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Ghost and Horror Stories

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23 modern horror stories by American master. "The Eyes of the Panther," "The Damned Thing," 21 more. "These pieces are not dated, nor are they lacking any of the narrative elements necessary to attract and hold the attention of anyone interested in the horror genre." — SF Booklog.


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23 modern horror stories by American master. "The Eyes of the Panther," "The Damned Thing," 21 more. "These pieces are not dated, nor are they lacking any of the narrative elements necessary to attract and hold the attention of anyone interested in the horror genre." — SF Booklog.

30 review for Ghost and Horror Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    all hail Ambrose Bierce! an American original. aka "Bitter Bierce" - a soldier, government agent, journalist, short story writer, satirist, social critic. his life bookended by two wars: at age 19 in the American Civil War (most notably, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh) and at age 71 as a witness to Pancho Villa's revolutionary efforts in Mexico (most notably... vanishing without a trace). gaze upon the dapper don: Bierce was a misanthrope of the first order and his scornful critiques of anythin all hail Ambrose Bierce! an American original. aka "Bitter Bierce" - a soldier, government agent, journalist, short story writer, satirist, social critic. his life bookended by two wars: at age 19 in the American Civil War (most notably, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh) and at age 71 as a witness to Pancho Villa's revolutionary efforts in Mexico (most notably... vanishing without a trace). gaze upon the dapper don: Bierce was a misanthrope of the first order and his scornful critiques of anything he damn well felt like criticizing earned him a lifetime of disapprobation. even after his disappearance from public life as he transformed into an immortal vampire during his sojourn in Mexico, critics from all corners continued to make a pastime of publicly spanking Bierce and his legacy. indeed, the very introduction to this collection - written by some mean, spiteful jerk named E.F. Bleiler - practically wallows in the idea that Bierce was a mean, spiteful jerk whose short stories are barely worthy of attention. sadly enough, Bleiler is somewhat correct regarding the majority of this collection's stories. Bierce has an exceedingly idiosyncratic and mannered prose style that can be both pleasurable and frustrating, particularly as that style is often informed by a sneering, disdainful, nastily sarcastic perspective and a tone that is all mordantly stylized lugubriousness. when those elements come together in service of a mediocre narrative, the experience can be soporific at best and at worst, unbearable. but happily the collection also contains a handful of superlative stories that range from disturbingly bizarre (in the best sort of way) to disturbingly brilliant. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is - possibly because of its film adaptations - Bierce's most well-known piece of fiction. this hallucinatory story of a Civil War-era Southerner about to hang is a haunting and darkly beautiful classic. plus Bierce's malicious sarcasm is notably absent, replaced with a dreamy but slightly bitter sort of lyricism. Moxon's Master must have been channeled by the equally infernal Thomas Ligotti because it contains all of that author's ideas around the working man = a cog in a sinister machine, within a brief story that is mainly comprised of menacing, barely explicated innuendo. Some Haunted Houses is less of a story collection and more of a journalistic account of various, wait for it, haunted houses. these are some really creepy houses. in particular, the portrait of a house that contains a secret otherworldly room where dozens of families have been trapped and died stuck with me. bad dreams that night! The Man and the Snake is one of the more intense depictions of WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON that I've read in the classic horror genre. why is this man hypnotized? what is that snake? what is happening to him, how is this happening? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? An Adventure at Brownville... yikes, that sardonic title. "Adventure"... well, I guess we all have our own individual ideas about what constitutes "an adventure." this one is about an urbane teacher who witnesses the malevolent, sexual-romantic hypnotic attraction that a tall, dark, and handsome fellow exerts over a pair of attractive sisters. the teacher tries to help the young ladies. tries. disturbing, disturbing, disturbing. An Inhabitant of Carcosa, along with several stories in Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow, are the seeds from which the Weird Fiction of Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith et al sprang. to my mind, when he is operating at his highest level, Bierce is one of the most successful writers of eerie hallucinogenic prose. this is another short short - less than 4 pages! - and it is perfect from beginning to end, not a word out of place. the only thing out of place is our sickly protagonist, stranded... elsewhere. or elsewhen. The Death of Halpin Frayser is my favorite of the collection. it is beyond strange. a unique and uniquely unsettling story. poor Halpin, a fellow not free of certain incestuous longings, shanghaied by sailors, now content to wander woods and sleep in the open air, a poet from an older tradition, a dreamer who dreams of a bloody forest. there is his mother, and the terrible thing that happened to her. there are two investigators, on the trail of a killer, who stumble upon the body of poor Halpin. and there is the undead mother; she has found her boy at last... Bierce's gems are more than worth the price of admission - and if you check out Project Gutenberg, that price is FREE. many are great snapshots of an era gone long by, often set in recognizable locales like Ole San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. and the best of these stories are ones that can really stick with the appreciative reader and that are told with such dry wit, such wonderfully challenging prose, such chilling creeping ambiguity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    This book gets five stars all around. By reading these stories I can see how Bierce inspired Lovcraft. Sometimes if you close your eyes and forget that it is a Lovecraft tale, Bierce comes shining through. Bierce is often forgotten when it comes to late 19th century writers. I hope that the situation can be rectified.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leothefox

