Dire Warnings: A Review of The Signalman

The Signalman by Charles Dickens book cover. Image on cover is of a signalman holding a lantern and sending near a train station.

The telling or reading of ghost stories during the Christmas season was once a tradition in Victorian England. This series of books seeks to revive this tradition. As I did last year, I will continue reviewing several of them each December until I’ve reached the end of this series. 

Title: The Signalman – A Ghost Story for Christmas (Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories)

Author: Charles Dickens

Publisher: Biblioasis

Publication Dates: and 2016

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 28 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 3.5 stars


A gentleman discovers the black mouth of a railway tunnel. To his amazement, deep in the gorge before the tunnel, he sees an ancient signal-man, who invites him down to a lonely shack. It’s there that we learn the signal-man’s horrifying secret: he’s haunted by a figure who foretells a catastrophe soon to befall that very stretch of the tracks.


Not every accident can be prevented. Or can they?

This story didn’t waste any time in getting things started, and I loved that. Literally the first scene was about the main character being flagged down by the mysterious signalman. Given the short length of it, this was a great way to grab the audience’s attention and immediately pull me into the plot.

I wish the plot had been developed more thoroughly. The bare bones of it were there, but it was all so skimpy on the details that I had some problems remaining interested in what might happen next. I simply didn’t feel an emotional connection to any of the characters despite the danger they were in.

It wasn’t until I started researching Dickens’ life while working on this post that I realized he was once a passenger on a train that crashed. After the accident, Dickens was one of the people who looked after injured and dying passengers while waiting for help. There was a strong sense of urgency and foreboding in this tale that I can only assume came from his personal experiences on that day. This made for quite the harrowing read even though I would have liked to see more time spent working on the storytelling itself.

I’d recommend The Signalman to anyone who likes trains.


Filed under Science Fiction and Fantasy

4 Responses to Dire Warnings: A Review of The Signalman

  1. I always forget about the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmastime… and so that line in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” always confuses me. This one sounds interesting, though I am very hit or miss (usually miss) with Dickens.

  2. So interesting that Dickens was in a train crash and wrote about it.

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