Where most stories rely on a suspenseful soundtrack to foreshadow the monster's attack, some go a step further, giving it its own ominous theme
in-universe. Either because it's been tagged with or entangled by a telltale noisemaker, or because it's eaten
an audible mechanism — often along with the person who'd been carrying it — such a creature usually won't be much good at sneaking up on the heroes, as it'll be accompanied by a distinctive sound of its own.
The Trope Namer
is the crocodile from Peter Pan
, which had swallowed a clock and was always accompanied by a 'tick-tock' thereafter. Fridge Logic
issues such as why the clock (radio, phone, etc) can be heard through a large creature's belly wall, or why it doesn't run down and/or get expelled in time, are often ignored.
A subtrope of Hell Is That Noise
. Sister trope to iSophagus
, may be related to Why Am I Ticking?
Anime and Manga
- Zaraki Kenpaichi in Bleach, arguably a predator, deliberately put bells on his hair to invoke this trope.
- In Jurassic Park III, a predatory dinosaur eats a man who's carrying a satellite phone. The phone is later heard ringing just before it attacks, and again from a gigantic pile of dinosaur poop.
- In Tremors 2, one of the Graboids eats a radio that's blaring music, which is then heard from underground before it reappears.
- Although inaudible to the human ear, the vibration of an approaching Graboid can be detected by seismometers in the films and the series.
- In a variant, the monster from Supershark emits an energy that makes radios succumb to static when it comes near.
- While the noise doesn't actually warn anyone, the sound of a victim's cell phone can be heard ringing from inside the Piranhaconda as it slithers through the jungle.
- Captain Hook's crocodile nemesis in Peter Pan is the Trope Namer. It also averts the clause about Fridge Logic in the main description, as the clock running down is discussed by Hook and Smee as a definite possibility and in fact does run down just before the climax.
- The Beast Fable called The Bell and the Cat or The Mice in Council discusses a plan to put a bell on a cat so the mice will hear it coming. Averted because none of the mice are brave enough to actually install the bell.
- In Hex And The City, the Reality Warper Madman is preceded around the city by his own personal soundtrack, which is helpful to people who want to stay the hell away from him.
- In Sewer, Gas & Electric, a sewer-dwelling mutant shark eats a tunnel worker whose new digital watch plays Bolero. Its next appearance is heralded by the sound.
- Mrs. Tachyon from the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy often runs into people with her shopping cart. Fortunately, it has a squeaky wheel that the local people have learned to listen for.
- In Too Many Curses, the Vampire King who prowls the halls of Margle's castle is cursed to emit a constant sound of ringing bells, denying him any chance of stalking prey undetected. When a more powerful monster catches and devours his body, his ghost is left behind and free of the curse, but the creature that eats him becomes subject to this trope.
- Played with on Get Smart, "Ship of Spies": A KAOS informer is killed just before giving Max some important information. The only clue: the killer made an unusual "clip-clop" sound. They investigate and end up on the eponymous ship where it turns out just about everyone makes that clip-clop sound - a woman with castanets, a man with a peg leg, etc.
- The Clockpunk monsters of Doctor Who's "The Girl in the Fireplace" make ticking noises as they move, and break the mechanical clocks around them so people won't notice that it's them ticking rather than a nearby timepiece.
- In the Christmas special "A Christmas Carol", a flying shark bites off the tip of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. He later detects that the missing part is coming closer, just before the shark attacks him and a young boy.
- If a Vashta Nerada swarm eats someone in a spacesuit, you can tell because the person's ghost-circuit will repeat the same thing over and over again.
- An episode of Seinfeld has Elaine using this technique by giving a container of Tic-Tacs to an employee who sneaks up on her in inconvenient situations.
- Averted on NCIS, when Abby tried to convince an intern to wear bells so she could tell if he (like her previous two aides) tried to sneak up behind her. Gibbs arrived and distracted her before she could press the issue.
- In the Tom and Jerry short The Little School Mouse, Jerry's last lesson for Nibbles is how to set this up by slipping a bell onto Tom. After he completely fails, Nibbles simply offers the bell to Tom as a gift, and the cat's thrilled with it.
- Parodied/blended with Why Am I Ticking? in Futurama, in the following Show Within a Show excerpt from a film billed to have "a vampire AND an explosion":
Woman 1: Don't open that coffin! It's ticking
Woman 2: (with stake and hammer, over coffin) I have to! This coffin isn't going to open itself!
Dracula: (flinging open coffin and emerging) BLUUUUAAAH!
(explosion, as advertised)
- The Looney Tunes short "Bell Hoppy" puts a spin on the fable by having Sylvester the cat trying to bell a mouse (Hippety Hopper, the baby kangaroo that everyone thinks is a giant mouse). Not only does he keep failing, but everytime the bell rings the other cats jump out and beat him, thinking he's the mouse. Finally, Sylvester manages to bell Hoppity, but then he is captured and put in a van. As the cats hear the bell and jump out, they are run over.
- Cowbells, although mainly used for easy location of stray livestock, could also give a clanging warning when a ticked-off bull or ram was charging an unsuspecting target.
- Rattlesnakes use their tail rattles to scare off predators and general annoyances.
- Or at least they're supposed to. Sometimes, however, a rattler will strike, then rattle.
- One particularly Tear Jerker-tastic example was invoked in parts of India. "Untouchables" (people of "unclean" castes, such as garbage collectors or leatherworkers) were generally despised, and people feared that even interacting with them would corrupt one's spiritual energy. Therefore, when Untouchables left their segregated communities and entered areas with other people, they had to sound a wooden clapper to warn others to get out of the way.
- Medieval lepers carried bells or clappers to warn other people of the risk of contagion; the sounds these devices produced also constituted a plea for charity.
- Not a threat, but tin cans strung behind the vehicles of "Just Married" couples provide a rattling declaration that newlyweds are approaching.
- Supposedly, Gan Ning (of the Three Kingdoms period) wore bells on his waist sash to frighten his enemies.
- Japanese and Chinese monks carried around a special staff tipped with rings called "Shakujo". The sound of the rings was used to warn people of the monk's coming (as a plea of charity) and to ward off animals.
- Inverted in the many, many cultures where making loud noises — banging pans, ringing bells, fireworks — as one travels has been alleged to ward off monsters or evil spirits.
- Some cat owners put bells on the cat's collar to warn birds or small animals the cat might be stalking. Many cats learn how to either stalk without jingling or get rid of the bell (and possibly the whole collar).
- Since the invention of cell phones, there have been instances of ringing dogs. If a dog is big enough to swallow a phone whole, the phone can still ring, letting people know they need to go to the vet and the phone store, definitely in that order.
- In WWII, the German Stuka dive bomber had attached the so-called "Jerico Trumpet" Sirens, Driven by the propeller when diving. This let everyone know that the Nazi war machine was about to ruin their day, and that there was nothing you could do about it.