Will Clock Folklore Disappear?

pocket watch

The other day Granny, Paul and I were talking about a clock she used to have that a man down the road made for her. Our conversation got me to thinking about clocks and how they’ve changed since I was a kid.

I’ve read that watch sales are way down because everyone has a cell phone to check the time of day with.

I know more than a few kids who never learned to tell time by a clock with hands, because they’ve never needed too.

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 at midnight someone will soon die
  • If a clock stops and you cannot get it to run someone in your family will die

Lots of death uh?

Then there’s 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

Again a lot of death!

If you’ve got more clock folklore please leave a comment and share.


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  • Reply
    John Parrott
    July 20, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    I heard if dogs started howling late at night someone was dying.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    I remember a lot of these as a kid…and ironically my dad’s watch stopped at 7:15 am…the same time he passed away….

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    June 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

    tipper I love all these tales of folklore. my mom said quite a few of them too. especially the always go out the door you went in…also when you dropped silverware you got company coming…I love the idea of the animals bowing down for the birth of our savior….thank you tipper…..sending love and ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    Nothing to add to the folklore about watches, but often folklore about the word watch. Example is “a watched pot never boils.” This is so true I can watch that pot and it stays at a standstill, and it seems the minute I leave the kitchen my entire pot burns.
    I had to wear a watch at all times in my work, and with counting pulses it had to have a minute hand. This was done for so many years that a watch almost became a part of my anatomy. Plus all documentation had to be done at the exact time, and you definitely needed accuracy should something ever end up in the courts. I do not wear a watch around the house with all the cleaning and garden soil, but feel very insecure leaving the house without a watch. I do have a clock in almost every room. There are not strategically located large clocks in department stores as there once was. I would have thought my job had made me OCD, but then my Dad always wore his watch. Mom never cared what time it was, but she still seemed to do a great job being a Mom.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 20, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    I had flipped back over from the Fox News Channel to see if Donna Lynn was playing The Pressley Girls. Just as I got to channel 25, WKRK in Murphy, The Pressley Girls were singing “Cradle of Love.” That’s another of my Favorites. Anything they sing is a Favorite. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 20, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t really have any clock lore. And I probably have posted this before but the sawmill town I grew up near would blow a steam whistle at 6AM, 8AM, 12AM, 12:30PM and about 4:30PM. The story was that at least in the beginning many of the mill hands had no watch nor even a clock in the house. The 6AM whistle was a signal for how much time there was to do whatever at home and set out walking in time to be there when the 8AM whistle to go to work was blown. That whistle has been stilled for many years but it was the soundtrack of our days in the 50’s and 60’s.

    I have not worn a watch in months and find I don’t miss it. I can guess time semi-final without one.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    June 20, 2019 at 11:40 am

    A marine chronometer is a timepiece that is precise and accurate enough to be used as a portable time standard; it can, therefore, be used to determine longitude by means of accurately measuring the time of a known fixed location, for example, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the time at the current location. When first developed in the 18th century, it was a major technical achievement, as accurate knowledge of the time over a long sea voyage is necessary for navigation, lacking electronic or communications aids.
    Navy ships carry three chronometers. They are wound and compared each day and a Quatermaster goes throughout the ship and sets all clocks to the second. Accurate time is critical for many shipboard evolutions.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 20, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I quit wearing wristwatches several years ago, guess you know what I think about time. I don’t let Time control my life, oh, I got two clocks in my shop, battery powered in case one quits. They’re Schoolhouse Clocks and I’ve had ’em for about 25 years or more.

