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Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween

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

San Diego Writers, Ink contest winners read their stories

Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween
GUESTS: Steven Clapp, "Gentlemen's Agreement" author Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

As a Halloween treat today we have a story by the winner of San Diego writers Inc. Edgar Allan Poe scary story contest. We heard the runners up earlier this week. Today PBS arts reporter Bethyl Comando speaks with first place winner Steven klap and then we'll hear his winning story called gentlemen's agreement. Stephen you've written a story gentlemen's agreement for a contest about Edgar Allen Poe to write stories kind of in his voice. So what is it about Poe's stories that make them unique. Well Poe's unafraid to write about insanity you know he seems to relish in it. And he draws inspiration from it. I mean he's not afraid to talk about death heartbreak and the maddening sensations that go along with both and it's that honesty in his work during an era of Victorian prudishness. Even here in the states that makes him stand out. I mean unfortunately during his lifetime he wasn't acknowledged for all this. Only in hindsight but if you read his work practically everything you've read you just feel the anguish or the madness or the fear comes through. Very few writers can pull that off. But the majority of that work and what attracted you to po in the first place. Ah I was young. Actually my brother had a copy of this little picture copy of Tell-Tale Heart even before I was in school. I was looking through it and I saw a picture of the guy one eye in a constant beating of the heart. And I went This is nuts you know and as I got older I read his poetry and I read of course the Raven and you know Lenore and just everything that a man could write short stories so deeply and his poetry was just as menacing and deep but yet as I said earlier brutally honest in his emotions. And it just it spoke to me in some way even when I was little. Of course when are you going in the high school teenagers you know you're moody and depressed anyway so he really touched upon me in college and he's not one of those influences you go oh yeah he was neat when I was younger but I'm done him. I used to you know I started writing I used to write short stories like him just you know impersonation just like the killer spider thou art stupid and you know and then I refined my style to be as eloquent as I could. Now everything comes out like that. I got lucky with this last one. So tell me a little bit about the inspiration for Gentleman's Agreement. I was angry about it politely. I had gone. I'd watched the video gotten the prompts and the friend you know wrote with them and everything I'd written. I hated it just didn't feel PODE didn't feel right. So one day I was sitting there couldn't come over then he asked for it and outside our house they were doing roadwork and I was trying to sleep and I was trying to think in sleep and I was just I got angry just so angry in the first line of the story came into my mind and you know the first line is I feel murder and I went oh I can build on that. So I just drew upon that I mean I got of anger because people did their job. But when you can find that passion you just go with it. And I did. All right well we're going to have you read this story for us. My name is Stephen klop and I are reading my short story gentlemen's agreement. I feel murder the axe rests heavy in my palm. My heart beats a dirge as my mind conjures a thousand reasons why but in my eyes you see truth. You have to die. I swear a finger presses to your lips. Let me caution you that this isn't a fair