Can Such Things Be? |Ambrose Bierce | Horror | Story Review

Why I Picked The Book?

   I was suggested to read Ambrose Bierce while exploring Gutenberg and searching for some good classic horror books. And, certainly, I didn’t wanted to miss the opportunity to read a classic and gothic horror book. So, just started reading it which is a compilation of various short stories. I have given a review of the stories I liked most.    

From Where I Got This Book?

    The stories are available online on and books are also available on Amazon. 

Author Introduction

    Ambrose Bierce was a civil war veteran, poet, journalist and, also a short story writer. In addition, he has many masterpieces to his name like ” The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature”. But ” The Devil’s Dictionary” was named as one of the best stories. He was born in the year 1842 in United States. The Haunted Valley (1871) was his first story.       


1)The Death of Halpin Frayser

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For by death is wrought greater change than hath been shown.  Whereas in general the spirit that removed cometh back upon occasion, and is sometimes seen of those in flesh (appearing in the form of the body it bore) yet it hath happened that the veritable body without the spirit hath walked.  And it is attested of those encountering who have lived to speak thereon that a lich so raised up hath no natural affection, nor remembrance thereof, but only hate.  Also, it is known that some spirits which in life were benign become by death evil altogether.—Hali.

Halpin Frayser, a young man was found dead in a forest by two policemen. His body was found dead white and his head was twisted facing the direction opposite his feet. The policemen found a name “Catherine Larue” under his feet on a headboard.  

Who was Halpin Frayser and who was Catherine Larue. So, the story takes you on journey to the childhood of Halpin Frayser who was in a romantic relationship with his own mother. He afterwards traveled to California to become a poet but after some years he was found dead in a forest. But, No one know who killed him. And, the policemen only heard an eerie laugh in the forest.  

The story will leave you hanging to solve the mystery of his death but the story is really hair raising and creepy. Meanwhile, many writers have given many suggestions about the killer and why he was killed. I strongly recommend the story for horror lovers.   According to me Halpin Frayser came to California with his mother and married her and named her Catherine Larue but killed her for reasons unknown. And his mother took revenge by killing him. What is your side of the story? Read it and find out.    

2)The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch

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    What happens when you encounter a ghostly cabin in the woods? The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch is the story of a hunter named Mr.Elderson. Mr. Elderson on a hunting venture spends his night in a cabin in McGregor’s Gulch. In the night he felt an eerie presence in the darkness of the cabin.   What was it and why it was haunting the cabin remains a mystery. Elderson after returning from the cabin get to know from his friend that a cabin existed there. But, a year back it was destroyed plank by plank, then how it was there when Elderson visited it?    

3)The Moonlit Road

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  The Moonlit Road is not just a short story instead it is a statement by three family members about a murder. So, the story starts with a son’s statement narrating his mother’s sudden demise. Caspar Grattan, a policeman presented the second statement . The mother of Joel Hetman who was murdered presented the third statement .

“He saw me—at last, at last, he saw me! In the consciousness of that, my terror fled as a cruel dream. The death-spell was broken: Love had conquered Law! Mad with exultation I shouted—I must have shouted, “He sees, he sees: he will understand!”

Ambrose Bierce

    Joel Hetman jr, who is a 19 year old boy, studying at Yale University, receives a letter from his father about his mother’s brutal murder. The murder investigation reveals that the killer was from someone outside the house. Years passed by and Joel started living with his father. But one day his father disappeared into thin air in the middle of the road in front of his eyes. But, no one knows what happened to him. Caspar Grattan in his investigation claimed that the husband killed his wife over suspicions of extra marital affair.   The third statement is in fact a mother who is pouring her heart out explaining what happened to her. But, who killed Joel Hetman’s mother? And, where did his father vanished?

Characters Portrayal

  The beauty of Ambrose Bierce’s writing is that sometimes the ghost is unaware of his existence. His characters portray a psychological fear gripping themselves. Halpin frayser in “The Death of Halpin Frayser” has been portrayed as an evil character who was not able to understand his mother’s love.

Elderson,in fact, in “The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch” is a very strong character who faced the fear on his face. The husband in “The Moonlit Road” is a malicious character. And, the mother who turns into a ghost after being murdered just wants to visit his child once more. The mysterious character in this story who killed the mother is being defined as a mischievous character.    

My Opinion

  This writer is, certainly, for you if you have ever wanted to read a horror story with ‘malevolent’ and ‘wicked’ characters. So, I would totally recommend to read these stories. Moreover, the alluring part of the stories are that reason for horror events are for you to decide. And the haunting is spine chilling and while reading the story you will feel the eerie presence in these. Surely, a perfect combination of horror, chills and fear.       

Narrative Style

  The writing style of Ambrose Bierce is not of a descriptive one. Rather, he loves to keep his readers hanging in the climax to build up thoughts about the story. Surely, the plot shots a sense of psychological fear on the readers. In fact, his stories mainly focus on a particular incident happened in the past which in time affects the main character. Also, the choice of words for defining a person’s mental state due to an eerie presence is marvelous.       


  • Plot  –   5/5
  • Characters  –   5/5
  • Climax   –   5/5
  • Recommendation  –   5/5
  • Writing Style   –   5/5

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