Arts and Entertainment

Libraries' 'The Witching Hour' Short Story contest seeks spooky submissions

Creative writing entries and voting accepted Oct. 5-30

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Do you like scary stories? Penn State University Libraries invites Penn State students, faculty and staff to unleash their creativity and submit their best spooky creative writing to the Short Stories “The Witching Hour” themed writing contest.

We’re all afraid of something; for this contest, the Short Stories editorial board wants to see your specters, your ghouls, and your ghosts. As the sun sets beyond the horizon and the witching hour settles upon us, cast a spell with tales of things that go bump in the night — the legend of the haunted house hidden in the woods, the myth of the monster hiding under the bed. The editorial board requests stories that linger in darkened corners and creep through dim-lit halls, that you almost dare not speak in hushed tones around flickering campfires. Take cobweb-covered nightmares and spin them into something that will make us want to sleep with the light on. So, before you submit, ask yourself: What am I afraid of?

“The Witching Hour” contest is open for submissions Monday, Oct. 5, through Friday, Oct. 30. Qualifying lengths are as follows: Short-story submissions should not exceed 8,000 characters, including spaces; and poetry submissions should not exceed 6,000 characters.

"I'm super excited about the upcoming contest,” said Ashton Zillhardt, a senior at Penn State Berks and member of the voting editorial board. “I've always been fascinated with Halloween and the kind of stories that are told around a campfire and stick with you for the rest of your life. If you've watched shows like 'Goosebumps' and 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?', you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.” Zillhardt, who proposed the theme to the editorial board, said it was well received by the group with anticipation that the entries received will be “spooky and memorable."

Submissions must be received before Oct. 30 to be considered. Stories and poems accepted by the editorial board will be published on the Short Edition website in early November, during which time the public is encouraged to vote for their favorites. From across the commonwealth, five winners will be chosen: four selected by the editorial board and one “voter favorite” winner, chosen by the public on the website. Each of the five winning student authors will receive $100 and have their story or poem published on the Libraries' 10 Penn State Short Edition short-story dispensers. Honorable mentions, chosen by the editorial board and community voters, will also be chosen and published on the dispensers. Any applicants from the Penn State community are eligible to win honorable mention.

During the duration of the contest, the public is encouraged to visit the Short Stories website to read and vote for their favorite submissions. Although only Penn State students are eligible to win prizes, all qualifying submissions will be posted for voting and comments and will be considered for use in the dispensers. 

Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers at the University Park campus can be found at: 

  • Paterno Library entrance
  • Pattee Library mall entrance
  • Grange Building entrance at Pollock Road
  • Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library, 201 Davey Lab

In addition, Penn State Libraries short-story dispensers also are at, or near:

  • Schlow Centre Region Library, State College, Pennsylvania
  • Penn State Abington College Library  
  • John M. Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend
  • Berks Thun Library at Penn State Berks
  • John D. Vairo Library at Penn State Brandywine
  • Penn State Harrisburg Library

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some short story campus dispensers may be inoperable. For up-to-date information about dispenser access, for voting or for more information about “The Witching Hour" writing contest, visit

Questions about the Libraries Short Stories writing contests, the Libraries Short Stories online platform, or short-story dispensers’ curricular or co-curricular use can be directed to Student Engagement Coordinator Hailley Fargo at

Last Updated September 23, 2020