Is there a ghost in my clock?

So….today I thought I would write a brief article around the subject of  “haunted clocks”. Before I rattle on its probably worth mentioning that I have a periodic table chart on the workshop wall to remind me how fantastic science is without the need to embellish it with an unknown layer of paranormal speculation. You dont need to. Have a good look at how atoms fit together, what they do, how they work and then contemplate wether you are prepared to believe such precise organisation and balance came about by by chance. Despite the heavy subtext of a creative hand in the process of designing the universal components and forces, I still sit on the fence.

I cant prove the existence of a creative force; a force or entity that would logically a very high intelligence to be capable of creating reality with quantum physics blending into the Newtonian model that has a lot to do with clocks. I can however almost feel it.

Micheal Angelo described the frustration those of us who contemplate the existence of a higher power in his Sistine chapel frescoe showing a man reaching out to touch god with god reciprocating. Their hands almost touch but they dont…….and an inch is as good as a mile to a blind man.

You sort of know the art is telling you that last inch is made up of faith.  A rare commodity. Whenever I see the picture I always think “for gods sake try a bit Bl*&*y harder” but thats emotion not logic. Perhaps thats what the artist was trying to tell us.

close but no cigar

At any rate thats the reason I do not dismiss my customers accounts of their odd and seemingly paranormal experiences with clocks. I believe one should keep an open mind considering how unbelieveable the nature and possibilities of science are.

Clocks hold a special place in the history of science. Their invention showed the dawn of mankinds greater awareness of his environment. Now, the main driver for this was the NEED to tell the time. The sun dial, if you know how to use one (set it up at night using the north star as a reference point and you will get the best shaddow arc), is dead handy. It does two things. It will tell you the time of day but of course, because the shaddows are longer and shorter during the year you can tell roughly what time of year it is by their length. Pretty handy if your planting, hunting or celebrating annually. No mechanics required and, as yet, I have not been asked to repair a sun dial. Actually, thinking about it Tom here at the Antiques Centre did ask me but the thing sold broken. Good old cast bronze or brass sundails are popular sellers – specially the late Victorian arts and crafts influenced design. Im going off point here a bit…

OK, so why would a sane (ish) man of science start waffling on about ghosts in clocks. Well, its pretty simple, I hear the same story over and over again. The clock stops the day, and often to the minute by some accounts, the owner dies. It appears in some way that these clocks have some sort of linked lifeline with their owners. This is so common I could probably calculate some stats but off the top of my head I would say that one in 20 repairs comes with these accounts.

It is unfortunately not proof positive of something in science we have yet to understand. The fact of the matter is that your average 90 year old isnt particularly concerned about keeping their clock serviced every decade. An un-serviced clock will run for ages past its service point, its just that it will wear more quickly. Clock servicing is in effect preventative maintenance. So of course what you find is that a mantel clock that stops the day the owner died did so because the chap was winding an 8 day clock up every day. As the spring wears on a clock you will find its running time reduce over weeks / months. A weekly wind turns into a 5 or 6 day wind interval until the clock will only run apex of its power curve wound right up. After a day or so the power drops below that required to keep the pendulum in perpetual motion.

The other thing that happens is people say “the clock never worked again after the last time he/ she wound it”. This seems odd obviously. Why should this happen?. I would love to say the likely answer is a soul bond between owner and celestial measuring device. Unfortunately the reason this happens is that clocks are a bit quirky and fussy about the level and position they sit in – specially horizontal alignment for pendulum clocks.

When somebody new comes to wind the clock they are not used to how tight to wind it so they give it the beans. This usually means the clock gets moved in the process and falls out of balance in a totally un-ghost like fashion. The person who winds the clock thinks that they have not changed a thing but in reality moving the clock 1cm on an uneven surface can easily set it off beat / level and stop it. People often turn up at the shop with clocks that are perfectly ok but they just need to be shown the balancing method. If you dont know this then watch this video I produced explaining things.

There are some examples which are less easy to explain. These are old carriage and grandfather clocks. Its very common for these to stop when their owner does. Inevitably when I see the clock the problem is simply an overdue service but it does seem strange that the critical point where the clock turns from being in need of a service to not working due to dirt build up, coincides with the owners passing. The occurance seems to be way above what one might expect statistically. Having said that one must consider that when a relative dies the clock winding is generally not at the top of the “to-do” list. Inevitably this means the clock sits idle, possibly in premises that are no longer heated and any fouling in the gearing gets a chance to change viscosity and change its characteristics to an abrasive glue rather than a lubricant.

So, if your clock stopped when your parents or grandparents passed on there is possibly less need to call the Ghostbusters than you might expect once the dust settles. Call me instead. No charge for clock blessings and my sincere hopes and prayers of a good journey for your loved one.