What does the narrator find unusual about the signal-man's behavior?

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The narrator for some reason calls down to a railroad signal-man as the story opens. The narrator finds it odd that instead of looking up in the direction from which his voice is coming, the signal-man looks down the empty track. It seems very unlikely that someone would be walking...

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The narrator for some reason calls down to a railroad signal-man as the story opens. The narrator finds it odd that instead of looking up in the direction from which his voice is coming, the signal-man looks down the empty track. It seems very unlikely that someone would be walking up the middle of the tracks. A little later, after a train passes, the signal-man still looks down the track expectantly, as if waiting for someone, which causes the narrator to say

I stopped a moment, wondering at it.

As the narrator talks with the signal-man, he learns that the man's strange behavior arises from his conviction that he has seen a "spectre" on the railway tracks and also emerging from the railway tunnel. The signal-man tells the narrator that each time the spectre, or ghost, appears, it means a terrible train accident will follow.

This explains the signal-man's strange behavior in looking down the railway tracks rather than upwards when the narrator called to him. The signal-man was very worried that the ghost was about to appear again.

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From the earliest moments of their meeting, the narrator finds some aspects of the signalman's manner and behaviour to be extremely unusual. The first of these occurs in the opening paragraph when the narrator shouts down to announce his presence. The signalman's response is to look down the train line, not directly above, a move which the narrator finds "remarkable."

Similarly, when the narrator makes his way down to the signal box, he interprets the signalman's attitude as one of "watchfulness" and "expectation." The narrator is unable to explain the reasoning behind this, though he stops for a moment to observe it.

Once the narrator has reached the signal box, he tries to engage the signalman in conversation, but, once again, his efforts are met with an unusual response. Instead of responding, the signalman looks back to the red light, "as if something were missing from it," and then asks if he has seen the narrator before.

The narrator is baffled by the actions and words of the signalman and begins to wonder if he might have a disease of the mind. At one point, he also wonders if the signalman is, in fact, a ghost:

The monstrous thought came into my mind, as I perused the fixed eyes and the saturnine face, that this was a spirit, not a man.

In truth, the signalman is neither supernatural nor mad. As the narrator is about to learn, the signalman is plagued by a ghost who, for reasons unknown, is able to predict future accidents on the line. Tragically, and unbeknownst to the signalman, the ghost has appeared for a third time to warn him of his own impending demise.

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