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Charles Dickens is known for his empathetic rags-to-riches stories, like Oliver Twist or David Copperfield. He’s not so well known for his ghost stories, which is an oversight. We’ve compiled the best Dickens ghost stories: helping you choose where to start.I love how Dickens can drag you into his world. His writing makes you feel like you’re there with the characters. With his fascination in mesmerism and psychology, his voice in the ‘traditional ghost story’ is eerie. It’s unfortunate that the best ghost stories of Charles Dickens are largely ignored.
Which is why we’ve created this list with both well-known and lesser-known short ghost stories by Charles Dickens.
“‘Dear Captain Murderer, what pie is this to be?’ He replied, ‘A meat pie.’ Then said the lovely bride, ‘Dear Captain Murderer, I see no meat.’”
Dickens and ghost stories aren’t such an odd combination. They were always an interest for him. This story is based on a tale his nurse used to scare him with when he was a child.
The story is about a cannibal named Captain Murderer. He marries and after one month and one day, has his blacksmith file his teeth and asks his wife to make a large pie. She says there’s no meat and he just smiles. Kills her, chops her up and sends the pie to the bakery. He eats it. Then he marries again.
One day, he marries a twin, and her twin sister (who doesn’t like him) figures out what he’s doing (her sister is killed). She offers to marry him, makes the crust and he kills and eats her. But there’s a twist at the end that I won’t give away.
Why it’s a great ghost story:
It’s grotesque. It’s simple. The repetition really helps build the tension and the ending makes it great. It’s a perfectly creepy tale for a campfire or a long winter night.
Scare Scale: 8/10
“I stole down after him, creeping under certain shrubs which grow in that place, and none but devils know with what terror I, a strong, full-grown man, tracked the footsteps of that baby as he approached the water’s brink.”
One of the best ghost stories of Charles Dickens, it often gets unfairly compared to Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart (1843). Of course, there’s a mad murderer involved.
A soldier returns from abroad to his wife. Her sister is married to his brother- and she drives the soldier crazy. She completely unnerves him with her hateful stare. She dies.
His brother, while dying from an illness, begs the soldier to take in his son. But the son has the same look in his eyes as his mother and there’s no love lost between the boy and the soldier. First the soldier tries to drown him, when that doesn’t work he uses his sword and buries the boy’s body in the yard.
Again, I won’t spoil the ending.
Why it’s such a good ghost story:
It’s not very often you have a man killing a child because of his glance. It’s still shocking today. The ending is just desserts.
Scare Scale: 6/10
“He saw them ugly, handsome, crippled, exquisitely formed. He saw them young, he saw them old, he saw them kind, he saw them cruel, he saw them merry, he saw them grim.”
Not strictly a ghost story, it has echoes of A Christmas Carol (1843) with the main character learning a lesson. Just not from ghosts.
Trotty is a ticket porter; his daughter Meg wants to marry Richard. They’re poor and everyone discourages her on the marriage. The chimes of a tower clock call Trotty and the goblins who ring it decide to teach him a lesson.
They show him how Meg, Richard and two poor friends suffer through life- but don’t give up. He begs the goblins to let him help Meg before she kills herself.
Why is this a top Charles Dickens ghost story choice:
It’s very unique within his body of work. The supernatural edge gives the grit of the story teeth- and it also reminds you to admire humanity.
Scare Scale: 5/10
“I don’t know. I never saw the face. The left arm is across the face, and the right arm is waved,–violently waved. This way.”
For a short, creepy and strangely compelling read, I’d have to go with The Signalman.
A local man befriends a signalman; the signalman seems bothered by something. He finally tells his visitor that he’s seen a ghost 3 times. The first time was just before a horrible train wreck; the second involved the death of a young lady.
Now he’s worried about the third omen. You’ll have to read it to find the surprise ending.
Scare Score: 9/10 (It gets under your skin.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed the best Dickens ghost stories, helping you choose where to start. What about you? Have you got a favorite Dickens ghost story? Why is it your favorite?
Let us know in the comments below!