The Disappearing Man

This post has me wondering if being curious about a subject can make the “universe” bring an event into your own life. In other words, “what you think about, you bring about.” Today, we are looking at just that with the story of Ambrose Bierce; a man fascinated with writing stories about people who disappear. Let’s look at the disappearing man.

Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce was a writer and sometimes newspaper editor that was known for his sarcastic wit. Ambrose was born on June 24, 1842, in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio. He was the tenth of thirteen children born to his parents. Ambrose left home at the ripe old age of 15 years and later lived with an uncle of his. He entered a military school when he was 17 years old and attended classes on different subjects. In 1861 he joined the military to fight in the American Civil War. He was present for many well-known battles. After being shot in the head and suffering from blackouts and dizziness he left the military in 1865. Mr. Bierce married Mary ‘Mollie’ Ellen Day in 1871 and they had three children together. Mr. Bierce and his family lived in different areas of England and the United States. He was a contemporary of Mark Twain in San Fransisco and was disliked by Oscar Wilde. Mollie Bierce passed away in 1905 and Ambrose continued to be a fairly prolific writer. In 1906 he wrote The Devil’s Dictionary which included such passages as:

CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be

WAR, n. A by-product of the arts of peace.

MARRIAGE, n. The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

As you can see, Ambrose Bierce, had strong opinions. He was a bit of an adventurer who at the age of 71 years wrote a letter stating that he was going to Mexico to witness Pancho Villa’s revolution. His letter to his cousin in 1913 read:

“Good-bye — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia!”

Ambrose Bierce
Bettman/Corbis The Disappearing Man

Ambrose Bierce was never heard from or seen again. It is assumed that he died in Mexico either of old age or suicide. The thing about Ambrose and his link to disappearing is that it was a subject that fascinated him. Ambrose had written numerous stories about disappearing including the story of Charles Ashmore. The story goes that on a cold winter evening a16-year-old boy named Charles Ashmore took a metal bucket and ventured into the snow outside to fetch water from the nearby spring. When the boy failed to return home his father and sister went searching for him by lamplight. About 75 yards from the farmhouse the footprints of young Charles stopped abruptly in the newly fallen snow. Mr. Ashmore left the footprints behind and ventured on to the spring which he discovered was still frozen over. Meaning that Charles never made it to the spring to gather the needed water. The mystery continues when four days later the mother of Charles walked the footprints of her son and at the exact spot they ended she heard the voice of Charles. She searched for him as the voice seemed to come from different directions. She could not understand the words that she heard but she knew the voice was Charles’. Mrs. Ashmore kept searching until she was overcome by physical and emotional exhaustion. As time went on and Charles had not reappeared each and every member of his family would experience hearing his voice in the area of his last steps.

Ambrose Bierce wrote many newspaper stories and books that revolved around disappearing, starting around 1888. I find it a strange coincidence that the author would go on to disappear himself some 30 years later.  Did he succumb to wounds received while witnessing the revolution? Or did he commit suicide? Or did he bring about what he had been thinking about? We may never know for sure.

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Let us know if there are other disappearances we should look into.


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