demanding the greatest secrecy lantern light flickers a shadow things crawl crossed my mind. But look you snug roved into my life my house nestled forever in my history. It's an old home is a grand abode creaking boards whispering walls and secrets buried down Wall Street my hopeless hovel of Baltimore. I for you watch me as I stepped through the door listening to the ghosts of reason ancient family warnings against this treason upon a man once trusted. But you hear nothing do you. Do you not feel their cold touch your dead doubt's tickling your dream tortured mind. But it is time. Our time. I posit the brass knob head leaning against the oak door. A sudden gust of sincere regret crushing is where you saw my hand. But this independence slides down carefully locking the door from the inside. Floorboards moan as I turned to you and approach slow the lines circling a wounded greedy Jackal. It was mine Jacob my life my wife my wife. Oh how you ride like a flame against the wind. My voice does it startle you. It doesn't instill desperate dread a man of honor should fear nothing. And yet you cower against your bonds and flood my floor with cold sweat. You stammer and groan as you squirm in shackles and cry your cries I raise your limp severed tongue from my pocket waving like a flag of surrender before your eyes. Is this what you want Jacob to wag this beast and carry forth your lies. Tell me how you don't know me from Adam. My wife for me. Tell me Jacob raid's searches and I feel my fist fight to your face crashing against your nose. Tell me I dropped the severed beast and lunge to your fat face nose to nose. I breathe in your stink your desperate garlic stink of misery. I sniff you like a hound. Cheek to hair lips the eyes and I step back hurling a demand by my Victoria. Why her. Tell me now. All right. But then a sudden noise a clinking clanking crystalline noise a charge across the room pressing my ear to the door just as the crash of the bottle was distinctly heard. I know well a bottle I know the type. The vintage my precious century aged scotch remembered once a gift from her. Do you hear it to Jacob. I wonder now if you heard what I heard all the times I was hearing her slow steps upon a staircase deliberate tender graceful and careful to avoid the fifth step of groaning oak frailty outside the door whisper of cloth gown turned shroud once white now stained in life crimson black. Oh how once it glowed angelic. Whispers carried through the door not from cloth but from the hared banshee just beyond. Do you hear her Jacob. Do you feel the chill spread from toes chin. I stumble into you as a backup. Hearing her groan in my head bleeding truths from my ears feeling a dead heartbeat were once love lived that failed. It failed to deliver death to free me from his cold prison. But as a cow's thumb wades across his demon head I feel the thick molasses victorious blood dripping on its plate. Not failure but fate. Suddenly a click tick then creak as the lock slides undone. The door winds open. So and shadow. Victoria stands in the doorway drifting on death's own wind. She glides into the room with a carnage breeze waiting like rot stink a gust then flickering flames and suddenly darkness. A rush of cold soft upon my brow like an iron pedal and a scream your scream Jacob. Then the flames flicker to life and only your eyeless head remains. You see Victoria has a thing for eyes blue eyes as bright as yours. Alas my intent is not freighting you good sir. I simply wish to caution you against covering my wife politely yet again that's not to risk any tragedies when you agree. That was author Stephen klap reading his post scary story winter and gentlemen's agreement. You can listen to the other two authors reading their stories at Beths cinema junkie blog at KPBS dot org.

Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween
GUESTS: Barbara Huntington, "Obtain A Black Light" author Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

This is K PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh this Halloween week we're bringing you three authors reading their award winning Edgar Allen Poe scary stories. Hey PBS is arts reporter Beth Komando judged the contest and wanted to share their stories. Today we hear from Barbara Huntington who's second place story obtain a black light fittingly has Halloween as its backdrop. Barbara. First of all I wanted to ask you what is it about Edgar Allan Poe that appeals to you. Ooh I have loved the mystery and the craziness of Edgar Allen Poe since I was a little child. I had a vinyl record with Basil Rathbone and he had the mask of the Red Death and The Black Cat. Annabel Lee and I played that over and over and over. Not just at Halloween. And what do you think it is about Poe that defines his style. What makes him unique. He has a sense of the real. Another words we can if we can really imagine someone who is insane being able to do these things where as if he sounded totally logical we would not. But but an insane person doesn't know they're insane. So he continuously tells us he is not as he tells us these horrible things he does in writing your story. Yours is called obtain a blacklight. What was the inspiration for this and what were you trying to get. I really do try to provide treats for kids that will be acceptable for kids who have celiac disease or can eat certain things and I ordered a bunch of little stamps and when I was thinking about distributing them I thought wouldn't it be cool if they had a blacklight Inc. And then I thought about getting a blacklight and then I thought I'm time to write this story. And it all came together. This story was written as part of a contest. So tell people what this contest was all about the Polk contest. San Diego writers Inc. Is a special program. We have a party. We have everything from scary Yochi to tarot readings to poll readings and we were given three prompts that we had to use. We had to use let me caution you this isn't a fair demanding the greatest secrecy. We had the prompt that of locking the door from the inside and we had the prompt of the breaking of the bottle. So now I'd like you to read your story for us. My name is Barbara Hannington and I'm the author of obtain a blacklight. My dear Alejandro. Let me caution you this is a fair demanding the greatest secrecy. My faithful CNA Maria says she will mail this to you my dear Peruvian friend. Perhaps you could ask Pedro the Sharmin what to do. I no longer trust anyone here in the states with the exception of Maria. If you get this I will be thankful. It has been two weeks since I started hiding the medicine they give me in this loony bin. So perhaps I can write coherently enough to be understood. You must obtain a blacklight as soon as possible. Who knows when they will reach Peru. It started with my desire to provide a safe healthy Halloween for the neighborhood children. Now let me start again. It started a couple of years ago when a strange old man Mr. Crow moved into the house two doors down. One that remained vacant since my neighbor died 13 years before. Her children fought over it. But in the meantime it was an eyesore. High weeds overgrown trees chipped paint. It brought all our property values down. The heirs would repair it. So why should a renter who could get kicked out at any time. I offered some help when he was moving in. But he just steered man into the house. I've only seen him once or twice since. Then this year. Just before Halloween. A battered shed appeared in his front yard. Decorated as the haunted house. With recorded noises plastic skeletons and cutesy headstones beside it. He must have worked late at night since I didn't see him building it. But I saw a shadowy figure duck inside. When I returned late from a poetry reading at Café Cabaret a few weeks before Halloween. In the past I had provided organic chocolate or plastic toys and a purple pumpkin for kids with food allergies for Halloween. But this year I came up with something I thought was more creative. I purchased ink that only showed up under a black light and rubber stamps of everything from flowers to scorpions. My plan was simple. When kids showed up at the door I would offer to shake hands with a stamp concealed in my hand. When they opened their empty hand I would shout. It's a trick and shined the blacklight one with a battery used for finding pet urine on carpets in their palm to reveal their secret picture. I would use costumes as a guide. Kids with pretty costumes who get roses Princess Lay in 2d to monsters creepy crawly scorpions roaches and tarantulas. That night as I pulled off my first surprise I saw a series of rooms on the child's wrist revealed by the blacklight. He looked at me blankly and did not smile. The same happened for each child in the group. Strange markings on wrists blank stares. Little Randy my friend's son from two blocks down did not seem to recognize me. I was beginning to think my idea was a dud. But the next group did not have risk markings and squeal with the light at my tricks. Soon I detected a pattern. Those approaching from my right had no runes and giggled happily. Those that came from the left by way of Mr. Crose had markings and vacant looks. Turning off my porch light locking my house. I walked over to investigate to trick or treaters entered the haunted house at the same time I did. Immediately two child shaped things approached them pulled off their outfits pushed the children into a dark cage and donned the costumes as they walked out their bodies assumed the characteristics of the children they replaced. Shaking like palmed my black light and checked their dorm rooms. When I tried to follow them Mr. Crow appeared glared at me pulled out a key and carefully locked the door from the inside. That's all I remember until I distinctly heard a bottle crash and woke up in this place. When I told my story to the doctor he laughed said it was a good word and gave me a pill. I still have my blacklight and use it when folks don't see. The doctor and most of the staff have these marks on their arm. A few days later police arrived with another patient. The cops had the rooms. The new patient. And Maria don't. Maria just rushed in. So I will just finish this and. That was author Barbara Huntington reading her story obtain a black light. We will hear from the first place winner tomorrow for Halloween. You can find yesterday's story on Beth's cinema junkie blog at KPBS dot org.

Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween
Poe Scary Story Winners For Halloween GUESTS: Sara DeSantis, "A Rose For Me" author Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

