We asked creative writers in grade one through eight to dream up a spooky ending for an unfinished tale, written by reporter Stephanie Earls, about a ghostly encounter on Halloween night.

Kiersten Byrd, an eighth grader at Holmes Middle School, penned our winning conclusion, weaving Earls’ cliffhanger into a chilling finale that nonetheless ended on an up beat.

Read on for Earls’ story prompt with Byrd’s ending and the conclusion from our second- and third-place winners — Jack Packard, an eighth grader at Holmes Middle School, and Elizabeth Dalton, a sixth grader at Lewis-Palmer Elementary — as well as endings from a few Gazette staffers who took up the challenge for fun. You also can see our first ever story conclusion submitted in comic strip format, by Clare James, a sixth grader at The Colorado Springs School.

The Coffin Window

The zombie twitched to life, its milky eyes aglow with an eerie green light as it clawed the air for its next victim.

At least until the breaker tripped.

By the time my mom could reset the power, the first trick-or-treaters were hitting their stride across the street and a ghost was hovering on the sidewalk in front of our house.

“Good job,” said the ghost, surveying my now-static Halloween displays with what I hoped was appreciation of the best decorated yard in town. “If only it had a motion-activated animatronic zombie.”

I couldn’t see the ghost’s face behind the crudely cut eye holes of the costume, a sheet so long it trailed the ground on all sides, but I sensed a smile.

“Ancient house, ancient electrical. Guess I’m going to have to get rid of one of these guys,” I said, gazing around mournfully.

“Why don’t you run some of them on a different circuit?” the ghost suggested. “Plug the cord inside, fish it through that window there and — voila — back in business.”

“Good idea,” I said. Why hadn’t I thought of it?

I collected the extension cord and went inside to the big window in the sitting room that opened onto the front porch.

I plugged in the line, flipped the latch and gave the window an upward push. I felt a crack — not of breaking glass, but a skeletal, seismic pop emanating from what seemed like the building itself.

“It’s painted shut,” I yelled.

Beyond my own reflection, I could see my friendly neighborhood ghost had moved to the porch and now was directly on the other side of the glass. The voice sounded much closer though.

“Do you know why this window is larger than the others? Because in olden times, when the dead would lie in state, at home, they needed a window big enough for a casket to fit through. They called it the Coffin Window,” the ghost said. “You broke the seal. Try again. You push, I’ll pull.”

I planted my feet, leaned in and heaved.

This time, the window slid up so fast it was like it had been greased. So fast I lost my balance and nearly tumbled through the open casement — into a deep, cold, starless twilight that hadn’t been there when I walked inside a minute earlier.

A hand on my shoulder stopped my fall, but only long enough for the ghost to say two words, a sinister smile in its voice.

“Good job!”

FIRST PLACE

Kiersten Byrd, eighth grade, Holmes Middle School

“Thanks” I said, smiling at the ghost. I started to think, who’s under that ghost sheet? The voice sounded masculine, and kind of like my neighbor down the street, so I figured it was someone I knew.

After a minute of full silence, I took a breath and was about to ask the ghost who he was, but looking around there was no one to be seen. I looked left and right and there was simply no sign of any life.

I finished setting up the electrical wires and went inside the house, proud of what was completed. I entered the house, and as I walked in, I saw a note attached to the refrigerator. The note looked dirty and was taped with clear tape.

I opened the note with the message, “Thanks for letting me help you tonight with your decorations and freeing me. I died here in 1989 and have been stuck here ever since because my coffin never got transported out the window, as it should have been. By opening the closed off window, you freed my soul, and now I am at peace. Thank you.”

The message left me confused, but at ease. I didn’t know how this could happen, maybe it was a prank, but nonetheless, if it was real, I had helped a stuck soul. Even if it wasn’t living.

SECOND PLACE

Jack Packard, eighth grade, Holmes Middle School

The ghost’s mischievous voice hung in the air. The sudden night carried his voice into the darkness before he tugged me into the house. I stood up on the old, creaking wooden floors, but stumbled when he let go of my arm.

I heard a cackling coming from the friendly neighborhood ghost. “This is what a coffin window is for!” he said with a hint of relish in his menacing voice.

And without a moment of hesitation, he shoved me backward. As I fell, my leg hit a hard, painful piece of wood behind me. I landed in an open wooden box.

Staring up with a look of betrayal and fear, I saw the ghost float over to the coffin and slam the lid over me. I began kicking at the wooden walls of the coffin in desperation before I felt it lifted with me inside, and I fell onto the lid of the coffin as I was heaved through the large window above the porch.

Bracing for impact, I clenched the muscles in my arms and legs to protect myself. I was ready to land with a thump, but instead felt as though I were floating. Lying on a bed, maybe. Confused, I opened one eye in a squint. Through my squint I saw morning light coming from my window and smelled a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Relief flooded over me. Just a dream.

