Frightening First Lines—2019

We invited you to create the first line of a frightening story. Just the first line.

You could actually use more than one sentence, but the limit was 31 words.

Here we present the winner and finalists:


Uncle Joe led Scout troop meetings every Thursday night. There he taught us all essential camping skills: fire-building, whittling, tying knots. Uncle Joe was good with a rope.

William Loew
New York, NY


Once, I knew a girl who could only eat the hearts of things. The cores of carrots, the yolks of eggs, the butcher’s leavings, and the meaty hearts of virtuous men.

Lei Wang
Iowa City, Iowa

The yellow stroller lay upturned, straddling the gap between the train and the platform.

Isaiah Pittman
New York, NY

Can you help me throw up? I think my mother poisoned me.

Long Beach, CA

Three: the number of occupied chairs in the funeral parlor... but at least the mortician did excellent work on my corpse.

Jonathan Bronico
Boston, MA

Your head was in my lap when the wind rolled through the crack in the window and rattled the strands of your hair. Your body was still in the freezer.

Harmonie Rosenberg
New York, NY