Appalachia Folkart Folklore Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Clock Folklore


Timepieces they’re all around us some hang on our walls while others ride along on our wrists or in our pockets. Clocks, especially Grandfather Clocks, are often associated with spooky scenes showing up in scary movies and books. A quick google search will share spooky stories about clocks that chime at random times or continue to chime even though they don’t actually work.

Back in the day, there was much folklore about clocks. One can see why: clocks ‘tick’ off the seconds, minutes, and hours of our lives. Reminds me of those old movies where a clock face is shown with the hands going round and round, faster and faster, to symbolize the passing of time or the reverting of time.

Clock folklore:

  • A clock will stop at the hour it’s owner dies (click here for my favorite story and song about this one)
  • When someone dies all the clocks in the home must be stopped to prevent another death from happening
  • If a clock stops someone will soon die

Then there is the folklore that mentions a certain time of day usually midnight:

  • If the cows are lowing at midnight a death is near
  • If you have clothes on the line on New Year’s Eve they can blow death into the house
  • If a rooster crows at midnight a death is near
  • If you kill a rabbit at midnight in a graveyard you can carry it’s foot for good luck
  • At midnight on Old Christmas Eve all the barnyard animals kneel down
  • Water turns to blood at midnight on Old Christmas Eve
  • A rooster crowing at midnight means bad weather is coming

Recently I watched a news report about the decline in wrist watch and pocket watch use. I guess it comes down to people being able to check the time of day on their cell phones.

Makes you wonder if someday we’ll hear about spooky cell phone folklore.


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  • Reply
    Kenneth o.Hoffman
    October 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Tipper: don,t worry about clocks and watches going away, there just going into my,and other’s collection.also watch maker’s are making a comeback. at least i have more business than i can handle.iv’e never believed any of the superstitions about clock’s. i just love um. blessing’s to all the blind pig family . from the warm southwest,away from cold Sedro Woolley .

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 25, 2013 at 9:54 am

    and Ken…there are several night feeding birds besides owls and bats that swoop by lights. Their mouths wide open and appear to never light on a wire or tree anywhere…Without feather coloration, size, etc…I wouldn’t know what it was…but I suspect they are what are called Night Hawks..Night Jars etc…Check it out on one of the wonderful bird websites…
    I doubt if they are Whip-poor-wills or Chuck-wills-widows this late in the Fall…
    You are lucky to have such good bug and beetle catchers around!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    October 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Ed-I always thought of lowing as the sound cows make when their calves are taken from them-but maybe not as sad. When the cattle farm we live near move the calves to another pasture you can hear the cows at night calling or lowing to their calves. Kinda sad now that I’ve typed it out!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    What is lowing? It is used in the Christmas carol “Away in a Manger.” I can’t think of another time I have seen or heard it used until your post today.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    After reading B.Ruth’s comment about
    birds pecking bugs off her window,
    I was reminded of two birds that fly
    by my outside light on my porch. And
    this is way after dark. Their wings
    are narrow and I’ve tried to get a
    close look at them, but they never
    lite. They’re not bats either!

  • Reply
    October 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I think you hit on something – cell phone lore. I agree with you that it could and probably will happen. I love clocks and have many in my home. They are in a variety of places. At one time, those that could chime, I set to chime all at the same time. Oh, What a racket! I was in trouble after that stunt.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I’ve heard about the “bird pecking on the window, that someone was about to pass.” Just remembered it after yesterdays comments…If all the window pecking birds were counted here, they would be piled up like a haystack around here! We have wrens that do their daily pecking in each window of the house hunting bugs and spiders. Since we are in the country with no light at night except the indoor lights, the bugs, etc. are drawn to the window light, which draws the froggies and spiders too. So mornin’ leaves a breakfast and lunch for the wrens!
    Our cuckoo clock stopped a long time ago. I got tired of pulling the chanin to rewind it.
    I wonder if the sayin’ “Who pulled your chain?” come from the winding of the cuckoo clock?
    Sometimes a sound will remind me of my Grandparents old mantel clock. Wound with a key, I think every seven days…It ticked and tocked loud and gonged on the hour…I tried to stay awake and count the time, when I was a kid! LOL
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    October 24, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Susan-you can go here: to find out all about Old Christmas : )

