Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghost Stories!

During this period, please write a short essay comparing and contrasting the two ghost stories we have recently read. Please let your essay take the following form.

Paragraph 1 : Introduction (This should serve as an "opening" in which you mention both titles and both authors.)

Paragraph 2: Discuss the role of spirits/ghosts/spectres in "The Signalman". Try to use as much appropriate direct quotation of the text as you can.

Paragraph 3: Discuss the role of spirits/ghosts/spectres in "How It Happened". Try to use as much appropriate direct quotation of the text as you can.

Paragraph 4: Compare/contrast the role of ghosts in the two stories.

Paragraph 5: Conclusion (Try to find a way of closing that includes summary of your main points.)


  1. Ghost stories

    ‘The Signalman’ written by Charles Dickens and ‘How it happened” By Arthur Conan Doyle are two ghost stories. They are both set in England (it doesn’t actually specify in The Signalman). The signalman was set a bit before how it happened, the only difference that there would be is that The Signalman was before cars were even invented. They both have narrators whose names we do not know and both only have two real main characters.
    In The Signalman, the Specter appears three times and each time there is a death. The first time, a train crash and lots of people die. The second, one woman dies in a cabin of the train. In the third, the Signalman himself dies. The ghost doesn’t seem to have very good intentions, killing people each time. One of the themes in this seems to be death and loneliness, as the Signalman is sitting there on his own.

    In how it happened, the ghost, Stanley is very friendly. The narrator also doesn’t cause any harm. You don’t know that they are going to die and that is actually a ghost story until the end. The themes of this story, at the end, are Ghosts and Spiritualism.

    In how it happened the ghosts are friendly but in The Signalman the ghost brings death each time. The ghosts are very different. In how it happened, it only reveals that it is a ghost story at the end. In how it happened there are two distinct ghosts who you know. They talk like normal people. In the Signalman the ghost could just be his imagination. The narrator of the Signalman thinks that the Signalman is crazy, “I have speculated since, whether there
    may have been infection in his mind.”
    In conclusion in the Signalman, there may not even be a ghost while in how it happened, they are definitely ghosts. In The Signalman it focuses on Death and loneliness, while in how it happened he seems to focus on how there is a life after death, more spiritual things than ghostly death.

  2. Spiritualism
    Ghost Stories

    Paragraph 1
    What are ghost stories? What is spiritualism? Ghost stories are stories based on ‘ghosts’. Ghosts are a symbol of a dead person or the soul of a dead person. Spiritualism is a monotheistic belief where the believer believes in ghosts, afterlife and souls. It is like a religion that says that one can speak to the dead, usually I person with a special gift though. In this essay I will be comparing to spiritualistic stories; ‘The signalman’; and ‘How It Happened’

    Paragraph 2
    ‘The Signalman’ is a story written by Charles Dickens in 1866. It is about a signalman who is being talked to by a ‘specter’ who is trying to warn him that something bad happens, which does happen after every time he speaks or calls out to the signalman. The first time a train crashes, the second a girl dies on the train and 3rd he gets run over by a train and dies. This is a spiritualistic story because the signalman talks to the specter who is trying to prevent these terrible things from happening. The specter is a man or women who has been killed by a train and is trying to stop more accidents from happening.

    Paragraph 3
    ‘How it Happened’ is another ghost story written by Arhtur Conan Doyle whom himself was a believer of spiritualism. In this story a brand new car is driven down Claystall Hill, one of England’s most dangerous roads, without brakes on a free roll. The car, the narrator and Perkins the chauffeur manage to pass the 3 hazardous curves but in the end the narrator crashes and he dies. Though the interesting part is when the narrator dies straight away after dying his old dead university friend’s talks to him.

    Paragraph 4
    How it happened and the signalman are both ghost stories. In the signalman a specter talks to a man who is going to die trying to warn him and in ‘How It Happened’ a man also dies and then talks to the dead. The difference is that the signalman talks to a specter when he is alive where as the narrator in ‘How It Happened’ talks to the dead when he is dead.

    Paragraph 7
    Why write ghost stories? I think that Charles Dickens wrote ghost stories because he loves to write and just wants the reader to have a good read. On the other hand Arthur Conan Doyle was a very strong believer in Spiritualism. He wrote books specifically on Spiritualism so I think that The Signalman is a bit more personal to Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle’s family went through some rough patches; his wife died, his son, and 2 of his brothers in law, so that might be one of the reasons why he was so into Spiritualism. So on a conclusion both of them write great stories.