    When I was younger, Roosters use to crow at night and Mama would say someone just died. I never heard who died, so I thought the Roosters were crazy or something. My older brothers had
    some schoolin’ and they knew about Folklore. …Ken

  • Reply
    Rosamary Christiansen
    June 20, 2019 at 10:35 am

    My folks were from West Virginia. My mother was the more superstitious and was always teaching me new ones. I had bought a clock at the thriftstore that was battery run but had hands on the face. When my father died the clock stopped on the day and hour. I bought a new battery but it remain silent. I put it back up on the wall because it was an unusual looking piece. A long time went by ,then one day..tick..tick…tick…it started up again and never acted up again.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 20, 2019 at 9:26 am

    I thought I knew the one about stopping the clock to prevent another death, but it turns out my Wife had told me she got it off of your site and was teaching Appalachian culture at school. Interesting that one of her students knew this one from her family.
    If a bird or bat gets in your house someone in family dies. Dream of a new birth and someone in family dies. Death comes in threes, family or friends. If this next were true everbody in the neighborhood would be dead, If an owl hoots outside your window someone in family dies. We have an abundance of owls.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 9:25 am

    The folklore you have listed is all familiar but I can’t add to the list. Your post got me to thinking about a time not too long ago and how many times I have asked a watch wearer the time of day while shopping or at sporting events. I think I have owned a watch most of my adult life, mostly saved to be worn for special occasions. My job in the shipping business made wearing my watch almost as important as wearing my shoes to work. Cuckoo clocks will always be my favorite timepiece.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 9:18 am

    I think the association with a stopped clock and death may be because the ticking sounds like a heartbeat.
    I’ve never liked wearing a watch for the same reason Miss Cindy described, but when I worked in the woods I needed to have one. It got harder and harder to find a watch with hands instead of ugly digital numbers, and maybe because I really didn’t want to wear a watch in the first place, I kept losing them. I finally took the wristband off a watch, tied a string to it, and attached it to a belt loop of my dungarees so I had an inexpensive pocketwatch. It’s probably still in the bottom of a drawer somewhere!

    • Reply
      June 20, 2019 at 12:17 pm

      Yes! Ticking and heartbeats.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 20, 2019 at 8:27 am

    How in the world could you see to kill a rabbit in a graveyard at midnight? Unless you catch him in the daylight and wait til midnight to kill him. If anybody saw you doing it they would call those men in white uniforms with the big butterfly nets to come and take you away. I guess that could be called good luck. You’d have a place to stay for the rest of your life. It’s only one room but it’s paid for by the state and food and utilities are included.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Interesting info about stopping all the clocks in the house, I first seen this on the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, and I wondered about the symolizem of it.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 20, 2019 at 7:24 am

    I don’t wear a watch any more, I use my phone like you mentioned. But I actually quit wearing a watch before cell phones, and do you want to hear my reason? I began to feel that a watch worn on my wrist was a symbol representing being tied to time and I did not like that feeling so I quit wearing my watch and have not had one on since then. There were and are plenty of clocks around plus it gave me a chance to use my senses to tell time.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      June 20, 2019 at 10:04 am

      When I retired in 2014 I took off my watch and haven’t worn it since. My work had an engraved gold Seiko watch to present me at my retirement party. I didn’t go to their party. Two years later they sent it to me in the mail. I had it in the trash but I told Dusty about it and he wanted it. He dug it out of the trash can and has it now I guess.
      They had my time, they owned me, they used me, they abused me for almost forty years. I don’t need a reminder of that. Telling me daily that they still control my time.
      The last Friday in June was to be my last day. I left at one o’clock on Thursday to avoid fake hugs, handshakes and tears and the retirement party. I have my time back. I am now my own person. Free at last, free at last! Feeble but free!

      PS: I have no communication with my former place of employment except once a year I get an invite to a children’s Christmas party and once a month a letter from Wells Fargo saying my pension in going into my checking account.

      • Reply
        Ed Ammons
        June 20, 2019 at 10:06 am

        Not feeble minded yet but getting there!

  • Reply
    Jo Lobertini
    June 20, 2019 at 7:11 am

    I have heard the one about the animals bowing on Christmas eve. The others were new to me. However, when my father died at 4:30pm, the clocks in our home did stop. I had never experienced that.

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