The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories

The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories Quotes and Analysis

There he found the body of his victim. But it was no panther. What it was is told, even to this day, upon a weather-worn headstone in the village churchyard, and for many years was attested daily at the graveside by the bent figure and sorrow-seamed face of Old Man Marlowe, to whose soul, and to the soul of his strange, unhappy child, peace. Peace and reparation.

The Eyes of the Panther, p. 9

After hearing Irene's strange story about the panther who terrified her pregnant mother, Jenner Brading has given up his plans to marry her. When a panther appears at his window one night, he fires his gun at it and then tracks it through the darkness. Instead of finding the panther's body, he finds that of Irene, implying that she somehow gained the creature's shapeshifting abilities.

This quote exhibits Bierce's indirect style. Instead of saying that Jenner found Irene's body, he describes Irene's father by the grave of his child, allowing the reader to put together the pieces and infer what happened.

When I turned to look for my father he was gone, and in all the years that have passed no whisper of his fate has come across the borderland of conjecture from the realm of the unknown.

The Moonlit Road, p. 12

Joel Hetman Jr. has been walking with his father along the road near their home after the disappearance of his mother. His father sees something along the moonlit road that Joel Jr. cannot see, and his father suddenly disappears.

This quote effectively builds tension and suspicion in the reader. It also uses a variety of words with mysterious connotations - "whisper," "fate," "borderland," "unknown" - to develop a sense of tension that could not be accomplished by simply describing the older man's disappearance.

Fear has no brains; it is an idiot [...] We know this well, we who have passed into the Realm of Terror, who skulk in eternal dusk among the scenes of our former lives, invisible even to ourselves and one another, yet hiding forlorn in lonely places; yearning for speech with our loved ones, yet dumb, and as fearful of them as they of us. Sometimes the disability is removed, the law suspended: by the deathless power of love or hate we break the spell —we are seen by those whom we would warn, console, or punish. What form we seem to them to bear we know not; we know only that we terrify even those whom we most wish to comfort, and from whom we most crave tenderness and sympathy.

The Moonlit Road, p. 16

Julia Hetman, long dead, tells her side of the story through a medium. She also explains the experience of a ghost, and the numerous laws by which they must abide. This quote vividly describes the world of ghosts, and brilliantly develops their rules. It is also indicative of the rich supernatural element that characterizes Bierce's stories.

The music ceased; rather, it became by insensible degrees the distant roll of a retreating thunder-storm. A landscape, glittering with sun and rain, stretched before him, arched with a vivid rainbow framing in its giant curve a hundred visible cities. In the middle distance a vast serpent, wearing a crown, reared its head out of its voluminous convolutions and looked at him with his dead mother’s eyes.

The Man and the Snake, p. 26

When Brayton meets the eyes of the serpent, he experiences a vivid hallucination. This quotation describes the miraculous sights he sees - they are not distinct visions, but rather a chaotic mix of music, rain, sunlight, rainbow, distant cities, and a crowned serpent. Of course, the reader later realizes that the snake itself is just a stuffed toy, which means that all of these visions arose out of Brayton's own mind. Still, this quotation evokes mysterious dimensions of experience not available to the ordinary mind.

Possibly the creek bed is a reformed road. It is certain that the gulch was at one time pretty thoroughly prospected by miners, who must have had some means of getting in with at least pack animals carrying tools and supplies; their profits, apparently, were not such as would have justified any considerable outlay to connect Macarger’s Gulch with any center of civilization enjoying the distinction of a sawmill.

The Secret of Macarger's Gulch, p. 28

"The Secret of Macarger's Gulch" begins with a description of that landmark. It is located in a very isolated and lonely area away from human beings.

The quotation states that Macarger's Gulch has no connection to a center of civilization that could be called a sawmill, which is ironic since sawmills are generally not considered to be particularly indicative of refinement or civilization. Rather than simply saying Macarger's Gulch was isolated, Bierce describes it as a place that even miners would not bother to frequent, highlighting its isolation and setting the scene for the frightening events that occur there.

The nature of the arrangements has been already disclosed. The duel with knives in a dark room was once a commoner feature of Southwestern life than it is likely to be again. How thin a veneering of “chivalry” covered the essential brutality of the code under which such encounters were possible we shall see.