THIRD PLACE

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ELIZABETH DALTON, sixth grade, Lewis-Palmer Elementary

“Wait wait wait, ummm, It wasn’t this dark before.” I said. Then, as I looked around, I realized that all the Halloween decorations had come alive. I was terrified.

My stomach churned and swirled. Not one human was to be seen. There were big skeletons stalking around. Animatronic zombies and witches loafed around. Something wet dripped and dribbled down my leg.

“Are you licking my foot?” I mentioned while cautiously turning around, “Because there’s something wet… AHHHH!”

The coffin window was alive! It gnawed on my big toe and though I was scared, it made me giggle.

“Please — ha ha! No,stop.” My eyes darted from the coffin window to the ghost.

“Ghost help me!” I shrieked. But before I could do anything, the ghost flew away. Back my eyes went to the coffin window. It sucked me up and I was stuck in an eternity of being tickled.

All of a sudden I woke up. Thank Goodness it was just a dream.

“Hey! “ Mom yelled “Your ghost friend is here to help you with the decorations!” I plopped my head back on the pillow. Should I go down? Would the same thing happen? My mind raced with questions.

Slowly, I walked down the stairs. My hand wrapped around the cold, smooth steel of the door handle. Then, all the furniture, windows, curtains and rugs came alive. An idea fluttered and expanded in my mind. I ran around tickling all the furniture. Thank you for the Idea, Coffin window.

Ending by Gazette reporter Jennifer Mulson

I went to wash the window dust off my hands and when I came back, the ghost was gone. I shrugged and continued to drop candy into the orange pumpkins of trick-or-treaters.

Around 10 p.m. I switched off the porchlight. Mom and Dad were already in bed and my sister was still out.

I had just ripped open a Twix when I heard it. Soft whispers coming from the sitting room. I froze. There it was again. A sussuration. Like two people were having a whispered conversation.

There was nothing I wanted to do less than walk into that room, but I forced my body to move. Taking slow steps to the doorway, I peered into the dark sitting room, where only the light of the half moon filtered in. But that was enough.

I could see two dark figures standing and leaning in toward each other at the window. Standing nearby were half a dozen, maybe 10, shadowy figures clumped together in a group.

The front window began to slide up by itself. A large coffin-shaped shadow appeared, held up by shadowy arms that helped slide it in through the open space. The whispering ceased.

I felt hot breath at my right ear and knew something was standing behind me. There was no doubt in my mind what it was — the ghost from earlier.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” it said. “Finally the portal is open. Prepare to mourn the rest of your days in this house.”

Ending by Gazette editor Bill Radford

“Yes, a very good job,” another voice agreed. This voice came from behind me, in the house.

I whirled around to face another ghost. Nobody with a sheet draped over them this time. But a true ghoul, a figure whose shape seemed to ebb and flow, eyes as dark as coal. And bearing the stench of death.

The figure then seemed to divide, several others arising, a host of ghosts and a murmuring I couldn’t quite make out. I shut my eyes, tightly, told myself to wake up, it was all a dream.

But it wasn’t. And when I opened my eyes, the figures were marching toward me.

And then, through me, like a dagger of ice slicing through my gut and my head, and the murmuring becoming a united scream. And then they were gone, out the window, into that inky darkness.

“Thank you.” The voice belonged to the original ghost, still outside, and now it was a gentle voice.

“Your house is indeed an old one,” he said. “And through those many years, there have been many souls that have lived there. And died there. And with the Coffin Window sealed, their spirits could not leave. You have freed them.”

And then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. And I was alone.

I took a deep breath. Waited to stop trembling. And did not plug in the zombie. I had had enough scares for the night.

Ending by Gazette reporter Stephanie Earls

Good thing I’d remembered to double-tie the extension cord around the leg of the piano, and my waist, before going over to open the window. I could feel one of the backup knots give way with a vertiginous hiccup as the ghostly grip pulled me over the sill and into the grayscale.

I was falling, falling through an icy abyss…until suddenly I wasn’t. I slammed face-down on the porch, ignoring the sparkle of pain in my shoulder to scramble to my feet. Ashen shapes on the sidewalk — echoes of trick-or-treaters, or the monsters that inspired them? — gazed at me with hollow eyes and half-interest as they passed.

I had to move fast. Already, the window was creeping down on its inexorable, mystical tracks.

I retreated as far as the tether would allow and hurled myself toward the ghost, wrapping my arms around its midsection as we connected. The force carried us both back through the coffin window, into the parlor, seconds before the sash slammed shut.

The house shuddered once, then went to sleep for another year.

I looked down at what I’d caught this time, as it twitched on the floor. A little old school for my taste, but I didn’t have one like it yet.

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