The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, Part 4

by Brett Schulte on August 9, 2006 · 3 comments

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (January 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0803260717

Brett’s Horror Book Collection

This is a recurring weekly series covering around ten short stories of Ambrose Bierce, Civil War veteran and well known satirist. This week we’ll take a look at the last of Bierce’s horror short stories. Next week, we’ll get into his war stories, and Bierce was greatly affected by the Civil War…

NOTE: I have provided links to the various stories in this series. Simply left click on the title of each story to read it for yourself.

Part I: The World of Horror (cont.)

“Staley Fleming’s Hallucination”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “Fleming, your description of the beast fits the dog of the late Atwell Barton.”

Comments: Bierce here pens a tale of revenge from beyond the grave, with a twist.

“The Night-Doings at “Deadman’s”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “He did not get it.”

Comments: Mr. Beeson faces more than he bargained for late one winter’s evening in Deadman’s Gulch…

“A Baby Tramp”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “Joey, Joey!”

Comments: Fortean phenomena, from raining frogs to blood red snow, fill this tale of ‘a baby tramp’ and his efforts to get home.

“A Psychological Shipwreck”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “First tell me what you know of her?”

Comments: It seems William Jarrett was able to take two ships for home at the same time…

“A Cold Greeting”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 6/10
Quote: “I do not think, Mr. Foley, that I have any longer a claim to your own friendship, since Mr. Barting appears to have withdrawn his own from me…”

Comments: Mr. Conway and Mr. Barton have an agreement that the first man to die would appear to the other. Mr. Conway doesn’t realize the sign until later…

“Beyond the Wall”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “Good morning Mr. Dampier. Have you heard the news?”

Comments: Mr. Dampier picks a terrible time not to return the signal of the woman he loves…and he pays for it later.

“John Bartine’s Watch”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 9/10
Quote: “Damn you! it is two minutes to eleven!”

Comments: John Bartine’s Tory ancestor was arrested by George Washington’s men and disappeared without a trace. John Bartine, an almost exact twin of his ancestor, was strangely affected by a watch that had been passed down for generations in his family.

“The Man Out of the Nose” (not online)
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 6/10
Quote: “Still more unluckily, that attractive lady was less wise than weak.”

Comments: John Hardshaw’s wife must be a saint!

“An Adventure at Brownville” (not online)
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “I saw you from the road, so I came up.”

Comments: Richard Benning has the Maynard girls under his spell. But who, or what, is he?

“The Suitable Surroundings”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 10/10
Quote: “Ugh! what should a light be doing there?”

Comments: This is a ghost story, but it twists and turns wildly!

“The Boarded Window”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “I fancy there are few persons living today who ever knew the secret of that window, but I am one, as you shall see.”

Comments: Murlock was deeply affected by the death of his wife. This death had occurred via the man’s mistake.

“A Lady from Redhorse”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 6/10
Quote: “Gunny, I’m Dumps!”

Comments: Gunny suspects horrible things about a new man in her life, but a potential horror story turns into a very uncharacteristic (for Bierce at least) love story.

“The Famous Gilson Bequest” (not online)
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 7/10
Quote: “It was indeed rough on Gilson.”

Comments: Henry Brentshaw is ruined more by his own guilt than by any desire for revenge from Mr. Gilson.

“A Holy Terror” (not online)
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “Scarry!”

Comments: An interesting set of circumstances causes former lovers to both meet unfortunate ends in Hurdy-Gurdy, California.

“A Diagnosis of Death”
By Ambrose Bierce
Rating: 8/10
Quote: “Doctor, have you anything to say to me–as a physician?”

Comments: Dr. Mannering could predict any man’s death with precision, provided it would happen within 18 months. In this he was successful, even beyond his own.

This concludes Bierce’s horror stories. He seems to set many of these stories in the outdoors, especially in vast wildernesses. As noted at the beginning of this series, Bierce’s tales are loaded with his peculiarly cynical form of wit. Bierce influenced many later writers directly and indirectly, chief among these being H. P. Lovecraft, another favorite of mine. Next week I’ll start to cover Bierce’s war stories. The only one I’ve read (and I’m sure this applies to a good portion of my readers as well) is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. The short story was later turned into a French short subject which was in turn modified to become an episode of Rod Serling’s famous television show The Twilight Zone.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5 – Part 6


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