Sunderland 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 -

Keith Merrin - Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture
David Turton - Local writer of dark fiction and horror
Joseph Chow - Finalist on the BBC’s Greatest Dancer
Katy Wheeler - Lifestyle Editor at Sunderland Echo and North East Press
Dr Sarah Dobbs - Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Sunderland university
Sunderland Library Services -  Librarians Janet Simm and Carolyn Jessop

And the timetable -

Monday 5 October - Entry open
Monday 19 October - Competition Closes
19 - 23 October - Judging Week
24/25 October - Winners/Shortlisted informed 
26 - 30 October - Winning and shortlisted stories to be recorded (virtually or otherwise!)
31 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 entrants age will be determined by their age on the closing date of Monday 19 October 2020).
  • 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 5 October
  • The deadline for entry is Monday 19 October at midnight.
  • Winners and the shortlisted writers must agree to have their story published and we are looking for winners to record themselves reading their story to camera to share on Saturday 31 October. (Younger entrants can 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

Keith Merrin

Keith Merrin

Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture

In my work with Sunderland Culture 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!

Joseph Chow

Joseph Chow

BBC The Greatest Dancer Runner Up 

In this competition, I am looking for something that is original, with lots of imagination and something which is super spooky to keep me on the edge of my seat. But most of all I want everyone to have lots of fun writing their spooky stories and wish everyone the best of luck.

Katy Wheeler

Katy Wheeler

Sunderland Echo and North East press Lifestyle Editor

You can, and should, imagine anything you want! I'm looking forward to reading spooky stories about fantastical worlds and invented characters this Halloween. Stories that will appeal to me will have a touch of silliness that makes me laugh or smile! I wish you the very best of luck – enjoy the process and keep at it!

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...