    For the modern reader, “bitter” Ambrose Bierce is either that guy who wrote “An Occurrence At Own Creek Bridge” (which you were required to read in school but pretended to be surprised at the dozens of films that recycled its twist) or he's the guy you read about on Wikipedia in connection to a more recent dead author who may have read or pretended to (you know who you are). In either case, the reality of his prose is a pleasant surprise. E.F. Bleiler's introduction to this Dover edition is an For the modern reader, “bitter” Ambrose Bierce is either that guy who wrote “An Occurrence At Own Creek Bridge” (which you were required to read in school but pretended to be surprised at the dozens of films that recycled its twist) or he's the guy you read about on Wikipedia in connection to a more recent dead author who may have read or pretended to (you know who you are). In either case, the reality of his prose is a pleasant surprise. E.F. Bleiler's introduction to this Dover edition is an amusing primer to Bierce and his exasperating personality. Bleiler is a great one for warning the reader about the author's shortcomings before you dig in, and in this case it rendered much of what followed more agreeable. Bierce's stories can be mannered and some of the ghost stories end up a tad mechanical in their formatting. I'm going to begin at the end with “Visions of the Night” in which Bierce muses on the nature of dreams and imagination before relating some wonderfully haunting dreams. “The Damned Thing” is a delight involving an invisible monster that may be from outer space, and which may be invisible due to its color being out of space. “Mysterious Disappearances” introduces ideas about non-Euclidean space and vanishings into gap-dimensions. “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” is also a compact exotic treat. Like a couple of well-known later authors, Bierce's ambition was to equal the career of Edgar Allen Poe, especially Poe's horror stories. In places Bierce actually got hold of some of Poe's themes and advanced them, rather than merely copying. Other stories got bogged down either in an over-simple ghost-story format, or they focus instead on humor or plain irony. “A Jug of Sirup” and “The Secret of Macarger's Gulch” revert very openly to wit rather than terror. Some of the stories might almost have merged into one another for all they had in common, but this really doesn't hamper the enjoyment at all. Bierce tried to do a few different things under the banner of the macabre, and the selection here shows he still has something to offer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    The most notable of these stories is "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) which was filmed in France as a black and white silent short in 1963 and broadcast on television's Twilight Zone in 1964 at which time I probably saw it with my father. In any case, that put Bierce in mind and, liking fantastic literature, eventually I read this Dover collection of some of his work. Years later, after a friend and I had started a youth movement in our hometown, we came back to this story and the fil The most notable of these stories is "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1890) which was filmed in France as a black and white silent short in 1963 and broadcast on television's Twilight Zone in 1964 at which time I probably saw it with my father. In any case, that put Bierce in mind and, liking fantastic literature, eventually I read this Dover collection of some of his work. Years later, after a friend and I had started a youth movement in our hometown, we came back to this story and the film based on it. It was the early seventies and the Park Ridge Youth Coalition (PRYC, pronounced as you might imagine) was sponsoring an all-day Youth fair in Hodges Park across from City Hall, the Community Church and Bob Rowe's Evening Pipe Shop. The day started with booths and acts and art and clowns, the late afternoon featured bands, the evening featured movies projected (thanks to Mr. Lindquist who was in the business and provided the equipment) onto an enormous screen suspended between trees. For me, the best of the lot was "La Rivière du Hibou", the aformentioned French silent. See it if you can and read Bierce if you haven't.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Latasha