  3. Spiritualism - Ghost Stories

    In both of these stories ghosts and death are used. They are the main idea and theme in both of these stories making them a little bit similar but the way the ghosts are used is quite different.
    In the ‘Signalman’ the ghost is a warning. It shows the signalman the future and is warning him about what will happen next and to be careful, but the signalman doesn’t really know what he’s seeing and therefore ignores this specter. The first appearance is when the ghost shouts out ‘Halloa bellow there’ and is trying to get the signalman’s attention he appears 3 times and each time is doing a different action, each action was a warning and after each action was done, something tragic had happened. The final time the ghost appears he tries to warn the signalman about something, but he does not understand which results in the signalman’s death.
    ‘How It Happened’ is quite different to usual stories, because the Narrator is actually dead when telling his story. It all happened when the Master got his new car and insisted he drove it instead of Perkins as they were driving both brakes broke and they went speeding down one of the worst hill’s in England. The car came to a stop when it hit a pillar and the master had died. At the time, he didn’t know he had died but he woke up and tried to communicate with the people who were around, but no one listened to him. He found out he was dead when his friend Stanley who had died in the Boar war was next to him and was talking to him about the smash up that had just happened. All of a sudden the Master realized that Stanley had died years before and tells him he’s dead. Stanley then the Master, that he is also dead.
    Both stories are similar because of the way the ghost’s are used are very different. Both stories are in first person. We don’t know the names of the narrators which leaves some suspicion in the stories, both ghost’s speak in their stories. In the Signalman the ghost isn’t anyone we know or have been told about he is just some person. His aim was to try and tell the Signalman about his death and try to warn him so he would survive, unfortunately the ‘Signalman’ didn’t understand this specter and it ended in his death. In ‘How It Happened’ the ghost was our narrator the Master and Stanley the Master’s friend. It started off with a different approach because we weren’t told anything about ghosts at the beginning and there was no sign that there would have been any ghost until the final sentence were Stanley tells him he is a ghost.
    Both stories contain ghosts or specters but the idea is very different, one ghost is warning, or even possibly leading someone into their death while the other one doesn’t even know he is a ghost until he is told be another ghost.

  4. The two ghost stories we have read so far are “The Signal Man” by Charles Dickens, and “How It Happened” by Arthur Conan Doyle. “The Signal Man” is written in 1866, and “How It Happened” is more recent, written in 1918.

    The ghost in “The Signal Man” is actually a good ghost. At first the narrator thinks that the signal man is a ghost, but when he gets to know the signal man closer, he realizes that the signal man is the one who saw a ghost. The signal man is scared because he explains that after he saw the ghost, something bad happened. “Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on this line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded were brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure has stood”, this extract from the story shows that after the signal man saw the spectre, the ghost in other words, the accident happened.
    The role of the ghost is actually a good one, but the signal man does not realize it, because even though the ghost tried to warn him about his death, the ghost perhaps, caused the other deaths such as the young lady and injuries of the people.

    In “How It Happened” there are two ghosts, the narrator and his friend Stanley who he really liked but died at Boer War.
    The actual narrator who is a ghost was a rich man who wanted to try his new car, and eventually he died in a car accident
    The role of the ghost is not a very important one, it might have morale, which is not to try out new type of car during night when the visibility is really bad, but the ghost is not the evil one.

    In both stories the ghosts are not evil. In “The Signal Man” the ghost is more like a classical ghost, has a dead face, and the atmosphere is pretty spooky, whereas in “How It Happened” the ghost is not scary, and not described as well as in the first story. And if the ghost from “The Signal Man” causes someone’s death, the ghost from “How It Happened” does not.

    In general I enjoyed both of the stories, even though I can say that I prefer “The Signal Man”, because it has a spookier atmosphere, and it reminds me more of the supernatural beings, and has more description.
    Both of the stories are well written and interesting.

