Sunderland Spooky Stories

Spooky Stories

Have you got a spooky story you want to share?

It is the season for stories that go bump in the night and we are looking for the most terrifying tales you'll ever write! 


We are looking for 500 words of mischief, mishaps and mayhem that are going to put a spell on our judges.

It's easy to enter, and the rules are simple.

Your Judging panel -

David Turton - Local writer of dark fiction and horror
Dr Sarah Dobbs - Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Sunderland university
Maisie Raine - Local Author
Anne Twine - Local Author
Wayne Madden - Journalist
The Sunderland Libraries Services team

Others to be confirmed.

And the timetable -

Wednesday 1 September | Open for Entries
Friday 1 October | Competition Closes

Monday 4 to Monday 18 October | Judging
Friday 22 October | Winners Announced 
Friday 29 October | Stories Released for everyone to enjoy!

The entry criteria -

  • Your story must not exceed 500 words
    (The total number of words can be under 500 but not over).
  • The most thrilling and endearing stories will be shortlisted
    The story must be relevant to Halloween – the spookier the better!
  • Entries will be judged on the following criteria – Originality, Plot, Characterisation, Language and Enjoyment
    (There will be no criteria regarding spelling or grammar).
  • The categories are 5 - 9 years, 10 - 13 years and 14 - 18 years
    (An entrant’s age will be determined by their age on the closing date of Friday 1 October 2021).
  • You may be required to provide proof of age
  • An adult can scribe for a child in the 5 - 9 age category but no words can be changed
  • More than one story can be submitted by each child, but it must be all their own words
  • There will be one winner in each category out of a shortlist of four.
  • You must submit your story online. In addition to the 500 words story, you will need to provide a story title, name of the writer plus age and postcode
  • You must live in Sunderland and the surrounding area.
  • Postcodes include SR1 - SR8 and NE36, NE37, NE38, DH4 and DH5
  • Entry opens on Monday 1 September
  • The deadline for entry is Friday 1 October at midnight.
  • Winners and the shortlisted writers must agree to have their story published and shared online / at an event / by our promotional partners (It would be great if you could read your story yourself although we can use actors - younger entrants can of course be helped by parents & siblings)
  • Shortlisted stories may be featured in our promotion along with the winners
  • Entries that contain unsuitable material will be disqualified from entry
  • Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide feedback.
Tell your terrifying tales


Sunderland's Spooky Story competition is part of the City's 'Lights Out' Halloween programme, partnered with Sunderland Libraries Services
as part of the Sunderland Libraries' Literature Festival that happens each year in October.

Hashtags – #SundSpookyStories #LightsOut #MakemMonsterHunt

Partnered with Sunderland City Council and supported by Waterstones Sunderland in The Bridges.

Meet the Judges

David Turton

David Turton

Author of dark fiction and horror

I have been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pencil and I especially love a quirky or unexpected ending. I am always hugely impressed by how imaginative and creative the young people of this city are. The best stories for me are ones that have a twist or take the reader by surprise. I am looking forward to reading stories that make me smile or send shivers down my spine!

Anne Twine


Local Author

I cannot wait to see what the clever young people of Sunderland can come up with for this fantastic writing competition! It's such an exciting challenge, one you can really get your teeth into (vampire teeth?) It will be my pleasure to play a part in judging these stories, and I shall be looking for spooky settings, creepy characters and a possible twist in the tale to leave your readers guessing – and shaking, too. Have fun with your creative writing everyone. Woohoo! Or, should that be…wooohhh?

Wayne Madden

Wayne Madden

New Enterprise Studios CIC (NES)

I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and it's always been about a great narrative, for me imagination is one of the most amazing gifts we are given in life and to be able to think of a situation - whether it's inspired by something that has happened to us in our lives, or something we like or whether it's completely original and unique - make sure you're taking the reader on a journey, through that narrative, and that you're enjoying that journey as well. I look forward to reading all your submissions and good luck, you'll do fantastic!

Dr Sarah Dobbs

Dr Sarah Dobbs

Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing

Entering writing competitions makes sure you finish something! If you want to be a writer, it's also a good place to get your stories noticed. I tend to be gripped by a really good hook and a strong voice. Don't try to be anyone else and if you think you have a good idea, really go for it. When you think you're finished, just read your story again and see if you can sharpen it up. And then do that again...

Maisie Raine

Maisie Raine

Local Author

I am delighted to be invited to be a judge this year! I found one of the best things about teaching was allowing a young person to use their imagination to see what they came up with! Whether it will be a funny piece of writing, very investigative or extremely scary, this will be your creation; own it.

Plan your work before you begin, make sure to check any important facts you use, and enjoy the piece you are creating. It's a part of you. As a judge, I will look for enjoyment in someone's writing. Do you love the subject you're writing about? Choose a topic that interests you and excites you; wanting to talk to other people about a topic close to you is a sign of good writing. Above all, enjoy what you are creating!