Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Haunted Clock

A ditty I sung in elementary choir, My Grandfather's Clock has an interesting history which you can read here.

Lyrics to Grandfather's Clock
by Henry Clay Work

"My grandfather's clock was too tall for the shelf
So it stood ninety years on the floor
It was taller by half than the old man himself
But it weighed not a pennyweight more

It was bought on the morn on the day that he was born
It was always his treasure and pride
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died

Ninety years without slumbering
Tic toc tic toc
His life's seconds numbering
Tic toc tic toc
It stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died.
In watching its pendulum swing to and fro
Many hours he had spent when a boy
And through childhood and manhood, the clock seemed to know
And to share both his grief and his joy

For it struck 24 when he entered at the door
With a blooming and beautiful bride,
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died


My grandfather said that of those he could hire
Not a servant so faithful he'd found,
For it kept perfect time and it had one desire
At the close of each day to be wound

At it kept to its place, not a frown upon its face
At its hands never hung by its side
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died


It rang an alarm in the still of the night,
An alarm that for years had been dumb
And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight
That his hour of departure had come

Still the clock kept the time
With a soft and muffled chime
As we silently stood by his side
But it stopped, short, never to go again
When the old man died"

Although this interesting song was also in a elementary music book for piano students, I basically forgot about it until an event in my married life refreshed my memory.

Shortly after we married Feb. 1969, my mother-in-law died in April of the same year. We both knew she was terminally ill with metastatic breast cancer. Following her rites my father-in-law [FIL] wished to accommodate his children with tokens of their childhood.

My husband [H] chose a kitchen Ingraham clock which was his grandmother's. The lovely antique clock was similar , but not identical, to the photos, snagged off the Internet.

FIL's admonishing words was the clock struck 13 times the day/night the grandmother died. Not given to superstitions and ghost stories, I gave little credence to his story. He was prone to exaggeration much like myself. [My definition of "exaggeration" is the truth emphasized and amplified!]

H was a gunner's mate assigned to a reserve training ship moored at Fort McHenry. A two week training cruise for reservists was part of its duties. H's duties included this cruise.

We carried the clock home and H set it up on a dresser, leveled and wound it. It promptly began to keep time. He took care of its weekly winding. However, when he was away on cruise, it fell my duty to keep the clock running.

No problem! How difficult could winding a clock be, as long as the spring was not wound too tight. Since it was an 8-day clock I figured I only would re-wind it once, and H would be home in time to re-wind it again.

This clock was a cherished relic of my H's family, so I knew to treat it with respect. I took the large brass key and gently wound the clock. There were two springs to wind, one for the clock and one for the bonger plus a key for each; bonger is my word for the striking mechanism. It counted the hours on the hour, and bonged once for the half hour. The sound and tone was not melodious; it almost had the sound of a funeral dirge.

After respectfully (I thought) winding the clock, I gently touched the pendulum to start the mechanisms in motion. Nothing! I gently touched the opposite side of the pendulum. Nothing! Maybe I did not hold my mouth right. I checked the pendulum to see if it was stuck. Nope.

I quit for the night resolved to re-level the clock after work the next day. I found a small level and hurried home to resume my clock duties. I spent hours the rest of his tour duty, leveling and touching the pendulum. Nothing!

Fearfully I waited for him to return. I informed him I broke the clock. He went over and touched the pendulum. It immediately started tick tock, tick tock. I was astonished and joyful it worked, but genuinely SPOOKED!

I washed my hands of the clock lest it hex me and my side of the family. As long as it resided under our roof, H was in charge of the disobedient, spooky clock. He never had a problem. We had it cleaned a few times and refinished it once.

A few years back we were returning various items we both had taken for each side of the family. As we do not live close to either family, it seemed proper to return family treasures to younger family members on each side.

I placed THE HAUNTED CLOCK at the top of H's list. He inquired around; his only niece decided she wanted it. I figured it needed to reside somewhere on his side of the family. Maybe it would not be so biased and cantankerous!

We delivered the HAUNTED CLOCK to his niece on a trip to NC. I remember she took it home and it started to run. Maybe H helped her set it up. I don't remember. Later, we made another trip to NC. His niece came to his sister's house for a meal. I inquired about the clock. IT HAD QUIT ON HER. No amount of leveling, cleaning or coercing would make that clock run. She now agrees with me, it is haunted. It will obey only H.

I'm glad it is out of our house. I deemed I avoided an unneeded streak of bad luck because of a haunted clock. It will gather dust languishing in someone else's home for eternity!


Arkansas Patti said...

Holy Moly, that is a spooky story. Where is Halloween when you need it?
Can't blame you for wanting to get it out of the house but was touched by its attachment to your hubby.

jinksy said...

I've sung the same song, many a time - but your chorus was a new addition to me. However, a chiming clock in my Gran's front room was part of my childhood. After it had passed down the family to me, I couldn't wait for my brother to take it to New Zealand with him, as those bongs used to drive me scatty!

Anonymous said...

The story is different. I like the pictures of the old clocks.

Day4plus said...

I remember the Granfather Clock song so well--tick tock!! But I don't have a haunted story to accompany it. That is quite a tale. Speaking of 'quite a tale' your story of the Squirrel tail and Luckie is pretty good.

Sorry you didn't have a good experience with your pony. MB

Patty said...

Does sound like a spooky clock. But then perhaps it only likes men, it might be a female clock. LOL We use to sing the song at our school when I was younger. But I had never seen all the verses, we only sang the one portion.

boots said...

well it was so nice to hear from you on my I CANT STAND IT post LOL! and what a tale about the clock!! I inherited my grandfathers clock when my mom died, and my engineer husband has really taken to it over the last 10 years...its his mission to make it keep perfect time LOL!

Love the pics!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I LOVE this story...and I'm so glad you decided to share it here!!! The children's song is a perfect accompaniment to your fabulous post!!! ~Janine XO

Betty said...

I love to hear stories like this! Good one.

NitWit1 said...

Post Script: I think I'll e-mail my sister-in-law (H's sister) see if the spooky clock has ever reformed itself.

Stay tuned

Kat said...

Okay, now you've got me spooked...and it's close to bedtime too.

Actually, I enjoyed this post.

Hugs from the beach!

Lorna said...


I knew most of the words to My Grnadfather's Clock---mostly from singing it in elementary school.

lakeviewer said...

Yes, spooky and downright spine chilling. Good riddance.

Nezzy said...

This Ozarks farm chick truly enjoyed your clocks. I have inherited my Grandmother which belong to her grandmother. That thing chimed every blessed morning on the hour and once on the half hour. I only wind it up for the Grandkiddos. This chick need her sleep!

From the hills and hollers of the Missouri Ponderosa, ya'll have a wonderfully blessed day!!!

Liz said...

That is a bit spooky!!