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GhoStory Guru: “The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce

If you’re a ghost story lover and you haven’t read Ambrose Bierce’s classic “The Boarded Window,” then I’m surprised…but it’s never too late, and if you’re anything like me, then discovering a classic you missed can sometimes be more fun than reading something that was just published: you know you’re getting something so good it’s withstood the test of time.

I had read this so long ago I didn’t even remember it, and what a ride. What makes “The Boarded Window”—which deals with themes of loss and grief—so striking is how vividly it brings the foreboding newness of the American West to life for modern-day audiences by comparing it to the foreboding newness of widowhood. Bierce, through well-chosen words, conveys the maddening loneliness of the pioneering landscape and the lifestyle required to survive in it, lulling us into pity. And then there’s an ending you truly never see coming that drives you from pity to feeling this man’s suffering in your own gut.

Although “The Boarded Window” is popular enough that it’s probably available in a number of print and electronic collections, the copy that I have appears in Penguin 60s’ Three Tales of Horror with Poe’s “Hop Frog” and Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” so if you want a triple-threat you can literally carry with you in your pocket or purse, this is the edition you want. Penguin 60s were issued in the mid-1990s and were limited and all out of print now, but inexpensive used copies are available at the Amazon Marketplace here: http://amzn.com/0146000900

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