Short Story #168: A Watcher by the Dead by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  A Watcher by the Dead

Author:  Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceThe story begins with a man sitting in a room at night with a corpse under a sheet.  Seeing that his candle is low, he blows it out in order to save on the candle should he need it later on.  The story moves to a Dr.'s office where two doctors and an aid are discussing the topic of death and sanity.  Two of them singularly believe that facing death in some challenging way such as doctors or soldiers do proves the quality of a man.  They agree to take a bet on a man, Jarette who will stay in a room with a corpse all night.  The story returns to Jarette who becomes increasingly anxious in the dark and indeed even hears footfalls.  The next morning, one of the doctors and his aid walk over to the house.  While there, they see a great commotion about the house and wonder what has occurred.  They discover that Jarette has killed their friend who was pretending to be a corpse.  They conclude that they had best leave the country soon.


A serious case of Murphy's law in effect.  I'm not sure this falls under the auspices of "horror" but more like dark humor with the doctor and aide fleeing to Europe at the end like this were a joke.  

Short Story #168 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  6/14/2014
Source:  The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce, compiled by Ernest Jerome Hopkins.  Bison Books, 1984.  The full works of Ambrose Bierce, including this story can be found here on

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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