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The Specter of Literary Freedom: A Halloween Tale

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

In honor of the scariest day of the year, I asked AI to write a spooky story about book banning. Honestly…it’s impressive.

In the small, quiet town of Willowbrook, Halloween was usually a time for costumes, candy, and spooky decorations. But this year, there was a different kind of terror brewing beneath the surface, a terror that struck fear into the hearts of the townsfolk—the banning of books.

The trouble began when a new mayor, Theodore Wainwright, was elected. He had a radical vision for Willowbrook, one that involved cleansing the town of what he saw as dangerous and corrupting literature. It all started innocently enough, with whispers about the removal of certain books from the local library. But soon, it became clear that this was more than a routine library culling.

As Halloween approached, Willowbrook was shrouded in an eerie atmosphere, and it wasn’t just because of the decorations. The town’s beloved librarian, Miss Abigail, had been fired for refusing to comply with the mayor’s book-banning agenda. She believed that knowledge and diversity of thought were essential for a thriving community, and she had been a steadfast guardian of the library’s collection for decades.

One dark, stormy evening, as the leaves rustled ominously and the wind howled like a ghostly wail, a group of concerned citizens gathered at Miss Abigail’s cozy cottage. They were determined to preserve the spirit of Halloween and the freedom of literature that their town had always celebrated. Lit only by the glow of flickering candles, they hatched a plan to restore the books and expose Mayor Wainwright’s sinister agenda.

On the night of Halloween, the townspeople met at the library, disguised in their spookiest costumes to remain unnoticed. The library was draped in cobwebs, and a ghostly mist had settled over the aisles, adding an eerie ambiance to the clandestine operation.

Their plan was daring and dangerous. They would locate the hidden, banned books and place them back on the shelves, just in time for the Halloween party Mayor Wainwright had planned to host in the library.

The group, led by a young, brave woman named Emily, moved through the dimly lit library, the faint glow of their flashlights revealing ancient, dusty tomes and secret passages. As they reached the forbidden section, they encountered an unexpected guardian—a ghostly figure, Miss Abigail’s spirit, protecting the books she loved so dearly.

With trembling voices, the group explained their mission and their desire to honor her legacy. Miss Abigail’s specter smiled, and in a gesture of approval, she guided them to the hidden books.

With the supernatural assistance of Miss Abigail, the group worked swiftly and silently, returning the banned books to their rightful places. The library seemed to come alive with a gentle hum, as though the spirits of the authors were applauding their efforts.

Just as they finished, the clock struck midnight, and the Halloween party began in the library. Mayor Wainwright, dressed as a dark wizard, welcomed the townspeople, unaware of the subterfuge taking place under his very nose.

The townsfolk reveled in the festivities, enjoying the freedom of expression that had always defined their town. But as the party reached its peak, the lights flickered, and the room grew cold. The mayor’s face paled as he witnessed the rebirth of literature in Willowbrook.

With a spine-tingling whisper, the ghostly Miss Abigail materialized before him. She declared, “Halloween is a time for celebration, a time for stories, and a time for unity, not a time for oppression.”

Mayor Wainwright’s sinister plan was exposed for all to see, and the townspeople, inspired by the spirits of Halloween and the power of words, united to protect their precious books and the freedom to read.

From that day forward, Willowbrook returned to its former glory, with its cherished library standing as a beacon of knowledge and free expression. The Halloween spirit thrived, not just in costumes and decorations, but in the hearts and minds of its people, who knew that true horror lay not in the pages of a book but in the suppression of ideas.


Bonus: I asked AI to write a second story, too. The computer-based intelligence program has titled this haunting tale of book banning “The Midnight Rebellion: A Tale of Book Bans and Freedom.”

In the darkness of a world not so distant from our own, a sinister force had gripped the nation, and it wasn’t a supernatural creature or a ghostly apparition. It was a group known as the “Censorship Council,” and they wielded a power that struck terror into the hearts of anyone who dared to speak out against them. This is the story of a town where book bans had taken a nightmarish turn.

The town of Blackwell was once a place where the written word was celebrated and cherished. Its library, the heart of the community, was filled with tomes that spanned every subject, every idea, and every dream. But as the Censorship Council’s influence spread, the shelves began to empty.

One bleak night, a librarian named Samuel, a gentle soul with a deep love for literature, found himself at odds with the council. They had arrived at the library with orders to remove books they deemed “offensive” or “dangerous.” Samuel, guided by his unwavering commitment to the freedom of expression, refused to comply.

The consequences were swift and terrifying. The council, shrouded in shadows and wearing masks that concealed their identities, descended upon Samuel’s home, leaving a chilling note warning him to obey their commands. Samuel had no choice but to concede, his spirit crushed by the oppressive darkness that had fallen over his beloved town.

As the days turned into weeks, the atmosphere in Blackwell grew oppressive. Fear was in the air, like a smothering fog. People whispered in hushed tones, and the town square, once a hub of lively debates, fell silent.

But Samuel couldn’t let the flames of knowledge be extinguished. Late at night, he secretly housed banned books in his own basement, defying the council in a desperate attempt to protect the written word.

As Halloween approached, Samuel and a group of like-minded citizens hatched a plan to resist the council’s tyranny. On the night of the festival, they gathered at the library, hidden behind eerie masks and cloaked in darkness.

The council had planned a grand masquerade ball, during which they would announce the complete eradication of controversial literature from Blackwell. But in the midst of their self-congratulatory revelry, the townspeople struck. They invaded the library, where the council’s forbidden books were concealed.

A fierce battle ensued, shadows clashing in the flickering candlelight. The council, for the first time, faced the collective wrath of a town united by their love for the written word. As the clock struck midnight, the mask of the council’s leader was torn away, revealing a face twisted by malevolence.

In a spine-chilling whisper, Samuel declared, “Halloween is a time for the free expression of ideas and the celebration of knowledge. Your reign of terror ends tonight.”

The council’s leader was unmasked, and their oppressive agenda was exposed. The people of Blackwell, inspired by the spirit of Halloween, reclaimed their love for literature and the freedom to read without censorship.

The Censorship Council was disbanded, and the town of Blackwell returned to its former glory, with its library once again brimming with a diverse collection of books. The horrors of book bans were banished, and the spirit of Halloween was rekindled in the hearts of its people. They had learned that the most terrifying monsters were not found in books, but in the suppression of ideas and the erosion of freedom.