The Middle Toe of the Right Foot p. 40

Three young men - King, Rosser, and Sancher - have challenged an older man named Richard Grossmith to a duel after he insulted them. This duel will take place in the old haunted Morton house, which is abandoned and covered in dust.

This quote evokes an unsettling scene: the idea of two men fighting with knives in a completely dark room. It also highlights a common theme in Bierce's stories - that manners and civilization only cover up the brute instincts of human nature.

To sundry it is given to be drawn away, and to be apart from the body for a season; for, as concerning rills which would flow across each other the weaker is borne along by the stronger, so there be certain of kin whose paths intersecting, their souls do bear company, the while their bodies go fore-appointed ways, unknowing.

A Psychological Shipwreck, p. 46

This is the passage of the book, Denneker's Meditations, that lays open on Janette's lap on The Morrow. Later, Gordon Doyle is seen to be reading the same passage in the same book.

This quotation suggests that it is possible for the soul to leave the body and experience other sights. It also suggests that it is possible for relatives to spend time with each other even if their bodies are elsewhere. This may explain why William recalls spending time with Janette on The Morrow, even though he wakes up on the City of Prague and Gordon Doyle tells him that he has been there for three weeks. Janette and William may have some sort of spiritual connection, and she needed him to bring news of her death to her fiancee Gordon.

It is necessary to explain that one of the adjuncts to Hurdy-Gurdy —one to which that metropolis became afterward itself an adjunct —was a cemetery. In the first week of the camp’s existence this had been thoughtfully laid out by a committee of citizens. The day after had been signalized by a debate between two members of the committee, with reference to a more eligible site, and on the third day the necropolis was inaugurated by a double funeral. As the camp had waned the cemetery had waxed; and long before the ultimate inhabitant, victorious alike over the insidious malaria and the forthright revolver, had turned the tail of his pack-ass upon Injun Creek the outlying settlement had become a populous if not popular suburb. And now, when the town was fallen into the sere and yellow leaf of an unlovely senility, the graveyard —though somewhat marred by time and circumstance, and not altogether exempt from innovations in grammar and experiments in orthography, to say nothing of the devastating coyote —answered the humble needs of its denizens with reasonable completeness.

A Holy Terror, p. 49

Hurdy-Gurdy is an empty and long-abandoned mining camp that Jefferson Doman visits to find a vein of gold promised by his friend Barney Bree. This passage describes the history of this camp.

This lengthy quote showcases the famous wit of Ambrose Bierce. Rather than saying that many of the headstones in the graveyard were filled with rude epitaphs or spelling mistakes, Bierse terms then "innovations in grammar and experiments in orthography," ironically suggesting more refinement than is in fact present in this place.

I do not know that in the spiritual world a sentiment or emotion may not survive the heart that held it, and seek expression in a kindred life, ages removed.

John Bartine's Watch, p. 63

John Bartine has long felt a sense of dread at the idea of looking at the watch that belonged to his great-grandfather around the hour of 11, but his friend turns back the clock so that it is just before this fateful hour before handing it back to him. Bartine dies with the mark of a rope around his neck, probably in imitation of his ancestor.

The narrator speculates that sentiment and emotion might survive an individual life and express itself in a distant relative many years later. This seems to be exactly what happened to Bartine, who died in the same say that his distant ancestor did.

Mr. Jarette was not at his ease; he was distinctly dissatisfied with his surroundings, and with himself for being so. “What have I to fear?” he thought. “This is ridiculous and disgraceful; I will not be so great a fool.” But courage does not come of saying, “I will be courageous,” nor of recognizing its appropriateness to the occasion. The more Jarette condemned himself, the more reason he gave himself for condemnation; the greater the number of variations which he played upon the simple theme of the harmlessness of the dead, the more insupportable grew the discord of his emotions.

Watcher by the Dead, p. 77

Jarette has accepted the bet put forward by a group of doctors that is it not possible to spend the night alone in a dark room with a corpse. He went into this task enthusiastically, but is now experiencing a certain amount of fear. His efforts to calm himself are unsuccessful - and indeed, they have reason to be, because Mancher will soon rise from the table and terrify him. This quote also highlights a paradox: the more that Jarette tells himself he has nothing to fear, the more fearful he becomes.