The Déjà vu Disenchanted Ghost Story Sample Clichés

The staff at Dark Recesses challenges you bring us the best ghost story ever written.  We do want cliché, and we want it bad!  Bad would be good, in this case.  If you go for satire, then timing, execution and balance are critical.  We want humor, not cheese.  If you bring us something dramatic or thrilling, or God help us, ‘haunting’, drive the story to the bone.  Make it tight, make the characters vivid, move us enough so that we’ll remember it tomorrow, and forget the hundreds of other entries using the same story line.  The winning story will successfully entertain and will also demonstrate remarkable craft.

In your story you may inject as many as you wish of the following clichés, or bring about ones of your own:

  • Ghosts were wronged in his/her life and are disenchanted.
  • Ghosts always appear for short periods of time early on, and for longer periods of time as the story progresses.
  • Doors willfully shut behind the protagonist moments after he/she enters.
  • Something always moves, caught in the corner of the protagonist’s eye. 
  • Flies or some other disgusting arthropod vermin appear in the vicinity of the moving object.
  • The sound of ceiling rafters warping insures that a character will respond with “it’s just the wind”.
  • Room gets cold/at least one characters breath can be seen to indicate this change of temperature.
  • Chains in the attic/basement
  • Footsteps in an empty room
  • A character glimpses someone or something in a mirror.  Subject turns around and nothing is there.
  • The painting above the mantle changes.  Every time you look at it, the expression on the face changes.
  • Fog drifts around places where ghosts will appear.
  • Moon is always full or new.
  • In a forest, just before an encounter, a wolf or coyote will howl
  • Dark alleys are cluttered with heaping stacks garbage around dumpsters – once again flies and other disgusting arthropod vermin can be heard in it’s vicinity
  • If a character runs, they are snagged by thick underbrush, only to trip and fall.
  • Ghosts leave messages on foggy mirrors.
  • Water drips from the kitchen sink, and it echoes throughout the house.
  • If someone runs bathwater, expect a dead person to appear in the tub at some point.
  • The answer lies in the well.  Someone at some point fell in and died in there.
  • Ghosts like to disrupt TV shows to communicate with viewers in the room.
  • The cat (preferably black) arches it’s back and hisses for absolutely no reason.
  • Mediums need darkness and silence, because ghosts are shy.
  • Candles flicker just before contact is made.
  • Doors blow open in thunder, lightning and windstorm when the wrong ghost is pissed off.
  • During suspenseful scenes in dark rooms, a cat will jump from up high and screech.
  • Ghosts flaunt the wounds (blood and severed limbs) that killed them.
  • When the elevator opens, there will be a big surprise inside; maybe even a pool of blood.
  • A character will ignore all warnings, and stumble stupidly into a tragic end.
  • Ghosts are a step ahead of the protagonist.
  • Cattle, horses, sheep all stir in the coral.
  • Ghosts communicate through computers.
  • The pointer that flies off the Quija board in response to an undesired question.
  • Static on the radio – I you listen closely, voices can be heard in the noise.
  • Ghosts are very clumsy – they knock things over and break stuff a lot.
  • The piano plays on its own, and won’t stop.
  • Ghosts hate busy office buildings – too distracting.
  • Ghosts love quiet, dark, spooky places.
  • Ghosts don’t know they are dead.

You have between 1000 - 2,500 words; not a cold breath more or less.

The contest is open to submissions from July 1st, 2006 -  November 30th, 2006. 

The prize for our WINNER TAKES ALL contest is $500 in cold hard US cash, a numbered, signed, HC copy of “Bloodstained Oz” by Christopher Golden and James A. Moore, and publication in Issue 6 of Dark Recesses Press, due out January 1st, 2007.

Only the winner will be notified due to the sheer number of submissions we deal with in our regular submissions and the contest entries. Once a winner has been selected, an update will be posted under our News section.

Please send your entry as an attached word document or .rtf file with the word 'Contest Submission' in the subject line. Stories embedded in the body of an email will go unread.

All submissions should be left justified, 12pt arial or times new roman font, single spaced with NO extra returns between paragraphs and no indents. Your name and the title of the story must appear on the first page of your entry. (Click HERE to see formatting sample)

Entries for the contest should be sent to

Entry fee is $5 US - Preferably through PayPal. (If the PayPal account name is different than the contest entrant's, please include the name under which the entry fee was paid.)

If PayPal is simply not an option for you, payment can be made via snail mail to (all contest entries must be sent electronically):

Dark Recesses Press
Box 2184
100 Mile House, BC
Canada V0K 2E0