction remain popular to this day. The Poe Museum proclaims him a "master of the macabre and the father of the detective story." Poems such as "The Raven," and stories such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Pit and the Pendulum" have inspired numerous film adaptations. But he died in poverty in 1849 at the age of 40.

The contest gave the entrants three specific prompts: the stories had to include the line "let me caution you this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy;" involve someone locking a door from the inside; and have a breaking of a bottle. The stories had to be 750 words and be in the vein of Poe. There were 26 entries narrowed down to nine finalist and I had to decide who would receive first, second and third place.

All the stories I read were well-written but only three nailed Poe style, and deciding between those top three was exceedingly difficult.

Here are the winning stories.

I picked Steven Clapp's "Gentlemen's Agreement" for first place. Clapp does a stunning job of conveying the perspective of someone who is madly obsessed. The slow reveal of details to the horrors the narrator has committed or is about to commit are well modulated for wicked effect. The descriptions such as a severed tongue waved as a "flag of surrender" are superb and fittingly Poe-esque. It's a delicious descent into madness. Listen for this story on Halloween.

In second place is Barbara Huntington's "Obtain a Black Light." The letter format of this is great and it conveys a growing sense of paranoia with wonderful detail. I also loved how it is set against Halloween and uses trick or treaters as a key plot point. The ending is perfect. Huntington's story airs on Oct. 30.

And in third place is Sara DeSantis' "A Rose for Me." The construction of this story is beautiful. It starts deceptively sweet and then slowly reveals the madness and horror. This is such a simple yet elegantly written tale with a chilling end. It perfectly captures that tone of rational madness that Poe was a master of. DeSantis' story airs today.

Again, all three of these stories were a joy to read and difficult to rank. Congratulations to all the entrants and especially to these top three writers who understand Poe so well and help to keep his particular and peculiar brand of literary horror alive.

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