Skip to main content

The Ticking Tombstone of Landenberg


London Tract Meeting House, Landenberg, Chester County

If you look closely at a map of Pennsylvania, you'll see an anomalous semi-circular border at the extreme southeastern part of the state. This circle, known officially as the "Twelve Mile Circle", serves as the border between the Keystone State and Delaware. Much of the strange circle is surrounded by Chester County, one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. While there are many historical points of interest in Chester County, few are strange or as steeped in legend as the Ticking Tombstone.

Near the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg is an old graveyard which contains a tombstone which is said to make eerie ticking noises, much like the ticking of a pocketwatch. Landenberg locals claim that the ticking is the result of two very famous surveyors who arrived in town during the 1760s- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  A young child supposedly swallowed a valuable pocketwatch owned by Mason and later died, and the boy's headstone has been ticking ever since. Some claim that Mason was so angered by the loss of his pocketwatch that he tried to hire a surgeon who could reclaim the gold watch from the boy's belly. After every medical man in Chester County refused to cut open the young lad for the sake of a pocketwatch, Mason put a curse on the child.

This legend became so well-known that it attracted the attention of Edgar Allan Poe, who visited the Landenberg graveyard in the early 1840s. Poe was so intrigued by the Ticking Tombstone that he even lodged at the Deer Park Tavern in nearby Newark, Delaware- the same establishment where Mason and Dixon stayed while surveying Landenberg. It is said that the Ticking Tombstone was the inspiration behind Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". There is credible evidence which supports this part of the legend, such as the fact that the tombstone itself is heart-shaped.

This simple tombstone, inscribed simply with the initials "R.C.", has captured the imaginations of thousands; so-called ghost hunters and paranormal investigators claim that the ticking is otherworldly in nature, and the "haunted" Ticking Tombstone has been featured in quite a number of books. However, as it turns out, there may actually be a scientific explanation for the ticking phenomenon.

In the fall 1895 issue of Stone Magazine (a popular geological publication of the 19th century), an article explains that the ticking sound is the result of an underground stream trickling through the limestone formation which lies under Landenberg. The ticking seems to grow fainter each year, which suggests that the subterranean stream is slowly but surely creating a limestone cave deep beneath the surface of Chester County.

Popular posts from this blog

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.


Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …

The Roberto Clemente death conspiracy

Was the Hall of Fame baseball star assassinated by the CIA?



From the Sandy Hook school shooting to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, it seems that every tragedy in recent times is accompanied by a slew of conspiracy theories. Yet history is filled with events that would be enshrouded in conspiracy theories if they happened today. One such event is the plane crash that killed baseball Hall-of-Famer and Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente on December 31, 1972.

Most of us are familiar with the story: Clemente, playing the role of humanitarian, decides to accompany a flight of emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, after the victims claim that the corrupt military dictator, Anastasio Somoza, was preventing the much-needed emergency supplies from getting into the hands of earthquake survivors. The rickety plane goes down off the coast of  Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, immediately after takeoff. Strangely, Clemente's body is never found.

This story has all t…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his br…