  5. Ghost Stories Essay
    By: Siri Arends
    9B Lit

    In class we have studied two well known so called 'Ghost Stories'. The first one was 'The Signal Man' by Charles Dickens. The second story was 'How it Happened' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Both stories are based on the supernatural and are very powerful stories. The stories have some similarity but are actually quite different.
    The Signal Man is a story told by an older man who came across this strange acting signal man. The narrator thinks the man has gone a bit crazy as he says to him before the narrator departs the first time "Did you call out 'Hallo Below there' because of some supernatural force compelled you to ?" The signal man tells this man that he is troubled but will tell him the story if he returns the next day . The narrator does and is told how this signal man has been visited by this ghost who stands by the danger light. The ghosts the first appearance he stands with one arm across his eyes and is waving the other as if to say 'Clear the Way'. A few hours later there was a terrible train crash and the dead and wounded were carried across the exact spot the ghost had stood. The next appearance was about six months later when the ghost stood at the danger light and looked as if he were mourning. That day a young woman died on one of the trains. The ghost then started to appear more frequently and began to 'Haunt' the signal man, he would ring his bell and he did this for a couple days until the signal man was run over by a train . The driver of that train had put one arm over his eyes and waved frantically as if to say 'Clear the Way!' as the ghost had the previous times. I think the ghost was warning the signal man of dangers and then at the end was trying to tell him to stay clear of the track. The signal man obviously did not get the message .
    How it Happened tells the story of the narrators death. The ghosts appear at the end after the narrator is in a terrible car crash next to his home. He is standing, looking at the wreck when his old college buddy appears and then he realizes his friend Stanley actually died in the Boer War. The then calls out " But Stanley! Stanley! You are dead " to which the friend replies " So are you ", smiles and walks away. The affect of having an ending like this is very intense and adds more suspense to the story.
    In both the stories the ghosts are trying to portray a message. In the Signal Man the ghost is trying to tell the signal man to stay clear of the tracks, and in How it happened the ghost is telling the narrator that he is dead. They both stand for something, and in these stories they both stand for death. In the signal man however the ghost has more of a haunting effect as he simply says : hallo below there! and waves his arm. Also in the signal man the ghost does not reveal his face, which adds to the haunting effect. In How it happened the ghost is an old friend of the narrator and simply says : So are you . Then smiles and leaves. This doesn't make the ghost seem very ghostly but more of a messenger. In both stories the narrators don’t really have a name, they are unknown men, and both stories are written in the first person. In ‘How it Happened’ there is more ghost talk then in the signal man because at the end you find out that the narrator is actually a ghost and that kind of adds to the shock.
    ‘The signal man’ and ‘How it happened’ are two very different stories, but they follow the same ideas, death and the supernatural. In both stories there is a certain amount of suspense made and both have direct speech from the ghost. The stories follow the lines but the signal man was much more of a haunting story then how it happened but how it happened was written by a ghost.

  6. Spiritualism
    Ghost stories
    Ghosts are used in both stories, the stories are based on them. They are both friendly ghosts, but at the beginning of the story you wouldn’t know it had ghosts or that the characters were ghosts themselves. After reading the first few paragraphs you realize they are ghosts but you get a lot of different ideas of either how they died or how they ended up as ghosts.
    In the signalman the ghosts used are signals to the signalman, to show that an accident is going to happen. These ghosts are good ghosts that were not sent to haunt but more likely to help. The signalman first thought that the warnings were real people, but then after he went running looking for them he started thinking about it more and tried figuring it out. He was scared of them and did not know what to do because he was the only one that could hear and see them. When the ghosts do their signals it is really confusing for the signalman because he is expecting a massive disaster when the ghost says’ for god’s sake, clear the way!’ but there never is one till later. The ghosts are good for stories like the signalman because they open your imagination, and make you think about the ways they got to where they are and also why they got there.
    In ‘how is happened’ the ghost is only used at the end, but as the story goes on, you start guessing why the story is going so far and nothing bad or spooky has happened yet. Stanley who is master’s friend from collage who died in the Boar war comes back to visit only when someone he knows dies. Master is really confused and thinks he is imagining things as he wakes up from the hit, but as he realizes that no one is looking at him and is completely ignoring him he starts to realize that is it possible that he has died. Also the ghost in this story is friendly and is only helping Master through to the ‘dead world’. He is the only ghost around and no one can see him or hear him apart from Master.
    Both stories are alike (because of the ghosts) and also because both the ghosts are friendly ghost’s who are out to do only good things. Even though the situations are different they are both alike. In the signalman the ghost was there to warn the signalman about the accident about to happen and because of this the signalman looks as though he is a ghost, but in ‘how it happened’ there is not the same feeling because the action including the ghost is at the end of the story, and when Master wakes up he feels like something is not right (after seeing Stanley). There are a few similarities with the stories, they both include transport (train and car), they are both written in first person and we also don’t know the names of the narrators, this adds to the suspicion of the stories.
    So in conclusion, both stories are similar in ways but different in others, they have a similar but it is different In the way it is exposed, this makes them most mysterious and suspicious of why the ghosts came or why did they have to come.

