By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Ghost Story Review: "The Bus-Conductor" by E. F. Benson

The narrator of this story and his friend, Hugh Grainger, have just returned from a couple of days in the country, when they spent time at a house reputed to be haunted. All the time they were out of town, the weather was dreadful, wind and rain banging on the house and windows so hard that if a ghost were trying to make its presence know, they probably didn’t hear it.

The narrator is a bundle of nerves. Hugh is calm. The narrator has never seen a ghost. Hugh has. After some preliminary remarks on how a mortal might come to see into the spirit world, Hugh tells his story.

About 18 months earlier, in the narrator’s house, after they had gone to bed, Hugh woke to open the window and get some air. He saw a horse-drawn hearse pull up in front of the house and thought it was for the servant the narrator had earlier told him was ill. The driver was not dressed as a hearse driver, though, but as a bus driver might be.

He saw Hugh looking at him, touched his to him and said, “Just room for one inside, sir.”

Hugh pulled his head inside and shut the window. He turned on the electric light and looked at his watch. It read half-past eleven. The watch must have stopped. He was sure it was later than that.

He lay back down for what he thought was about half an hour. He neither heard the hearse anymore nor had he heard it leave. He opened the curtains and looked outside. It was dawning. He looked at his watch. It read a quarter past four.

“You man did not appear at breakfast the next morning,” Hugh told the narrator in explaining why he had said nothing to the narrator about the hearse until now. “…it was still possible that, you see, that what I had seen was a real hearse, driven by a real driver.”

He went on to say that a month later he was in London again. He was about to step onto a bus when the conductor he’d seen in his dream stepped forward and told him (you might have guessed it by now), “Just room for one inside, sir.”

If this sounds familiar, it may in part because the dream premonition is a staple of horror and ghost stories, but also because this story, with its tagline, “Just room for one inside, sir” (and variations thereof) has gone through several incarnations, including a 1944 film title Dead of Night ; a Twilight Zone episode (“Twenty Two”); and the lyrics of Oingo Boing’s “Dead Man’s Party.”


Title: “The Bus-Conductor” first published in Pall Mall Magazine Dec. 1906

Author: E. F. Benson

Source: ISFDB




Last review: “Caterpillers” by E. F. Benson

Last weird review: “The King of Ypres” by John Buchan


© 2015 Denise Longrie

Image Credit »

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


valmnz wrote on August 31, 2015, 3:31 PM

It's a long time since I've read a ghost story. Interesting that this story from so long ago is still available to read.

msiduri wrote on August 31, 2015, 5:09 PM

There are a lot of old ghost stories available. Gods bless the net and ebooks.

CalmGemini wrote on September 1, 2015, 8:59 AM

I am yet to read this story.I am not sure,whether I would like it or not.Was the story a short one?

msiduri wrote on September 1, 2015, 9:28 AM

It is short, but not super short. I'm not really good at predicting whether people will like things. I think the great impediment to liking this one is its predictability. You know how it will end halfway through the story. That's not entirely the fault of the author, though, since so many people have used the story since he wrote it.

Last Edited: September 2, 2015, 3:52 PM

AliCanary wrote on September 2, 2015, 1:41 PM

I knew that sounded familiar! The lyric from "Dead Man's Party" goes "... says there's room for maybe just one more", so it's not exactly the same, but I think I've perhaps seen the Twilight Zone episode, because I can really kind of pictire it.

msiduri wrote on September 2, 2015, 3:57 PM

Yes, I had the same feeling of familiarity when I read the story as well, though I was pretty sure I had not read it. It was odd.