31 Shots of Shock #6: ‘The Signal-Man’ by Charles Dickens

*Title: ‘The Signal-Man’ by Charles Dickens.
Date Read: 06 October 2011
Available Online?: YES.
Briefly: Curious about the solitary life of a signal-man the narrator descends down the railway embankment to have a chat with one such lonely fellow.
Afterthoughts: Dickens may be somewhat renowned for his supernatural tales, but I’ve only read one of his ghost stories to date (excluding A Christmas Carol of course), Telling Winter Stories. I found that story to be suitably scary but only to a point. The Signal-Man written in 1866 however, is an altogether different affair. This one genuinely creeped me out, and for a number reasons. First is the setting – dank, dark and situated for the most part at the entrance to an equally dank and dark railway tunnel. Then there’s the build up to the ending which gradually gets tenser and more creepier. And finally there’s the ending itself which is sure to put a shiver down the most unaffected of spines.
Notable Quote: One moonlight night,” said the man, “I was sitting here, when I heard a voice cry, ‘Halloa! Below there!’ I started up, looked from that door, and saw this Some one else standing by the red light near the tunnel, waving as I just now showed you. The voice seemed hoarse with shouting, and it cried, ‘Look out! Look out!’ And then attain, ‘Halloa! Below there! Look out!’ I caught up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure, calling, ‘What’s wrong? What has happened? Where?’ It stood just outside the blackness of the tunnel. I advanced so close upon it that I wondered at its keeping the sleeve across its eyes. I ran right up at it, and had my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, when it was gone.

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my 2011 31 Shots of Shock reading project.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. I’m surprised I haven’t even heard of this one! I’ll have to read it soon.