Charles Dickens certainly told a good ghost story! I just listened to, and thoroughly enjoyed, the audiobook version of A Christmas Carol, narrated wonderfully by Jim Dale (who also narrated the Harry Potter audiobooks). The three spirits of Christmas — past, present and future — were wonderful ghosts, and the story a timeless reminder to keep life in perspective and to live it well and with compassion for others.
In October, I read Dickens’s Three Ghost Stories. I’ve read the little book twice now but had a hard time writing a blog post about it. When I read it again on Halloween, I decided the problem was that I really liked the first story, but didn’t like as much the other two. Perhaps I should search for an audiobook version of this little book, too, because I suspect that Dickens wrote his ghost stories to be read aloud.
At any rate, the first story, The Signal-Man, was chilling. It begins with heavy portents that all is not well…
“Halloa! Below there!”
When he heard a voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the door of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled round its short pole. One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground, that he could not have doubted from what quarter the voice came; but, instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about and looked down the Line. There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so, though I could not have said, for my life, what. But, I know it was remarkable enough to attract my notice, even though his figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench, and mine was high above him, so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset that I had shaded my eyes with my hand before I saw him at all.
From looking down the Line, he turned himself about again, and, raising his eyes, saw my figure high above him.
…The reader learns that each encounter with the signal-man precedes a terrible railway tragedy of some kind. We know that, but the narrator doesn’t make the connection that there will be yet another tragedy, and the suspense builds and builds.
So I do recommend Three Ghost Stories as a quick and fun read. And I highly recommend treating yourself to some special holiday audiobook time with A Christmas Carol.