I usually don’t think of Charles Dickens when I think about ghost stories. This in spite of the fact that he wrote one of the most well-known (and a personal favorite of mine) ghost stories ever. I think because A Christmas Carol is about Christmas as opposed to holidays in which ghosts are more prevelent and because it’s basic message is uplifting even if it does have a few scary moments, I tend to not put it in the “ghost story” genre.
This weekend, I read Dickens’ short story “The Signal-Man” and was pleasantly surprised that it was a ghost story – the creepy kind. The narrator becomes acquainted with a railroad signal-man and occasionally shares the man’s solitude on the job. The signal-man confides to the narrator that he has seen “Appearances” at the mouth of the tunnel by his station. They occur coincidentally (perhaps?) before some unpleasant circumstances. The story is rather short, but Dickens writing is beautiful as he describes the personality and station (no pun intended) in life of the signal-man. The story ends in typical ghost story fashion, so you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out what happens.
I thought I would mention, though, that what makes the story creepy for me is the narrator. The reader knows absolutely nothing about him except that he is staying at a nearby inn. No reason is given for why he is roaming around the railroad tracks or why he takes an interest in the signal-man. It makes me wonder!?
P. S. As I was reading this story, I was reminded of Edgar Allen Poe.