Short Story #197: A Diagnosis of Death by Ambrose Bierce

Title: A Diagnosis of Death

Author: Ambrose Bierce


Book cover: Complete Short Stories of Ambrose BierceHawver proceeds to tell his doctor friend, Frayley about an experience in which he believes helps to argue that there is something more to the supernatural than the scientific world tends to believe.  He explains that he took board in a room that used to be inhabited by a doctor.  On a side note, he explains that the doctor could predict the death of a patient when it was within eighteen months.  However, Hawver comes back to the story to explain while in the home one day, the doctor appeared out of nowhere, gestured at him and proceeded through the home and disappeared.  Hawver tries to argue to Frayley that this is proof of the ways in which people leave impressions because Hawver believes the doctor is still alive.  However, Frayley replies that he knew the doctor and he had died well before the incident of which Hawver speaks.  He also explains that the gesture used was the gesture the doctor used when foretelling someone's death.  The following morning, Hawver is found dead.  


Another typical tale of the supernatural for Bierce, although the piece that the doctor was already dead was a nice curve ball in that Hawver presents the doctor as being alive.  Hawver's death at the end while required is done too quickly to fully reflect upon.  

Short Story #197 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 717/2014
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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