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Real Life Author Mysteries 2: Ambrose Bierce

Authors lives can sometimes be as intriguing as their work. In this second installment of Real Life Author Mysteries, let's examine the mystery of columnist, Ambrose Bierce.

Ambrose Bierce

It's the early 1900's and Ambrose Bierce has built a successful career as a columnist, writing snarky, award-winning, social commentary called The Devil’s Dictionary, and other books about his experiences with the darker side of humanity. He’s been to war, after all. Perhaps that’s why Bierce, at 71, is determined to cover the Mexican Revolution from the inside. He saddles up, heads for Mexico…and disappears.

Tales of his death are greatly exaggerated.

Oh, he dies - more times than a human being can…or should.

He dies in Ojinga after killing a Federale. Then he crosses the Rio Grande, helped across the river by a Federale who knows he heard the now injured - not dead- old man say he was Ambrosia Price - close enough. He dies in Camp Marfa cemetery. Rising from the grave, he somehow dies in Icamole, after Pancho Villa ambushes a party of government soldiers with whom Bierce’s walking-dead body has taken shelter. Later, on suspicion of him being a spy (and perhaps a ghost?), he was killed yet again in the mountain town of Sierra Mojada.

Where did Ambrose Bierce really pass away?

He’s been spotted since, so maybe, this man who died so many times, isn’t dead at all. Maybe he died years later, after the war was over.

Or the war was just so confusing that stories got mixed up and misinformation mounted until this myth was made.

We’ll never know.


My personal theory is a simple case of mistaken identity blowing out of proportion. War is chaos and in the chaotic environment of battle, it's extremely likely that a man resembling the famous writer, perhaps another reporter, was falsely identified as Ambrose Bierce. Once the idea of a man dying in two places began to spread, it became even more likely that cases of sightings and more false-positive ID's would occur, since everyone was looking for Ambrose Bierce and expecting to find him.

Or maybe Ambrose Bierce is an immortal man, dying only to spring back to life in another place, until he is spotted again.

Who knows?

Read more about Ambrose Bierce:

What do you think happened to Ambrose Bierce during the war? Tell us your theory below or join the conversation on social media.

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