Short Story #186: The Thing at Nolan by Ambrose Bierce

Title:  The Thing at Nolan

Author:  Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceCharles usually gets along decently with his son John, even though 
John is given to dark moods and brooding.  On occasion, he will lash out at people and then apologize.  During an altercation between father and son one day, the father struck the son and John swore that Charles would die for that.  Two weeks later, Charles set out to create a spring.  John remained busy in the house until later and left for several hours.  When he returned, his clothing was wet and he seemed to be acting strange.  Charles never returned and very quickly people started to raise questions about John to the point that a mob was close to acting.  However, several days after this, a story came from Nolan about Charles appearing at a store, clearly injured but never saying a word or doing anything and disappearing again.  All of this is enough to find John innocent and the family promptly left town.  Later on, boys found the body of Charles in the general vicinity of the May property and it was determined to be killed by someone.  The story ends with the question of what was the thing at Nolan then.


This story had a bit of spunk and curiosity to it and certainly makes the reader wonder.  I could imagine a tale like this being done quite better in the hands of Lovecraft or King.  Bierce brings us close but never too far in the muck.

Short Story #186 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 7/2/2014
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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