The Moonlit Road

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The Moonlit Road is a gothic horror short story written by Ambrose Bierce. It first appeared in a 1907 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, illustrated by Charles B. Falls. This story relates the tale of the murder of Julia Hetman from three perspectives: Julia's, her husband's, and her son's.

Bierce harbored a fear of dying, and this frequently provided inspiration for his fiction. He also experienced guilt due to estrangement from his mother. These traits may have inspired the fictional events in The Moonlit Road.[1]


Joel Hetman, Jr., is summoned home from college by his father, because his mother, Julia, has been found strangled. His father claims that he suspected his wife of infidelity, so he faked a business trip in order to catch her in the act. He says he saw the figure of a man fleeing his home before he found his wife dead in her bedroom.

The son claims that on a later night, he was walking with his father on a moonlit road. He says his father claimed to hear noises, then suddenly went pale and disappeared into the night. The father claims that he saw his wife's apparition on that moonlit road, her strangulation marks still visible.

Julia Hetman relates her story through the aid of "the medium Bayrolles". She claims that on the night of her murder she heard frightening noises in the house. Thinking she were hunted by some creature of the night, she cowered in the corner of her room. The creature then entered her room and strangled her; she never saw his face. Seeing that her husband and son were sad, she wished to communicate with them from the spirit world and offer them comfort. She was finally able to appear to them on the moonlit road, but only her husband could see her. He fled in fear.

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  • See also Rashomon - a Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa where the same tale is told by four witnesses to a murder and where the victim gives deposition through a medium.


  1. ^ Talley, Sharon (2009). Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. 15-16.