By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Ghost Story Review: "The Thing at Nolan" by Ambrose Bierce

Between Leesville and Hardy, Missouri stands a house abandoned since the summer of 1879. The family of Charles May once lived in it. At the time, the family consisted of May, his wife, their adult son John and two younger daughters. According to people who knew them, Charles May was a jovial man, but given to quick flashes of temper. It flashed like lightning, and then was over. He held no grudges. His son, however, was sullen and known to nurse grudges.

One day, father and son had a disagreement. Charles May struck his son in the face with his fist. He regretted it immediately and apologized, but John did not accept his apology. According to two brothers who happened to overhear the conversation, he told his father, “You will die for that.”

Charles May disappeared while out digging a water source for the cattle. John was not at home for at least part of this time. About the same time of day, Charles was seen in another town, bloody, with a gash on his head, walking through a store. No one spoke to him. It was assumed he’d been fight and he was headed to the river to wash up. This story was taken seriously enough that John, on trial for the murder of his father, was acquitted.

There is a typical ghost story twist at the end, but does author Ambrose Bierce really expect his reader to take it seriously?


Title: “The Thing at Nolan” First published in San Francisco Observer, August 2, 1891.

Author: Ambrose Bierce

Source: ISFDB



Last review: “The Man Who Went Too Far” by E. F. Benson

Another ghost story: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" by M. R. James

Other stories by Ambrose Bierce: “The Damned Thing”

“My Favorite Murder”


©2015 Denise Longrie

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