  7. Spiritualism


    Ghost Stories

    In this essay I will be introducing the ‘Ghost stories’ and ‘Spiritualism’, and also explaining the difference of them. Spiritualism is some sort of belief, where people believe in afterlife, ghosts and dead souls. There is a writer that believes in this belief his name is Arthur Conan Doyle. Who started believing in this after his wife Louisa died. Ghost stories are written pieces of work by writers that can be either imaginary stories telling them to the readers about ghosts and spiritual souls, or either real stories based on reality ghost stories.

    The short story ‘Signal Man’ was written by a famous novelist Charles Dickens in the late 1866’s. It can be called a ghost story when the signal man appears to be a ghost himself when the narrator listens to all the stories the signal man tells him. To also know it’s a ghost story can be found out by reading where it says that the signal man lives in a dark train tunnel so that he will not be seen or heard by anyone. Also, when the narrator meets the signal man, the signal man offers the narrator to visit ‘tomorrow’ so that the signal man can tell another story.

    The short story ‘How it happened’ was written by a writer called Arthur Conan Doyle and is more based on the spiritualism and really expresses his own beliefs in this story. When he mentions that Stanley (the narrators old friend, who died in a Boer War) is dead, and Stanley mentions that the narrator is dead as well.

    Both stories are ghost stories, but both of the stories have different meanings of the stories, the ‘Signal Man’ is more an imaginary story, and stories like this are more famous because more teenagers find stories like this interesting than the reality stories. The story ‘how it happened’ was more based on the spiritualism and is more a reality story compared to the Signal Man.
    There are people who believe in the afterlife. And there are people who simply don’t. There are also people who enjoy reading and listening to ghost stories and there are also people who don’t enjoy reading or either listening to ghost stories. Everybody has their own opinions on everything, which shouldn’t be judged by anybody. Both stories in my opinion are interesting. Read for your own joy!

    By christina lomakina.

  8. Ghost Stories by Tatiana Torriani

    The ‘ghost’ stories we read were ‘How it Happened’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, and ‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens. The gap between the stories publishing dates aren’t too great, but are still different by about 42 years, How It Happened being published in 1918 and the Signalman being published in 1866. Many things could’ve happened during that time period that the authors could’ve included.

    The ghost in the Signalman was more of a warning than a haunting, although could be classified as both. The ghost in that story was trying to warn the signalman of the problems that happened while he was on the job, but at the same time the ghost could’ve caused it somehow. “Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on this line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded were brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure had stood.” (Said by the Signalman) Whenever the ghost appears there is a death of some sort. At the beginning, the Signalman wondered whether the narrator was a ghost as well, seeing as he was already a little paranoid because of his previous visit from a ghost. He wondered if the narrator had said ‘Halloa! Below there!’ because it was ‘conveyed in a supernatural way’ by the ghost, perhaps. The narrator thought that the Signalman might’ve been hallucinating when he thought he might’ve seen the ghost. “Why, see how your imagination misleads you.” Is what the narrator had said to the signalman saying the bell rung twice when it didn’t. Later, at the end of the story, the narrator finds the signalman died because a train had ‘cut him through’ right after the conductor had yelled what the ghost had previously exclaimed.

    The ghost in How It Happened, though, was different. This ghost only came at the very end to show that the narrator had died. “’Stanley, you are dead.’ He looked at me with the same gentle old, wistful smile. ‘So are you,’ He answered.” It could have been a supernatural cause to have the brakes suddenly break, but it could have also been an event that could have very well happened on its own. In this case, though, the death is caused by the recklessness of the narrator. He could’ve let his chauffeur drive the car, since that was what he was paid and taught to do. Then, maybe the brakes would’ve still worked, but then again, maybe they would’ve broken as well, resulting in Perkin’s death instead of the narrators.

    The two stories’ use of ghosts is fairly different. In the Signalman the ghost was sent as a warning so that the signalman would be more careful and such. While in How It Happened the ghost only comes at the very end to tell the narrator that he is dead. In both stories, though, everything could have been natural occurring as well as supernatural. Maybe the ghosts took part in all the events that happened, but maybe everything happened as a course of luck, as well. The ghosts in The Signalman had appeared 3 times during the whole story, while in How It Happened the ghost only appeared at the end. Both of the ghosts affected one of the main characters.

    Yes, both stories used ghosts as a way to foreshadow or inform the reader of an event that happened/might happen, but they were used differently. They both had a good effect in the story, but in How It Happened the ghost at the end was less necessary than the one in The Signalman. Both of them were great to read and were interesting, as well.

