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‘The Signalman’: A classic ghost story for Christmas
04:47 pm


Charles Dickens
Ghost Story

If you haven’t seen The Signalman, then you’re in for a treat; if you have, then, it will be like welcoming back a well-remembered friend.

“The Signal-Man” is a short story by Charles Dickens, first published in 1866, and relates the tale of a signal-man, who works in a solitary signalbox in a deep cutting, near the mouth of a long tunnel on a lonely stretch of railway. The signal-man is haunted by the vision of a spectral figure…well, that’s enough for here, you’ll just have to watch or read the story.

The Signalman starred Denholm Elliott, and was produced for the BBC’s Ghost Story at Christmas, which like turkey and chestnut stuffing, tinsel and crackers, was a firm festive favorite. It was the one drama that lingered long in the mind long after transmission.

Prior to The Signalman, Ghost Story at Christmas had dramatized uncanny tales by M. R. James, which had kept viewers transfixed, as we sat around our flickering TVs, in darkened living rooms, watching The Stalls of Barchester, A Warning to the Curious, Lost Hearts and The Ash Tree. It is because of this I associate Christmas with ghost stories. Without much more ado, let’s begin our tale:

“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….


And if you can’t find time in between wrapping presents to watch the whole half-hour above, here’s a three-minute version by animator George Roberts.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Vincent Price: ‘A Christmas Carol’ from 1949

Close the door against the chill and draw yourself a little closer to the fire. There. Comfortable? Then we’ll begin…

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Vincent Price hosts this short TV adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, starring Taylor Holmes as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Pat White as Bob Cratchit, and Earl Lee as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, directed by Arthur Pierson, from 1949.


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Jonathan Miller’s ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’

It terrified the audience on its first transmission in 1968—not surprising as its author, M. R. James, was the master of ghost stories, who re-invented the genre with his tales of the supernatural. Whistle and I’ll Come to You starred Michael Hordern, and was produced and directed by Jonathan Miller, the former star, along with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett, of Beyond the Fringe. Miller had already made his mark directing The Drinking Party, The Death of Socrates and Alice in Wonderland for the BBC before making this classic chiller, one described as:

A masterpiece of economical horror that remains every bit as chilling as the day it was first broadcast.


Parts 2 and 3 of ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’ after the jump…

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