    I love this guy!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    I came to Bierce late in life but I soon made up for lost time. Excellent collection of his stories.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Patchen

    One of the faces on the Mt. Rushmore of Horror and Weird Tales.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Flora

    Oh, these are so, so good. Up there with Poe.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Johnson

    I just got done reading “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce. Hugh Morgan was the man mauled by the mountain lion. The jurors were trying to figure out what happened to the man. William Hanker was the witness and the jurors were questioning him. Hugh Morgan was a timid writer and like to hunt. William Hankers was a very strong writer and saw what happened to his friend. He was scared and past out. He woke up to his friend screaming and then he saw the thing. He stayed there and just watched an I just got done reading “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce. Hugh Morgan was the man mauled by the mountain lion. The jurors were trying to figure out what happened to the man. William Hanker was the witness and the jurors were questioning him. Hugh Morgan was a timid writer and like to hunt. William Hankers was a very strong writer and saw what happened to his friend. He was scared and past out. He woke up to his friend screaming and then he saw the thing. He stayed there and just watched and did not do a thing about it. The thing ran off and he went to go see his friend, or what was left of him. The setting is in a morgue out in the woods somewhere in a small town. The time is at night in the dark moonlight. This book is in third/ first person point of view. The theme of this book is “ One does not always eat what is on the table.” The book is a pretty good book and is not scary at all. I liked the book a lot. It had me on the edge of my seat near the end. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes scary stuff. Some things in this book will have a person wondering what going to happen next. At first it’s kind of boring, but then it gets fun and interesting.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Francione

    As good as Poe, and one can see the influence it had on Lovecraft. Not just in Lovecraft's appropriation of Carcosa, but in the selective sequence of events leading to a dramatic end. Phrasing such as non-euclidean geometry, and cyclopean architecture, terrifying dream-planes, and extra-dimensional beasts stand out as Lovecraftian and plant the seeds of early weird fiction. Other than the language it's surprisingly not dated for having been written in the 19th century. Distinctly American, with As good as Poe, and one can see the influence it had on Lovecraft. Not just in Lovecraft's appropriation of Carcosa, but in the selective sequence of events leading to a dramatic end. Phrasing such as non-euclidean geometry, and cyclopean architecture, terrifying dream-planes, and extra-dimensional beasts stand out as Lovecraftian and plant the seeds of early weird fiction. Other than the language it's surprisingly not dated for having been written in the 19th century. Distinctly American, with settings like the Civil War and Westward expansion. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," The Damned Thing," usually getting the most attention, the highlights for me were "The Other Lodgers, A Fruitless Assignment, The Spook House, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, and Visions of the Night. "John Bartine's Watch" seems to contain some prophetic lines of the authors real fate as he went to report on the Mexican Civil War; "Not the slenderest clew to his fate was ever found. After the war the most diligent inquiry and the offer of large rewards failed to turn up any of his captors or any fact conceding his disappearance. He had disappeared and, that was all."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tucker

    Most of these stories feel very dated -- they are not the sort of ghost stories that would scare anyone today, and you have to imagine what it must have been like to live in the 1800s and hear these kind of "Unsolved Mysteries" creepy rumors around the campfire. Usually there is not a complex story arc. It is just: Once upon a time, there were some people and these coincidences happened, and then they realized that the other people were ALREADY DEAD. Boo! The end. One story was ahead of its time Most of these stories feel very dated -- they are not the sort of ghost stories that would scare anyone today, and you have to imagine what it must have been like to live in the 1800s and hear these kind of "Unsolved Mysteries" creepy rumors around the campfire. Usually there is not a complex story arc. It is just: Once upon a time, there were some people and these coincidences happened, and then they realized that the other people were ALREADY DEAD. Boo! The end. One story was ahead of its time: "Moxon's Master," about an AI robot that plays chess. (Read in 2003 and again in 2015)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tifany

