I’m so excited to be part of the Ghost Story Advent again this year. My story for 2022 is The Ghost in the Bride’s Chamber by Charles Dickens.
The story follows Mr Goodchild and Mr Idle’s adventures and this piece finds them in a very old and creepy house. On entering the house they are disturbed to see a group of six silent old men wandering up the staircase who appear to be unknown to the house’s other inhabitants. Even more strangely, the door to their sitting room keeps opening and closing at regular intervals; very disturbing to a peaceful evening by the fire!
The story of the Bride’s Chamber itself is told to Mr Goodchild by one of these old men who appears when the bell tolls one. The bell summoning a key figure in the story particularly made me smile when I was writing this up yesterday as I had also just listened to The Bell by Frederick Cowles, as part of the Hallowed Histories podcast’s series of ghost stories for the season, which features a similar summoning from the eponymous bell.
The old man proceeds to tell the story of the Bride and her haunted chamber. The Bride, Ellen, an orphan of simple wants and habits, is kept by her Guardian and future husband in a isolated and gloomy house. The descriptions of her seclusion give the piece a fairy tale feel which reminded me very much of Rapunzel and the lady currently being kept prisoner by the skull in my reading of The Palm-Wine Drinkard.
The story is also very unique however and as the tale unfolds, the themes of guilt and regret often utilised in ghost stories actually culminate in an individual way with a wonderful feeling of sinister dread. This is one which is perfect for fans of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, and is a much faster read to cosy up with as the cold dark nights draw in.
The Ghost in the Bride’s Chamber is a strong example of Dickens’ supernatural fiction and shows that he deserves to be as recognised in the genre as much as he is in realist fiction. His most famous ghost story has of course been regularly dismissed as Scrooge’s guilt-ridden hallucinatory dream, with nothing at all supernatural about it, though I like to think that the undigested bit of beef was definitely Marley’s rattling chains and his cold and draughty Victorian house was just as much haunted as the wretched Bride’s chamber.
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