Short Story #170: The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Damned Thing

Author:  Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceEight men are present in a cabin, standing over a dead body that is covered.  William Harker enters and is sworn in to give testimony about the dead person, Hugh Morgan.  Harker explains he was visiting Morgan and invited to go hunt quail.  While wandering, their hunting dog goes crazy and Morgan shoots at what appears to be nothing in Harker's eyes.  However, there is a roar and clear movement in the aftermath of Morgan's shot.  Something surges forward and brutally beats Morgan to death.  After finishing his tale, the jury asks what asylum did Harker escape from.  Harker rebuts the insult and tells the coroner to read Morgan's journal for more insight.  The journal covers the events leading up to Morgan's death as he becomes aware of an invisible creature that he is hunting.  He reasons out that it lacks color or has a color that renders it invisible but to make sure he is not crazy, he plans on inviting Harker with him when he hunts it.  


A decent horror tale with its mixture of storytelling among the characters.  It reminds me of other tales such as Fitz-James O'Brien's What Is It and Guy de Maupassant's Le Horla.  This confrontation with the invisible world is a classic horror trope that we still wonder and get excited (as well as fearful) of.  

Short Story #170 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  6/16/2014
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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