    Since I'm on the subject of ghost stories, Ambrose Bierce is one of the few Victorians who still hold up today--even if it's much easier for us, as a modern audience, to spot the twist, as so many ghost stories since have borrowed from Bierce. There's the famous "Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge," of course, but by far the best, to me, is "The Moonlit Road." It's hard to say exactly why this story, in particular, is so strangely and sadly haunting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    WOW...That was my comment throughot the entire book...Ambrose Bierce is indeed the master of gothic stories and a genius narrator...His sarcasm is hidden wisely and noticeable only to careful readers...Read these stories early in the morning, just after sunrise,if possible after a sleepless night, trust me. =)

  14. 5 out of 5

    WhitneyMarie

    My number one favorite for horror/fear/scary whatever ya wanna call it stories! His civil war creepers are my favorite. I read this book over and over and was sad to finish it each time. I love the damn thing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    I read this at age 21 deep in the stacks at my university library late at night while listening to the Dark Knight soundtrack. I scared myself so badly that I had to go find people to remind myself that they are only stories.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Smith

    Sooo wonderfully creepy!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Fairly interesting short stories. Not scary, but interesting. Very similar to Poe's style of writing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    XPHAIEA.

    After reading this collection of stories I can safely say I am not really a fan of Bierce’s prose. Incredibly short and lifeless stories containing just the bare backbone of facts, akin to a news report. Absolutely no character depth and ultimately stark and unsatisfying. At best, occasional tales are sometimes clever and wry, at worst dry and at times incomprehensible pretentious wafflings. So many of the stories just merge into one another and there were so many repetitions, similarities and la After reading this collection of stories I can safely say I am not really a fan of Bierce’s prose. Incredibly short and lifeless stories containing just the bare backbone of facts, akin to a news report. Absolutely no character depth and ultimately stark and unsatisfying. At best, occasional tales are sometimes clever and wry, at worst dry and at times incomprehensible pretentious wafflings. So many of the stories just merge into one another and there were so many repetitions, similarities and lack of any real development I often found I was reading the words on the page without actually taking any of it in, not engaged with the writing at all. These are snippets really, just sketches of ideas. Not my kind of writing, and overall they fall flat, being uncaptivating and lacking substance.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    For me, it just isn't summer without some sort of ghost stories. I went on vacation to MO last week and packed almost a half dozen books to read on the trip during the down time between canoeing, cave exploration, and chaperoning my nieces in the pool. After all that physical effort, there is nothing like reading ghost stories while sitting in a rocker on the porch while the bugs are buzzing outside at night. I'd say that the quality and the subject of the stories varies quite a bit in this book. For me, it just isn't summer without some sort of ghost stories. I went on vacation to MO last week and packed almost a half dozen books to read on the trip during the down time between canoeing, cave exploration, and chaperoning my nieces in the pool. After all that physical effort, there is nothing like reading ghost stories while sitting in a rocker on the porch while the bugs are buzzing outside at night. I'd say that the quality and the subject of the stories varies quite a bit in this book. Bierce is better at writing about ghosts and strange disappearances than he is at Twilight Zone-esque science fiction horror, but fortunately the former comprises the bulk of the selection in this book. I'm never sure how to review the contents of an anthology, so perhaps I should pick my top 5 favorites: "The Damned Thing" I liked the reveal in the last segment of the contents of the journal about what the "thing" was, although I was a bit confused whether the person giving testimony earlier was on trial for the dead man's murder, or if he was just there to give evidence. "A Watcher by the Dead" Classic story of a practical joke gone awry, but it kept me guessing until the end who the one who died really was. Very creepy. "Some Haunted Houses" This is actually a selection of short stories within a short story, some written as if sent in by a reader to the author. I have no idea if these are actual correspondence, or if the author was writing them himself, but they were quite chilling with the journalistic way that they were presented. "'Mysterious Disappearances'" I think this section would be all the more creepy once you realize that Ambrose Bierce himself disappeared under uncertain circumstances later in life. "The Moonlit Road" What I like the most about this story was the usage of multiple perspectives to reveal the ultimate plot twist. First we are given the testimony of the son, then the father who murdered his wife, then of the wife herself by means of a spiritual medium channeling her ghost. "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is probably Bierce's most famous story, and I suspect the reason it is chosen here is because of its fame and its beautiful descriptive prose. However, I am not even sure it belongs in a book of supernatural stories, although I suppose it could be argued to be horror. This isn't the best collection of ghost stories I've ever read, but it did have some very entertaining moments, and Bierce is good at supplying details, which is what I think is really necessary to make a ghost story scary. You need to convince the reader that the supernatural occurrences might have really happened, which he sometimes misses, but I still got enjoyment out of his hits.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Pieter Swier