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I use to wear a wristwatch but when
    I started my trade in the Tool and
    Die business, had to quit wearing
    rings too. For my part I don’t use
    a cell phone (won’t work where I
    live anyway), but they do make nice
    Ain’t this Weather grand? …Ken

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry
    October 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

    When I retired almost 8 years ago, I gave my watch to my grandson and haven’t worn one since then. Of course with the new cell phones, the time is always at hand if you take the time to look at it. I love the sounds of a grandfather’s clock. My aunt would sing me that song when I was a child many years ago and I always have fond memories of her when I hear it. Thanks for all that you do Tipper with these interesting daily postings. I don’t know how you find the time to do this each day with a busy life and two beautiful daughters and family.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

    I just loved loved this post..
    Another inscription on a tombstone I seed in my mind!
    BORN 1898 DIED 1998
    Glad to see Don’s very truthful comment!
    What is eeery is a comment by Scott Durborow…I am pretty sure I might need some dulcimer stuff too. Yep, I bought me a dulcimer
    on Friday the 11th of October when I was in Dollywood.
    One might wonder if that “dumbdiddy, dumbdiddy dumb, wanging” practice could be the reason the coyotes have started yelpin’ round here!
    I’ve always loved the dulcimer, and the hammered dulcimer…In fact when we usde to drive across the mountains into SC..I would put on my favorite dulcimer CD…
    My playing sure sounds different than the one on the CD…LOL
    I used to play a little piano and of course the uke back in the day. I know just enough music to get me in trouble…LOL
    Now then, How about this inscription I made up on a creamation urn….
    Born 1898 Died 1998
    I’M TOAST!
    ….JOHN BROWN….

  • Reply
    October 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

    We have a Black Forest cuckoo clock…I love listening to it’s ticking all day long, the best part being the hourly cuckoo telling me what time it is! We don’t use watches ’round here:)

  • Reply
    October 24, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Mom kept a Big Ben Clock by her bed when I was young. I could hear it ticking all night long. The only thing scary about it was that the alarm could wake up the dead.
    I seldom ever wind my old cucoo clocks any more. They have scared me too many times when I forget to stop them before going to bed.
    In the movie, The Amityville Horror, the producers focused on the clock several times at 3:15. I would love to have one of the clocks used in that movie. Maybe I will find one at my favorite thrift store, the same store where I recently found a genuine Dior watch for $3.99.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 24, 2013 at 8:19 am

    You don’t need to wait for a future someday when it comes to cell phone spookiness. There are federal Big Brother “spooks” listening in.
    Now THAT is spine-shivering spooky.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 24, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Tipper I recognize that clock in the picture. It was in the kitchen when the Deer Hunter was a sweet little boy….not that he’s not sweet now. There has always been a sweet spirit about him.
    I quit wearing a watch before cell phones were invented. I felt that having a watch on my wrist was like being tied to time and that was not acceptable to me. I found that not wearing a watch was no problem. There are plenty of clocks around in the world. Now of course we have clocks on the cell phones, as you say.
    I remember some of those old sayings but to tell you the truth they never had much meaning to me.

  • Reply
    Susan Cook
    October 24, 2013 at 6:53 am

    You mention “old Christmas Eve”‘ ,not familiar with that term…assuming it is different than what I know as Christmas Eve. Appreciate clarification. Thanks Tipper.

  • Reply
    Scott Durborow
    October 24, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Tipper, the song Grandfather’s clock was one my pappy taugh me on the dulcimer when I was a kid. Shoot me a e-mail when you need the dulcimer stuff. I have been busy with music festival since the middle of Aug. Got 1 more this weekend the done till thanksgiving then start the christmas programs.. Scott

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