Ghost Story Challenge Winners Announced!

Celebrate Halloween with Spooky Stories Galore from Your Library

We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Ghost Story Challenge! Community members heard the news firsthand when they gathered at Casa Cassara Winery in Solvang on October 26 for “The Final Reckoning,” the culminating event for the Goleta & Santa Ynez Valley Libraries Ghost Story Challenge. Contest participants and their friends, teachers, and families listened to the winning entries as they were read aloud by the authors and applauded as winners received prizes and books for their spooky submissions.

Now all the frightful submissions are available for you to read on the Ghost Story Challenge 2023 page of the library website! A total of 119 entries were received during the month of September from authors in the Middle School, High School, and Adult age categories. Library staff were impressed by the talent and enthusiasm of our community, whose 500-word entries ranged from horrifying to humorous.

After multiple rounds of review by the contest’s local and celebrity judges, here are the winners in each of the categories below:

Middle School Category:

  • Scariest story went to Adeline Eliana Martinez of Solvang School, for “Bus Stop”; and Runner-up to Sarah Martiny of Goleta Valley Jr. High, for “Don’t Open the Door!”
  • Most Original Story was “Witch Hunt” by Lillian Paige Van Eyck from Our Lady of Mount Carmel School; Runner-up was “Spooky Dookie,” by Charlie Leonard of Dunn Middle School.
  • Best Dialogue was awarded to Hazel Chevitarese of Santa Barbara Middle School, for “A Light in the Dark”; Runner-up to Griffin Rowles of Dunn Middle School for “Gone Camping.”
  • Best Plot award went to Johnny Kump of Jonata Middle School, for “He’s Gone.”
  • Best Craft was awarded to “The Whispering Trees” by Nadia Milani Comparetti of Santa Barbara Middle School; Runner-up was “The Void” by Cooper Elliott of Dunn Middle School.
  • Library Staff Favorite award was given to Bruno Rakowski of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School for “The Store.”
  • Overall Best in Challenge for the Middle school category went to Jane Hanson of Mountain View Middle School, for “A Flaming Ghost.”

High School Category:

  • “Toy Crazy” by Ethan J. Hicks of Dos Pueblos High School was named Scariest; and Emma Tesdahl of Riverview School was awarded Most Original for her story “Lost and Found.”
  • Best Dialogue went to Chloe Minor of Dos Pueblos High School for “It’s Dark in the Forest”; Runner-up to Cole Weaver of Santa Barbara High School for “The Ghosts of Babylon.”
  • Best Plot was awarded to Sadie Godfrey of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School for her story, “Already Dead”; Runner-up to Sofia Tinajero, also of SYVUHS, for “The Interview.”
  • Best Craft was won by Reagan Lee Widroe of Providence High School for “The Things We Cannot See”; and a special Judges Favorite award went to Samuel Vazquez of Santa Ynez Valley High School for “Hidden Revenge.”
  • Overall Best in Challenge for the High School category went to “Puppy Love” by Adelina Kelley of Dos Pueblos High School; Runner-up to Benke Sepulveda of Dunn School for “Leaves and Shadows.”

Adult Category:

  • Jennifer Gunner’s “Life Sentence” won Scariest; runner-up was “A Quick Trip for a Long Stay” by Andrea Tufekcic.
  • “All Hallow’s Eve” by Stacy Arnold-Strider was named Most Original; Runner-up was “The Tiny Footprint Fabricator” by Celena Garcia.
  • Bruce Berlow’s story, “What to Feed a Monster” was awarded Best Writer’s Craft; Runner-up was “Don’t Bury Me” by Rose Filitchkin.
  • “Overdue” by Peggy Kelly was Named Library Staff’s Favorite.
  • Overall Best in Challenge for the Adult Category was awarded to “Demon” by R.K. Jackson.

Congratulations to all the authors who participated in this year’s Challenge!

Be sure to check our online calendar and visit the library website at to stay in-the-know on all our services and upcoming programs.

The Goleta & Santa Ynez Valley Libraries extend their heartfelt appreciation for the support of the judges and program sponsors who made this contest a hauntingly successful event. Sponsors include: The Friends of the Goleta Valley Library, The Friends of the Library of Santa Ynez Valley, Casa Cassara Winery & Vineyard, The Haunt Ghost Tours, and Solvang Parks and Recreation.

Middle School winners Hazel Chevitarese, Johnny Kump, Adeline Eliana Martinez, Griffin Rowles, Bruno Rakowski, and Lillian Paige Van Eyck

High School winners Emma Tesdahl, Adelina Kelley, Benke Sepulveda, and Sadie Godfrey

Adult winners Jennifer Gunner, Andrea Tufekcic, R.K. Jackson, and Celina Garcia