The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories (Dover Thrift Editions)

by Ambrose Bierce | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0486400565 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingk00kaburrawing of San Jose, California USA on 11/5/2008
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingk00kaburrawing from San Jose, California USA on Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Rec'd via Paperbackswap.com.
The cover is different from the one pictured.

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Famed for the mordant wit and satire of his essays and newspaper columns, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) also possessed a fascination with the macabre. His masterful tales of the supernatural bespeak an imagination generations ahead of its time, exhibiting impressionistic conceits of reality, in which space and time expand and contract according to individual perception.

This stimulating and provocative collection of 12 of Bierce's finest ghost and horror stories abounds with crimes of passion, restless specters seeking revenge, haunted houses, forewarnings of doom, and sound minds deranged by contact with the spirit world.

A feast for devotees of ghost and horror stories, this remarkable collection of intelligent and inventive tales will captivate any reader who enjoys a compelling, suspenseful narrative.

Journal Entry 2 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Friday, November 11, 2016
Started reading several days ago.
Finished the last couple of short stories day before yesterday.

Journal Entry 3 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Sunday, August 05, 2018
I found this book while tidying up my office and realized I never got around to writing my thoughts on the stories, so I'm going to try to re-read them over the next few days.

Last night I read "The Eyes of the Panther", which is reminiscent of folklore in which witches transform into animals in order to attack or ensnare others. Alternatively, it's clearly a twist on the classic werewolf tale. The narrator never explicitly explains what happens, but enough hints are sprinkled in the text that it's clear the reader is meant to conclude that Irene, the young woman of the tale, is somehow supernaturally linked to a panther that terrorized her pregnant mother years before. Whether she is possessed by a panther spirit or physically transforms into the beast, we don't know - but it's a creepy, atmospheric tale that gets this collection off to a strong start.

Journal Entry 4 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Wednesday, August 08, 2018
A story told from three points of view, "The Moonlit Road" involves a death and a ghost as perceived by a husband, his son, and his wife. Each character has different insights about what happened, but none have the whole story (or will ever know the full truth). I can't help but wonder who the investigator collecting the accounts is, if not the son or his parents.

"The Boarded Window" may not be a ghost story, but it's certainly a horrible one. A man's wife dies and he lays the body out; in the night a panther comes to drag the body away. He scares the creature off, but in the morning there's evidence that his wife was still alive when it attacked. Dreadful.

Journal Entry 5 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Wednesday, August 15, 2018
"The Man and the Snake" is an odd little story. Harker Brayton, a guest in the home of a herpetologist, finds a snake under his bed and becomes trapped by its horrible, hypnotic gaze. The reader is left to wonder by the twist ending. Was Brayton suffering a delusion or madness, or did something truly terrible sneak into the bedroom with him?

Journal Entry 6 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Mr. Bierce is starting to settle into a rhythm. The ugly/evil-looking characters always turn out to, in fact, be murderers. Women inevitably end up dead. There's always some sort of twist in the final paragraph.

In "The Secret of Macarger's Gulch", a man hunting in the woods spends the evening in a haunted cabin. First, he dreams a scene so vividly that it seems like a memory; then, when the lights to out, he hears the sounds of a horrible murder but sees no evidence for the presence of another other living soul. It's set in the Sierra Nevada, which made the setting vaguely familiar as my father took our family hiking in those mountains throughout my childhood.

"The Middle Toe of the Right Foot" was very similar to the previous story. The set-up is a little different. Two men and their seconds sneak into a haunted house for a duel; after a very short period, three men flee leaving the fourth behind. He's later found dead, petrified with fear. As in the previous story, it's revealed that a cruel husband murdered his wife, and spirits revealed the story of her tragic end.

Journal Entry 7 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Thursday, August 16, 2018
"A Psychological Shipwreck" is a brief tale of astral projection, but even after reading it twice I'm not quite sure what happened. Did William project himself onto Janette's ship for their interactions? It seems unlikely as she is the one with the book. Perhaps she somehow projected her experience into his mind so that he would know the fate of the Morrow and herself? Does William ever tell his unfortunate friend the fate of his bride to be, or is Gordon Doyle left to in the dark?

I like the California frontier flavor of several of these stories. For example, "A Holy Terror" tells the story of a gold miner who gets a hot tip from a friend, and starts digging up a grave to find the hidden gold. As Bierce describes the scene, I can remember trips to the gold country and picture the scene so vividly and clearly. It's a good, spooky story with some pretty good psychology going on with the main character, too.

Journal Entry 8 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Friday, August 17, 2018
"John Bartine's Watch" is another great American ghost story. I like that it ties into the Revolutionary War (thanks to Washington Irving I can't help but tie the colonial period to spooky tales) in a tale of revenge trickling down through the ages. It also has the ever delightful match between the supernatural and man's superior logic and modern science.

The second story I read today, "Beyond the Wall", seems very familiar. I can't think what it reminds me of, but I feel like I read another ghost story that ran along a very similar theme.

Journal Entry 9 by wingk00kaburrawing at San Jose, California USA on Wednesday, August 22, 2018
"A Watcher By the Dead" is an odd little story. Like several of Bierce's horror stories, it deals less with actual haunts and spooks and instead focuses on the psychological damage the belief in such things can render. Two doctors cruelly drive a man to madness in order to prove a point to each other. It's a sad little story.

I thought the last story, "Moxon's Master", to be quite interesting. It seems inspired by the Mechanical Turk, an 18th century automaton that supposedly played chess to the applause of spectators throughout the courts of Europe. Today it's believed to be an elaborate hoax, but what if that sort of mechanical man could be real? In Bierce's imagination, it becomes a petulant creation, eventually destroying its master when the game does not go as the machine desired.

Overall I think the collection of ghost stories is pretty solid. The simple fact that I enjoy books set in historical California is a strong factor, as several of the stories are set in and around places I've been, but other tales are in New England or in the old country and I enjoy them just as much. The loneliness and isolation that the characters feel as they stumble through their terrors resonates well.

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