    The Death of Halpin Frayser ~ ★★★ Moxon’s Master ~ ★★★★ Beyond the Wall ~ ★★★ The Damned Thing ~ ★★★ The Watcher by the Dead ~ ★★★★ An Ocurrence at Owl Creek Bridge ~ ★★★★★ The Way of Ghosts ~ ★★★ Some Haunted Houses ~ ★★★ “Mysterious Disappearances” ~ ★★★ The Man and the Snake ~ ★★★ The Suitable Surroundings ~ ★★★★ The Eyes of the Panther ~ ★★★★ The Famous Gilson Bequest ~ ★★★ An Adventure at Brownsville ~ ★★★★ An Inhabitant of Carcosa ~ ★★★ The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch ~ ★★★★ The Moonlit Road ~ ★★★★ The Haun The Death of Halpin Frayser ~ ★★★ Moxon’s Master ~ ★★★★ Beyond the Wall ~ ★★★ The Damned Thing ~ ★★★ The Watcher by the Dead ~ ★★★★ An Ocurrence at Owl Creek Bridge ~ ★★★★★ The Way of Ghosts ~ ★★★ Some Haunted Houses ~ ★★★ “Mysterious Disappearances” ~ ★★★ The Man and the Snake ~ ★★★ The Suitable Surroundings ~ ★★★★ The Eyes of the Panther ~ ★★★★ The Famous Gilson Bequest ~ ★★★ An Adventure at Brownsville ~ ★★★★ An Inhabitant of Carcosa ~ ★★★ The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch ~ ★★★★ The Moonlit Road ~ ★★★★ The Haunted Valley ~ ★★★ A Jug of Sirup ~ ★★★ The Night-Doings at “Deadman’s” ~ ★★★★ The Middle Toe of the Right Foot ~ ★★★★ John Bartine’s Watch ~ ★★★ The Stranger ~ ★★★★ Visions of the Night ~ ★★★★

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ellis Hastings

    It had some brilliant tales; Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, The Left Toe of The Right Foot, etc. Tales that I would easily rate 5 stars individually. However, it also had some tales that, while well-written, were almost forgetful. Overall, however, I enjoyed the collection.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    It's great to get into pre-lovecraftian horror and tales of the fantastic. Mr. Bierce has a serious knack for the sardonic and a truly subtle twist in words.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Becky Churchman

    Some of the stories are really good, but others get too predictable. Look for some of his greats like "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "The Middle Toe of the Right Foot," and "The Damned Thing."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    This one scared the crap out of me. Bravo!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    I'll give it four stars instead of five simply because there might be a more perfect collection of his stories out there somewhere.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle B

    Bierce is a master of art and language; not a word wasted.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zack

    .5, when the introduction harps on how bad the author's writing will be and then you read the first story and it is that bad, it is time to abandon the book. I'm not one to quit books, but this one was rough. The mystery of Bierce's life is cool, but his writing at least in this context is that bad.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Cantrell

    This is a great book if you like stories about ghost and paranormal things a very great read if you ask me I would recommend this so someone else who is in to these types of things now if your not in to things like This then I would not recommend it but very good book overall

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rr

    omg i almost peed me pants

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shon

    Other than the story where the guy beats his robot at chess, only for it to strangle him, I found most of the stories boring.

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