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Ghost story contest winner: Essay, age 16 and older

The winner for our ghost stories contest is "Loose Ends" by J. Mattingly.

Judges remarks: "Our adult author used strong storytelling tactics in this light, descriptive Halloween narrative. The theme was imaginative and appealing. The tale was filled with good detail and wrapped up with a bone-chilling conclusion."

Here is the story:

When I was a teenager, I had a paper route for several years. At the end of each month, I would make the rounds collecting subscription fees. Late one evening I knocked on the door of a sweet old lady who lived alone. Her door had windows at the top, and I would always see her come down the stairs to meet me. This night was the same as usual, she answered the door, said she'd be right back, shut the door, and I watched as she went back up the stairs.

Only this time she never came back.

I waited ten minutes, then went next door to another customer and mentioned what happened. He gave me the strangest look, and went to fetch a key he had to her house. I waited outside as he went in and searched the house. He returned to say there was no one home, and that the lady had gone to spend Thanksgiving with her children in another state. I apologized profusely, embarrassed that I must be seeing things, but he just laughed it off and said "no problem" . I finished my rounds after that, went home and went to bed early to catch up on my sleep.

The next week I received a cancellation notice for her address, but another month went by before I went collecting again and found out why.

The neighbor said she had passed away suddenly at her daughter's house, the same day I had gone to collect from her. We both just stared at each other, speechless.

This is not fiction. Every word is true.

(All winners should contact The Herald to claim their prize.)