Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Time by Mae Clair

ZeitverlaufWe’ve often heard the expression “time stopped.” But can it really? As much as I love time travel novels and speculating about traversing centuries, time flows in a single direction–forward. Despite cold facts and scientific data, generations of writers, philosophers, artists and musicians remain bewitched by the abstract elements of time.

Consider me one. In the past, I’ve done several blog posts about what I call “betwixt moments,” but I’ve never shared where my fascination with time originated. I can easily trace it back to my father who had a passion for antiques, especially old clocks. I grew up in a house filled with them. I have memories of a large white captain’s clock, several squat mantle clocks, and a pointed steeple clock that would have been at home in a Sherlock Holmes novel. But the star of my dad’s collection was a grandfather’s clock he found at a garage sale. Built in 1902, the clock was his baby.

He pampered it…winding it, oiling it, adjusting the chimes, polishing the pendulum. It had a prime spot in our living room, its chimes resounding throughout the house on the hour. As a kid, I created multiple stories with clocks and would often lay awake at night listening for the deep bass bong of the grandfather’s clock.

When my husband and I bought our second home, the first piece of furniture I purchased for the formal living room was a grandfather’s clock. Never mind there wasn’t a couch or chair, the clock came first. That’s the romantic, impractical side of me. Every time I look at that clock, I think of my dad.

As kids he’d often tell us that when he died, if there was a way to come back, he’d find it. If the grandfather’s clock was running he’d stop it, and if it was stopped, he’d start it. I don’t think my dad intended on dying early—maybe he’d knew he’d have a short life—but the afterlife fascinated him. When I was thirteen, he passed away from colon cancer.

bigstock-Abstract-Time-Piece-1101466Sometime after that, the whole family was gathered in the living room. My father passed away in early September, so I believe this must have been Thanksgiving, because my married sisters were there with their spouses. My mom was the only one not in the room. I think she might have been in the kitchen. Someone went to note the time and realized the clock had stopped. There was a moment of goosebump-silence as we absorbed the impact. My sister immediately told her husband to “start it, before Mom sees it.” We never told her about that incident until much later in life, fearing it might upset her.

Was my dad there? Had he stopped the clock as promised?  I still wonder. Many people would chalk it up to happenstance, but it’s far too coincidental to me.

Today, the grandfather’s clock no longer works and is too old to be repaired. My brother took it to a few different clockmakers without success. Although it no longer runs, he displays it proudly in his home. One hundred eleven years after it was built, it has become an intricate part of our family history. We’ve passed the tale of my dad and his promise to the younger generation, a story often reflected on at family gatherings. The clock–like my father–is still touching lives, a testament of time and memory.

Is there a spooky story in your family history—one that has been passed down to you or that you’ve passed to your kids? Sometimes we don’t have to look beyond our own bloodline to find inspiration for a legend!

24 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Ghosts of Time by Mae Clair

  1. You’ve had many spooky things happen to you when you were young. No wonder you write what you do 😀 How are the renovations going by the way?


    • It is kind of weird when I look back at those memories, Sue. It’s also interesting that was the first time we were all gathered together as a family after his death.

      The clock started acting up after that and never worked well again. It would stop frequently so my mom got to the point where she wouldn’t wind it because it freaked her out if she found it stopped.

      Renovations are going sloooow. My husband chose to transplant a 7′ pine tree over the weekend and I worked on galleys. Next weekend, I’m tackling wallpaper, LOL!


    • He did pass awfully young (although i was definitely a-late-in-life baby for him and my mom). I’ve got great memories of him and the things he taught me…especially his passion for writing and art. He’s definitely always close in my heart.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Cd!


  2. What a wonderful story, Mae! I had visions of Doc’s home in Back to the Future as I read this. Although I grew up in one of the original homes, turned boarding house, in my home town, I can’t report a single haunting. Thank you for sharing such a cherished memory.


    • I’d forgotten about all those clocks in that movie, Stanalei.:)

      What a wonderful experience you must have had growing up. I love, love, LOVE old homes! Hauntings actually freak me out but I love the idea of the past and those who lived before me.

      Thanks for commenting on my memory. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


  3. I can’t really think of a story passed down any of my family lines, but yours was so intriguing! Life has a special way of helping you to remember the important things in life, that’s for sure.


  4. Wow — I loved that story. I can’t think of anything that comes close to that, but I’ve certainly experienced a few moments that felt “betwixt”, a little beyond plain ole coincidence. So who knows for sure what the explanation is? We can create our own stories!


    • Hi, Donna! Aren’t betwixt moments shiver-inducing? Even when you can’t pinpoint exactly what happens or why, you know SOMETHING has taken place that just can’t be chalked up to hum-drum coincidence. Thanks for the great comment! 🙂


  5. That’s quite spooky about the clock stopping after you father passed away. It would have given me some comfort I think, like a sign he’s still around.
    The song/rhyme, “My Grandfather’s Clock” is one of my favourites from when I was a kid, but singing it in my head now I can see how eerie it is. “And it stopped, short, never to go again, when the old man died.”

    I can’t think of a spooky story in my family, but one of my friends from college told me that in the week running up to her grandfather dying, her family came downstairs each morning to find the front door of the house wide open. That gave me the chills many years ago and still does.


    • Okay, that definitely creeped me out about your friend’s grandfather, Emma. In a way it of reminds me of your story THE KNOCKING (which I thought was very spooky).

      You’re right about the comfort part with my father. I don’t really look back on that moment as frightening so much as strange. There are so many unexplained things in this world, but I definitely believe in an afterlife!


      • I believe too. I love getting signs such as if you’re feeling down and your favourite song comes on the radio – feels like you’re not alone and someone is looking out for you.
        That’s where I got the idea for “The Knocking”.


  6. Spooky stories? Sit down…it’s a long list… ; )… My first experience happened during my young teenage years. We moved into a rental while looking for the perfect home. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the place already had a resident. During our stay, he would rock in the rocking chair at random times (scared our friends half to death) and he loved to watch TV at night and change channels. Now this was one of the old TV’s without remote control. One had to get up to turn the TV off and on and change channels, so…

    And what’s more? II actually saw him once. He seemed just as shocked that I actually saw him, as I was about seeing him… The moment? Priceless…

    Love the post Mae… you know that it’s right up my alley….


    • Wow, Debbie, you have definitely had some bizarre experiences! The rocking chair thing would creep me out but if I actually SAW a ghost I think I would flee in terror. Interesting that you mentioned the changing channel thing. My sister still recalls the day when I called her on the phone very worked up because I was home alone (sometime after my father died) and I heard the channel change from upstairs. One of those TVs as you said without a remote. They made a loud clicking noise that was hard to miss. When I went downstairs to investigate there was a football game on the screen (my father lived for football) and it was the Cleveland Browns (his favorite team).


  7. I haven’t a clue how I missed this magnificent post on Monday. Here it is almost the bewitching hour and I decided to check a few more blogs on the iPad before taking the dogs for a walk. One of my prized possessions is a Seth Thomas clock my grandfather gave my grandmother as a wedding gift. He was homesteading a farm in Kansas and she was arriving from a very wealthy family in Illinois to live in a dug out. They had met once before when they were each 12 years old! They were married for 68 years before my grandfather passed. (11 children and 47 grandchildren) What I meant to say before I went on my tangent is that the only furniture granddad had was a bed when he bought the clock!


    • Oooh, I love your story, Sheri! It touches exactly on what on what gives me goosebumps. It doesn’t have to touch on the paranormal but the bonding of soul to soul. What a beautiful family legacy. Thank you so much for sharing some an amazing and romantic story. Your grandad was definitely my kind of guy!


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