The observance of time is a peculiar thing. The animals and creatures of this world mark its movement by the change in the seasons, the tides and the rising and setting of the sun. Our ancestors also observed time by this natural phenomena and created sun dials and remarkably advanced calendars to observe its forward march. Today, we watch its passage almost religiously, counting each moment that elapses, always hoping for “more” of the intangible. We check our watches and cell phones to make sure we arrive “on time” and our homes and appliances have clocks everywhere, keeping us mindful of its progress . But sometimes time stands still, caught in a perpetual loop of otherworldliness, where the past meets the present and back again. This is a tale of one of those times.
I knew there was something different about the beautiful mantel clock the moment my husband brought it home. It wasn’t just the fact that the clock was manufactured and presented in 1930 which placed it in the same era in which our home was built, or that it was made of a very distinctively grained wood. The clock had a presence, an aura about it that said “Notice me. I have secrets to tell.” And it began to tell its tale the moment it was placed on our mantel.
The clock was found by my husband in the crawlspace under the home of his best friend’s mother, (He neglected to mention, until much later, that it had been shoved way back into a corner, by itself). His buddy was preparing to move his mom to an assisted living facility and they needed to clear out the extensive collections of antiques, memorabilia, and plain old junk she had built up over a lifetime before they could sell her current home. One of the items she collected was clocks. Now, for as long as I can recall my husband had always wanted an antique mantle clock but the cost was usually more than our budget would allow. Consequently when he came upon this clock and the price was free – just the labor he provided to assist his best friend – he was absolutely thrilled. Finally, he had the clock he’d always wanted.
Once home, he dusted and shined up the clock. He gently polished up the brass plaque which proclaimed:
Presented to Second Officer T.H.C. Timewell on the occasion of his marriage, August 9th, 1930 -By the members of the Totnes Corporation Fire Brigade and Friends
Carefully he tried out the key he had found in the house, among several other keys, hoping that it would fit correctly, and when to his surprise it did, wound the clock for the first time in years. It had a lovely, if a bit odd, Westminster Chime which rang out at the quarter, half, and top of the hour. Nothing seemingly unusual or out of the ordinary – yet. However I felt as if the clock now seemed “awake” almost as if it had been waiting for us to bring it back to life. It pulsed, not just with each swing of its internal pendulum, but with subtle waves of energy that reached out and spread through my home. It felt warm, not frightening, so I let it be.
I first noticed the clock singing a few weeks later. Yes, singing. It was midnight, and I awoke, startled. The mantle clock was bonging, but over the chimes I heard a baritone voice singing. I could not make out the words, just the beautiful melody. The song was happy, loving. At first I thought I was dreaming but it continued, ceasing when the chimes did. I fought the urge to giggle nervously. I didn’t want to wake the hubby, so I sat there, waiting to hear anything else. When nothing further happened, I went back to sleep.
Fast forward a week or two and again, I was abruptly awakened by my clock singing. But it had changed. This time it was a female voice in a clear, high soprano. The melody was similar, a call to a lost love. I lay there, listening, trying to make out the words but could not. The lyrics continued to be illusive and as before, the voice faded with the last strike of the hour.
These voices became more and more frequent. Now they could be heard during the daytime as well. My husband never seems to hear them but does acknowledge that the chimes often sounds different. My son hears the songs but shrugs it off, used to the odd and different events that always seems to be part and parcel of any home we’ve ever lived in. He has admitted though, that he has seen presences around the clock.
My husband reached out to the Totnes Corporation Fire Brigade in England (isn’t the Internet wonderful!) trying to find out more information on its origins and former owners. Unfortunately most of the old records were lost in a fire long ago, squelching any hopes of finding answers. How it came here to the States, we will never know. We are just happy it found its way into our home.
As for me, I am sure the voices are that of the Second Officer Timewell and his bride, singing to each other in the afterlife. The songs continue, not every night but frequently. I also find that when I am alone or late at night, Mr. Timewell has taken to whispering in my ear. I have yet to fully understand what he is saying but the voice and message are pleasant, comforting. Maybe one day he will tell me his secrets. Until then, I will continue to enjoy their songs, listening to the chimes of Haunted Time.