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Tick Tock Terror

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A common sound effect heard in a lot of haunted manors and creepy places is an ominous grandfather clock bonging unexpectedly. It can add to the old-fashioned and creepy atmosphere of the place. The timbre is quite often very deep, making it sound even more menacing, and their loud, rhythmic ticking is perfect to convey a sense of oppressiveness and fatality. Sometimes, the clock chime can be replaced by a creepy cuckoo clock, with the same purposes.

Compare with Tick Tock Tune, in which various clock sounds are used as a prominent part of a music fitting in Clockworks Areas instead of creating a menacing Haunted House atmosphere. Not to be confused with Terrible Ticking.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The soundtrack of Dunkirk features ticking clocks heavily to ramp up the tension and hammer home the idea that these characters are in a Race Against the Clock to survive the beach.
  • The trailer for The House With a Clock in Its Walls , adapted from the book of the same name features extremely menacing clock chimes throughout, and the haunting question "Do you hear that ticking?" is heard several times. Fitting, as the Clock from the aforementioned book is actually a monstrous Doomsday Device.
  • The whole "creepy clock in an old house" trope is parodied in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, during the intro for the song "The Time Warp." As the large, coffin-shaped clock in the Frankenstein Place's foyer begins to chime the hour, the ghoulish servant Riff-Raff opens the cover to reveal a dusty human skeleton inside. Brad and Janet recoil in horror as Riff-Raff sings that "time is fleeting..."

  • Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" mixes this trope with For Doom the Bell Tolls. In the seventh, pitch black party room lit with crimson lighting, which is actively feared by the guests, looms an ominous black clock. Its bong is so peculiar and intimidating that each time it chimes, the orchestra stops playing and the partygoers stop dancing. When the clock strikes midnight, the Red Death arrives and kills off everyone, and the clock stops ticking when the very last person alive dies, as if it was inextricably linked to the tragedy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who. Subverted in "The Girl in the Fireplace". It's not the clock that is terrifying, as the clock is broken. It's the sound of ticking that can still be heard from the killer Clock Punk androids (who break the clock so their own ticking won't stand out).
  • In Season 4 of Stranger Things, an ominous chiming grandfather clock is part of the visions seen by Vecna's targets. It's later revealed to be the clock from the Creel house, which figures prominently in Vecna's backstory as the young Henry Creel. Once you know what to listen for, similar chimes can be heard during previous seasons, during important scenes related to the Upside Down and its inhabitants.


    Video Games 
  • In Grim Dawn, you can often find longcase clocks keeping on ticking amidst the ruins of the civilisation. They keep on ticking even toppled over.
  • When entering the Manor Macabre in Miitopia for the first time, deep clock chimes are heard over the regular "new area" theme. These bongs are also heard when on the main menu if the Miis current location is Manor Macabre.
  • In the Mystery Case Files game Ravenhearst, several rooms in the gruesome Ravenhearst manor have deep, old-fashioned clock bongs as part of their ambient soundtrack, even if there is no clock seen in the room. Broken Hour also use this trop a lot.
  • The haunted Dark Bloo Inn in Paper Mario: Color Splash has a grandfather clock installed in its lobby, and can be heard eerily ringing from time to time from anywhere within the hotel. In fact, its bong signals the passing of time in the inn: the level is a stealth "Groundhog Day" Loop, meaning the more it has chimed, the closest to the end of the loop the player is.
  • A creepy, loud and distorted version of the iconic Big Ben chime will sometimes ring in Sunless Skies when flying in the desolate and ominous area surrounding the Floating Parliament. It likely has to do with the fact the actual remains of the Big Ben are floating somewhere nearby, somehow still ticking.
  • The Wii Play: Motion minigame "Spooky Search'', which involves the Miis capturing ghosts in an haunted manor has a deep clock chime signalling the start of each level.

  • The eerie "tk tok" echoing through Tibenoch's house in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name. The "tk tok" is displayed over several strips, until 12:21, when the clock stopped...what happened then is implied to be dangerous but it's anyone's guess.

    Western Animation 
  • The Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "A Night of Fright is No Delight" has two green phantoms emerging from a grandfather clock as it ominously strikes midnight. The clock is in the mansion that Scooby, his pals and four relatives of a deceased Confederate colonel are spending the night (as part of a will stipulation).
  • In Tex Avery's Who Killed Who?, a creepy cuckoo clock rapidly hits the top of the hour so that the chimes play clock Chopin's "Funeral March".