Third grader Ashlynn Ramsey is not afraid of ghosts or monsters. On Wednesday, she confronted a bigger fear: reading her scary story in front of an audience.

As Ashlynn spoke into the microphone, her eyes stayed locked on the sheet of paper in her hands. A squirrelly crowd of elementary students and their parents listened to her tale, but none were more engaged than her teacher and family in the front row.

The reading was the culmination of a ghost story contest organized by Students for the Promotion of Writing. This was the second year for the contest, which was part of Howl At The Moon, a family friendly event put on by the Oxford Community Arts Center.

The contest received 25 submissions this year from local elementary and middle school students. Prizes were awarded to the most creative and the scariest story in the contest’s two age groups, with honorable mentions for outstanding writing.

Celia Monroe, the president of Students for the Promotion of Writing, said that while spelling and grammar were considered when determining the winning stories, creativity was more important.

“Writing is a skill that you use your entire life,” Monroe said. “We wanted to allow kids to practice this form of creative expression beyond what they are doing in school.”

Story topics ranged from magic teleportation spells to a haunted horse stable, but Ashlynn’s story about an elderly couple that was haunted by “hobgnobs” was declared the scariest.

Ashlynn said Halloween is her favorite time of year because people are more willing to face their fears.

“People should get used to it,” she said. “They get free candy.”

Her prize for scariest story was a giant Hershey’s bar. The third grader shared her victory with her supporters, snapping off chocolate chunks for her uncle and baby cousin.

Overall, Howl At The Moon had more treats than tricks. The Oxford Community Arts Center’s front entrance greeted guests with dried corn husks, scarecrows and other fall-themed decor. Inside, guests enjoyed “monster munch” popcorn and “spider spun” cotton candy.

The north parlor had carnival games, mad libs and a mask-making table. Children dressed as butterflies and superheroes weaved between strollers as they raced to the next activity.

Not one to miss out on the fun, OCAC artist-in-residence Alisha Bond came with David, her six-year-old pirate. Bond said that the event had something for everyone, including parents.

“I think it gives the adults a chance to tap into their inner kids,” Bond said, dressed as a witch with a painted spider on her cheek.

The ballroom was home to a small marketplace, where tables sold everything from jewelry and soaps to plants and postcards. As older visitors meandered between stalls, the Jericho Old Time Band provided a folk soundtrack.

As for the spookier side of Halloween, a small haunted house stood ominously at the end of the south corridor. Strobe lights and caution tape warned of jumpscares ahead, prompting some parents to turn their strollers around. Nevertheless, the occasional brave kid ventured headlong into the black curtains, ready to face the unknown, if only for the fall season.