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  10. Ghost Stories
    Both of these stories (The Signalman, and How it Happened) both contain references to ghosts and spiritualism, but in different ways, and of different magnitudes. Charles Dickens used more of a ‘spooky’ style, whereas Arthur Conan Doyle uses the use of ghosts in a nicer way, and the narrator seems to be a friendly chap, even though he himself is a ghost.
    In The Signalman, written by Charles Dickens, the use of ghosts/spectres is vast, and the whole story is based around the topic, and even the characters thoughts are mainly based around ghost sightings, and what happens when the elusive ghost appears (“Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on this line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded were brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure had stood.”). The use is used repeatedly, and becomes an important part of the plot (“Six or seven months past, and I had recovered from the surprise and shock, when one morning, as the day was breaking, I, standing at the door, looked towards the red light, and saw the spectre again.” “That very day, as a train came out of the tunnel, I noticed, at a carriage window on my side, what looked like a confusion of hands and heads, and something waved.”).
    In How it Happened, written by Arthur Conan Doyle, the use of ghosts/spectres is not known about, until the very end of the story, when it revealed that the narrator, known as the Master, has been killed in the car crash, and is narrating the story in the future, as a ghost himself. Although, when it is first found out that the narrator is a ghost, everything that couldn’t be explained previously becomes clear (“Here I am’, I answered, but they did not seem to hear me. They were all bending over something which lay in front of the car.” “And then suddenly a wave of amazement passed over me. Stanley! Stanley! Why, Stanley you had surely died of enteric at Bloemfontein in the Boer War! ‘Stanley!’ I cried, and the words seemed to choke my throat-‘Stanley, you are dead.’ He looked at me with the same old gentle, wistful smile. ‘So are you,’ he answered.”).
    The uses of ghosts in both of these stories are very different. The use of ghosts/spectres in The Signalman are used throughout the story, and the story is based around ghosts. Whereas in How it Happened, it is only known about at the very end, and the narrator is narrating as a ghost. Both ghosts do not mean any harm, but the ghost in The Signalman was trying to express the danger that was about to occur. In How it Happened, the ghosts seem cheery, well at least Stanley does. Both stories have a fatality at the end, and both are related to relatively new technology in the day.
    Both stories use ghosts effectively, but for different reasons: The Signalman had ghosts as the main body of the story, and was essential, whereas How it Happened used it more as a twist at the end to give a surprise. In my mind, The Signalman used ghosts in a more effective way, and was the favourite in my mind, as i liked the build up with the characters, and i just wanted to know about the mysterious man.


    by: Sara Welander

    This essay is about the two short stories; "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens (1866) and "How it Happened" by Arthur Conan Doyle. Throughout, I will tell you the contrast and comparisons of these two, thrilling, ghost stories.

    The role of the ghost(s) in "The Signalman" has quite a deep meaning into it. In the story, 'the signalman' describes the spectre as standing right by the red light (‘the Danger light’) of the tunnel, "the left arm across the face, and the right arm is waved - violently waved", and he's shouting "Halloa! Below there. Look out! Look out!” Further in the story the reader finds out why the spectre actually does this action and says these words. This is because the ghost is the apparent futures figure of the man in the tunnel recovering the signalman’s sudden death. So the role of the spirit is a warning of something terrible that was about to happen and in the story, the signalman actually kind of already knew about it e.g. “There is danger overhanging somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen” the signalman says to the narrator at the bottom of page 7.

    The role of the ghost in “How It Happened” is actually of a much simpler reason. This ghost is Stanley, the narrator’s old friend from his University. First, the master seems quite excited to see him and talked him like a normal conversation ‘good lord, what an awful smash!’ But then later on he realizes that Stanley, his college friend, actually died a time ago. This is then when you find out the role of ghost; Stanley is there for the narrator, to tell him he his dead, and probably to bring him up to heaven.

    These two ghost stories have some differences and some similarities. One similarity between the two is that they both include something about death and ghosts/spectres. Another similarity is that the two settings were as well around the middle of the night and at a train/railway station. They also were both set around the mid-late 1800s. The differences of the two stories is that the ghosts had different roles/actions and in "How it happened" the spectre only appeared once, not several times like in "The Signalman". The themes were very different being as in "how it happened" it was more of an action theme and in "the signalman" it was more mystery. The two also had different language styles. In "the signalman" it was more mysterious and descriptive language, while in "how it happened" it was more of a past tense and with unusual descriptions.

    To conclude it all the two ghost stories, "The Signalman" and "How it happened" had an equal amount of similarities and differences but were both very successful and well-written short stories. "The Signalman" was more of a mystery shorty story with tension and horror, while "How it Happened" had more action and excitement put into it and the ghost wasn't as frightening and thoroughly described as in The Signalman. But all in all I would say that both stories had a frightening plot but a surprising, satisfying ending.