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Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions

Neighmond 19 Jul 11 - 09:19 PM
Jack Campin 19 Jul 11 - 09:40 PM
Beer 19 Jul 11 - 09:43 PM
Neighmond 19 Jul 11 - 10:14 PM
MGM·Lion 20 Jul 11 - 12:01 AM
Jim Dixon 20 Jul 11 - 01:14 AM
GUEST 22 Jul 11 - 09:08 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Clock (or time) related supers
From: Neighmond
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:19 PM

Hello after a long hiatus!

May I pick your brains?

I am currently working on a long project, attempting to document superstitions, both American and Foreign, related to watches and clocks, and time in general. If any member has some to share, can they post them or try and PM them to me? If they have any historical information with it (my Grandma, who came from ------, used to say this, or we learned this living in -------, etc.) I would gladly appreciate it. Also, if you wish to be accredited for your information in my research.

If anyone has any other source that may be helpful, I am always open to new sources.

Thanks in advance!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:40 PM

Not a superstition, but a piece of mechanical folklore.

My grandfather (born in London in the 1880s, lived there all his life) was a multi-skilled tradesman who worked as a patternmaker in an electrical engineering works. He could fix just about anything. He said that when adjusting the time on a clock, you should never wind the hands backwards - if you wanted to take it back five minutes, take it forward 11 hours 55 minutes instead. He said the mechanism would last better if you did that.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
From: Beer
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 09:43 PM

That is very good information Jack.
Thank you.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
From: Neighmond
Date: 19 Jul 11 - 10:14 PM

Got it-it takes on almost a superstitious importance. I suppose a few time of getting the strike out of sequence'll and having to dink around with it'll do that.

One of the variants is not to turn the hands back but rather stop the clock and start it at the right time.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 12:01 AM

Surely the prime superstition, as found in Henry Clay Work's My Grandfather's Clock, which was

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

is that the clock will cease to function on its owner's death. I remember, at the climax of the film of Pushkin's The Queen Of Spades, when a loud ticking on the sound track stops at the moment the old countess (Edith Evans IIRC) snuffs it.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 01:14 AM

From Ozark Superstitions by Vance Randolph (New York: Columbian University Press, 1947):

Page 240:

There are numerous miscellaneous superstitions regarding animals and plants, which do not fall conveniently into any of the classes hitherto discussed. For example, there is the notion that roosters always crow at midnight, and again about 5 A.M., but that on Christmas morning they all sound off exactly at three o'clock. In some sections, farmers insist that snake doctors (Odonata) are never seen over the fields before 10 A.M. or after 4 P.M. The harvest fly or summer locust, a big yellow cicada, is supposed to begin its song precisely at high noon ; I have seen a farmer stop work in the field and set his watch by the harvest fly's note.

Page 278:

Mrs. Mabel E. Mueller, Rolla, Missouri, tells of an old man who was much alarmed when his clock suddenly began to strike at random. On one occasion it struck fifteen or twenty times before he could get it stopped. Mrs. Mueller made some humorous remark about this, but the old man was deadly serious, declaring that a witch was responsible. He carried the clock out of the house at once and sold it for a very low price. Later on a friend showed him that a part of the clock's mechanism was broken, but the old man still believed that a witch had somehow caused the trouble.

Page 301:

Hillfolk are always upset by any unusual clicking or rumbling in a clock they think that a relative or close friend must be dying at the moment when the sound is heard. If a clock that has not run for a long time suddenly begins to strike, there will be a death in the house within the number of days, weeks, or months indicated by the chimes, but there's a wide difference of opinion about the interpretation of this material.

Page 811:

There is a common belief that dying persons are particularly apt to take off just as the clock strikes the hour. Some say that more people die at 4 A.M. than at any other time. Mrs. Anna Bacon, of Stone county, Missouri, is an old woman who has seen many people die, and she says that "the change of the hour," meaning midnight, is the best time to go, if one has any choice in the matter.

Page 812:

When a death finally occurs, one of the bereaved neighbors rises immediately from the bedside and stops the clock. Everybody knows that if the clock should happen to stop of itself while a corpse is lying in the house, another member of the family would die within a year, and it is considered best to take no chances. Several families near Southwest City, Missouri, are somehow persuaded that the old custom of stopping the clock is derived from the Indians. When I pointed out that the old-time Indians had no clocks, and that some local Indians have no clocks even today, these people said no more. But they still believe that the stop-the-clock business is based upon "a old Injun idy."

page 319

Many of the old-timers think that all burials should take place before noon ; if a body is buried after 12 o'clock, another member of the family is likely to die soon. But this is no longer insisted upon, except among some very old-fashioned families. In pioneer times the funeral lasted most of the day, with hillfolk milling around the buryin' ground for three or four hours after the corpse was buried and the grave filled up. There was preachin' and prayin' and singin' all day long, with time out at noon to eat the "basket dinner" which each family brought with them in the wagon.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: Clock (or time) related superstitions
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 09:08 PM

So what others can people remember?

What about superstitions involving machines in general (Tractors, cars, work equipment, etc.)

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