The Signalman – Charles Dickens

“There is danger overhanging, somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen.”

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Blurb: “When the narrator of Charles Dickens’ masterful ghost story The Signalman climbs down into lonely railway siding on a whim, he finds himself in ‘as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw… it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.’ His misgivings turn out to be justified, for the signalman who lives there has a secret, a ghostly visitor who has twice warned him of impending disaster, and now appears again, foretelling a coming catastrophe that neither man can predict or understand.”

Anyone who know me, will know how much I adore Charles Dickens. When I discovered this short story and that it was the last of his works to be written to completion, how could I resist?

In real life, Charles Dickens had a mistress named Ellen Ternan. One day the duo were on board a train when it derailed, leading to the death of ten people. Dickens was greatly affected by the events and experienced symptoms we would recognise in modern day as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wrote The Signalman a year after the incident and then went on to write The Mystery Of Edwin Drood but died before its completion.

The Signalman is a ghost story about an unnamed narrator who goes down to the tracks one day to see the lonely man who works by the tunnel. Through their conversation, the signalman reveals the strange happenings at his outpost which he believes are a prelude to a fatal accident.

Dickens had a fantastic way of writing gothic and setting up scenes that can’t help but make you feel uncomfortable. It’s just so well thought out (even with the short length) and just a testament to the wonderfully talented writer I know Dickens to be.
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