Dickens's opening story, The Mortals in the House, is the strongest of the collection and demonstrates his mastery of storytelling and characterisation. When the narrator sees a deserted house from his railway carriage he becomes determined to take up residence there. However, the house is said to be haunted and the servants gradually become agitated. The narrator sends them away and invites a group of his friends to stay with him and fend for themselves.
On Christmas Eve the friends arrive with the aim of discovering evidence of the supernatural. Secluded in their rooms for the holiday, the friends agree to keep silent about any ghostly experiences until they gather on Twelfth Night.
The ghosts the characters see have no connection with the house, and are not even really ghosts; the stories are of injustice, terror, or regret.
The tales are all very different, but each has an element of the strange and scary. Some of the house guests have heard stories from ghosts while others have had out-of-body experiences. Wilkie Collins tells a seafaring story of Spanish pirates and the torment of a candle that, as it burns, takes the narrator ever closer to explosion and death. Dickens himself contributes The Ghost in Master B's Room, a very peculiar tale of the ghost of innocence that hints at the author’s own feelings of melancholy. Elizabeth Gaskell contributes a strong story of working people in the north of England. The stories by the other authors are adequate. The closing story, The Ghost in the Corner Room, is again by Dickens.