Beijing author’s paranormal stories scare BookFest top prize

In her paranormal nonfiction anthology “Days of the Dead: A Year of True Ghost Stories,” Beijing author Sylvia Shults offers a haunting for each day of the year.

“I’m very happy to say that I found a ghost story for every day…including leap day,” Shults said. “I think I should get bonus points because I didn’t use the Valentine’s Day Massacre for February 14.”

Instead of ferrying readers to a garage in Chicago on February 14, 1929, Shults booked them for a trip to Chester, England, where a bride-to-be abandoned at the altar committed suicide and now haunts a chocolate factory. According to Shults, the spirit is notable for its hostility to heart-shaped wrappers.

“If the candy boxes are square, or if they’re octagonal or whatever, she leaves them alone,” Shults explained. “But she’ll knock down any display that has heart-shaped boxes around Valentine’s Day because she’s always mad to be left at the altar.”

“Days of the Dead” was recently named first place winner for Occult and Paranormal Non-Fiction at the BookFest Spring 2022 Book Awards. BookFest is an online community for readers, writers, and publishers and has held biannual awards events since spring 2020. Shults learned of her award when BookFest notified her last week.

“I entered that pageant and then kind of forgot about it, to tell the truth,” she said. “I got an email and logged into the website (BookFest). … I was thinking honorable mention or something. I had entered some of my fiction in a similar competition there a long time ago and I had been a runner up so I wasn’t expecting anything huge. To my surprise, it wasn’t an honorable mention. It wasn’t second or third place. It was number one, so it’s pretty wonderful.

More in the books:Winning international competition a ‘ridiculous dream come true’ for Marquette Heights writer

The seven books by local author Sylvia Shults share a shelf with other paranormal non-fiction books at the Fondulac District Library in East Peoria.

Although the award does not come with a cash prize, Shults looks forward to the recognition a top BookFest award will give him, and the potential boost it will give his writing career. She currently works as a circulation specialist at the Fondulac District Library in East Peoria, but has been writing paranormal non-fiction for over a decade.

“I’m really intrigued by the idea of ​​something beyond death,” Shults explained. “Of course, that’s an important idea for a lot of people. Another thing that really appeals to me about the paranormal is that it’s a chance for us to try to communicate with people who have gone before us. I am also very interested in history. Ghost hunting is a chance to maybe speak with someone outside of the story, and I think it’s fascinating.

Shults’ upcoming book, “Grave Deeds and Dead Plots: Vol. 1, Fifty Shades of Red,” is a collection of true crime stories with associated hauntings. Although she didn’t provide a release date , Shults said she has completed the book, which is published by Crossroad Press. More information about her work can be found at

Lola R. McClure