816 North

Our Halloween tale needs your ending


Halloween is around the corner and 913 wants to celebrate with a spine-tingling, goosebump-inspiring ghost story. Written by you, our creative, talented readers.

We’ve started the story with a 500-word introduction to our main character, Fred. Now it’s up to you to finish the tale. We will publish at least two of the best, chosen by Star editors. (And two top winners will each receive a $50 Target gift card.)

We have some rules, of course. The story must be your original work, 1,000 to 1,500 words. It must mention two of these places and at least one in Johnson County: Mahaffie House in Olathe; Olathe Memorial Cemetery; the clock tower in downtown Overland Park; the Darth Vader building in Overland Park; Union Cemetery, KCI, Smithville Lake, William Jewell College in the Northland.

Entries must begin with The Star’s introduction; writers may modify up to five details.

The deadline: Oct. 7. Email submissions to ghobson@kcstar.com. Please put “ghost story” in the subject line.

The introduction:

When he was a living, breathing creature, nobody paid much mind to Fred.

In his 36 years on planet Earth, he’d attended more than a few parties, mostly invitations from well-meaning co-workers at his accounting firm. A few flirtations here and there, sure, but once he started in on 401(k) plans or capital gains, eyes glazed over. When he first set his eyes on her at his favorite barbecue joint, all thoughts of finances were tossed aside as quickly as short ribs gnawed to the bone.

She seemed destined to appear here and there in his life: He was quite certain he’d caught a glimpse of her when he was rushing across Kansas City International Airport to pick up his sister and her brood. And he’d spotted his dark-haired beauty at one of his favorite haunts (so to say), the Olathe Memorial Cemetery, drifting from one gravestone to the next, pausing with respect at each.

His true passions in life were clearly shared by this Kansas City native, and that would be the rich history of 19th-century Kansas City, and what the city was known for now. Barbecue. On this day she was dining on a platter filled with the very finest — from short ribs to brisket, pickle nestled atop toasted bread.

She grinned up at him, sauce slightly smeared across her chin.

Oddly, she seemed to flicker in and out of his vision. She was there and then, in a blink, she was gone.

Oh, he thought in his final moments, gazing at the last bite of a brisket sandwich. What guts it would take to go say hello.

In the end — and it was — he figured it could have been his fault. Call it a passion for burnt ends and short ribs. Call it the curse of genetics. All 307 pounds of Fred felt a sharp pain in his chest, and the next thing he knew he was floating above a crowd at his own funeral. Aside from his parents and his sister, who was chasing after her three small children, few seemed to mourn Fred.

It was mid-October, prime barbecue season, when Fred was pulled from his nirvana.

Stuck between Earth and a place he could only imagine would be bliss, he tried to fit in as a quintessential ghost on a quest to find his brown-eyed, sloppy-faced dream girl. The one he now knew was not of the old world he once plodded through.

He had a few strikes against him. First, he was bit young to be hanging with some of the famous ghosts in Kansas City. To them he was an upstart, and there’s nothing like being snubbed by a ghost to humble a man. Or whatever he was.

Frankly, if Fred were a jack-o’-lantern, he would have been carved by a child’s hand. Standard features, pleasant but bland look (think triangle eyes, turn the triangle upside down for a nose, crooked grin).

This was new territory, and he was ready to finally give that face some character. And find his woman. But how?