Tales of the Dead Winners – Read the Stories

October 4, 2023

Baltimore County Public Library and Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library challenged writers of all ages to write original horror stories with a “Petrifying Poe” theme in their Tales of the Dead Short Horror Story Contest. Entrants were encouraged to be creative with the theme and they delivered. The contest ran from August 1 through September 22, and criteria for judging included originality, fear factor, quality of writing and incorporation of the theme. Seven winners were chosen by a panel of judges, four in the 21 and Over category (with a tie for third place), and three in the Under 21 category. All three Under 21 winners were from local schools.

To read the stories, click on the titles below.In the 21 and Over category:

  • Lynn McKenzie of Reisterstown took first place for “House of Wax,” a chilling story set in an alternate universe where Poe left a possibly cursed unpublished manuscript behind after his death.
  • Second place went to Owings Mills resident David Tillman for “Beneath the Window,” a poem in the style of “The Raven” about man’s late-night encounter with an otherworldly being.
  • In a tie for third place are Adan Rodriguez of Towson for “Now Is the Time to Worry,” about a mysterious handyman who refuses to leave, and Carrie Donovan of Germany for “Poe Nevermore,” featuring Edgar Allan Poe himself addressing his own death through a medium.

In the Under 21 category:

  • Ella Emhoff, a 15-year-old at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, won first place for “There Is No Happiness Here,” about a young woman investigating the gory murder of her best friend…with a little help from her dead friend.
  • Second place went to “Estranged” by Ella Dengler, an eighth grader at Hereford Middle School, the story of a young woman on her way to visit her estranged family when an unexpected storm forces her to pull over at an abandoned—and possibly haunted?—rest stop.
  • Maaz Ijaz, a 13-year-old at Parkville Middle School, took third place for “The Haunting of Ravenshade Mansion,” which tells of a young man’s exploration of a possessed mansion.


Pictured: Winners Ella Dengler (left) and Ella Emhoff (right) at the Under 21 Tales of the Dead Celebration.

Foundation for Baltimore County Public Library congratulates all the winners for writing stories that would make Mr. Poe proud.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.