This is PBS PBS midday edition I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Earlier this month PBS arts reporter Beth Amando was the judge for the San Diego Writers Inc. Edgar Allan Poe. Scary story contest. She thought the top three stories were so good that she wanted to share them as a countdown to Halloween. Today she speaks with Sarada Santas and then has the author read her third place winning story a rose. For me Sarah what appeals to you about Edgar Allen Poe. What kind of makes him unique as a writer. Well I teach Edgar Allen Poe. I teach high school so my freshman Cask of Amontillado and every time he read it I'm always struck by his ability to create a captive audience. So you're a part of this helpless audience that is stuck listening to a narrator and his crazed Ranti ends. And that's something I really enjoy about a lot of his stories is just this insane narrator you're the audience you can't get away. You're no private to his musicians and his schemes and there's nothing you can do about it. One small let me implore you don't know. That I must positively leave you. But I'm his first. Rindu all the little attentions in my job though. Actually my friend. Not yet recovered from his astonishment I replied Violante Yaddo as I said these words I visit myself among them the pile of bones which had before spoken throwing them aside. I soon uncovered a quantity of buildings still in the water with these materials and with the aid of my Talo I began vigorously to up the entrance to the net. It just worked out that we ride Casco Monte Otto when Octover started. So definitely fits this season and my students are always just so Shatz by the way the story and so are like Wait Matia stars just go to Leif Fortunato and the two like no one's going to rescue him. You know we're just going to let this get away. Yeah that's how it ends. Oh my gosh. And they're always so creeped out that Montasser was talking to them and they can't do anything about it. Tell me what this Edgar Allan Poe story writing contest was all about. We were given three prompts sort of like sentence starters or some sort of plot element. We had to incorporate and then we had to write a 750 word story that incorporates the style and the themes of Poe. And so that was the basic gist of the contest. So tell me what the inspiration for your particular story was. Like I said I really like the idea of someone speaking to the reader and they can't Skaife what he's saying. So I was trying to figure out how to start the story and one day I just had something pop into my head which was impatient. I can't wait. Which is how my story ends. So I went backwards from that. And so at first I wrote a story where the reader was in danger themselves. But I felt it was hard to make a personal connection that way. So instead I put my main character rose in danger and then our narrator is stalking her and the reader has to listen to him talk about his obsession with her and can't escape that. All right so now let's have you read your story. I'm to S.A. and this is my story a rose for me. Let me caution you that this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy. I am in love. Her name is Rose. Don't tell anyone. I know I will be Revd by my co-workers if they find out that I'm in love with a regular customer. Even though she's more than a customer to me. Oh yeah. Love at first sight. For me at least. I met Rose when she moved to my town two years ago for graduate school. I was surprised he made rose her first toffy when she stopped by my cafe next door to her apartment. I remember that moment very clearly. She asked me how my morning was going and no one really does that in my town. People are usually in a rush to get their coffee at least so they can catch the train into the city. But Rose let me right in the eyes. And then we both float away a wave of heat a fast sweat. I knew she felt the same because she came back to the store everyday that week and everyday after. I have her favorite orders memorized and I always amaze her when I guess what she wants. Her eyes get really big and she laughs loudly. Rose is not beautiful. I think her nose was broken at one time and all the caffeine she drinks making her skin break out. She smears on a lot of makeup and I just want to grab her shake her and tell her that she doesn't need to wear so much. She's definitely put on some weight and this past year mostly after her brother died. Roses hair is sort of a dullish Brown a difficult comb even Clinton out her brushes hard I don't care though. I love her anyway. The moment I met her she became the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. And I tell her that all the time. I say it before I slip out for work in the morning and I whisper into her at year when she's sleeping Rose needs me to take care of her. After her brother died last year. It was hard for her to remember basic things like walk in the door when we're there together I always make sure that her door is carefully locked. She always forgets to lock her windows but I make sure to do that too. It's important to keep my road safe. I hate everything that makes Rose sad. Her family makes her sad a lot. Her brother made her sad the most. Sometimes he would call her late at night wake him. Both of us up yelling about how ungrateful she was for moving away from him and her mother. After those phone calls she went to sleep just cry. And my heart would ache and my hands would tremble. Now that he's dead I hope she will realize that she doesn't need to always do what her family wants. Lately her mother has been calling a lot to yell at Rose. She wants Rose to move back home but Rose wants to stay in town with me of course. Some I get tired dealing with her depression or find her forgetfulness or clumsiness annoying. But I don't mind. I would do anything for her if that means I get to keep her forever like the other day when I heard the crash of a bottle in the kitchen where she was making dinner. I got up to go help her because I was worried that she'd cut herself from broken glass. But then I remembered that I cannot leave my hiding place. It's been hard to hold myself back to keep myself hidden but I have to be near her. I need to watch her sleep every night just to reassure myself that this world is worth living and I remember how hard it was to leave her when I had to stop. Her brother's drug calls but now I will have to end her mother's calls. Hopefully once everyone who makes her sad is gone and I don't have to leave her anymore. Rose will pay more attention to me when she buys coffee in the morning because she'll know I'm the only one who will ever be there for her and will ever love her. Maybe not now but soon. I am patient. I can wait. So let me just ask you this. You seem like a very sweet nice person. Where does this come from. That's a good question. It was hard to write this story. The first draft I did I felt like it wasn't creepy enough and so I had to listen to some like darker music played a lot of flouris the machine played a lot of David Bowie. I just pondered on this character and I thought about things that way creeped me out if I was a reader and I just went with that and so somehow I came out like that. So yeah. That was author Sarah S.A.S. reading her poem scary story winter a rose for me be listening tomorrow and Wednesday as Beth brings you two more tales of madness from San Diego writers.

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.