dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Anthony Wayne might have had the weirdest burial(s) in Pennsylvania, but there’s another strange grave in southern Chester County, PA, about 10 minutes from my house.

In the cemetery adjoining the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg, there’s a marker for a grave known as The Ticking Tomb. It’s said that if you place your ear against the stone, you can hear the distinct ticking of a watch. The Ticking Tomb is an old, old legend. In fact, it’s believed that Edgar Allen Poe, while visiting the area, went to hear it for himself and was inspired to write The Tell-Tale Heart.

According to legend, in the mid 1760’s surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were passing through the area while mapping out their famous Mason-Dixon line. A local tot supposedly swallowed Mason’s pocket watch, which continued to tick inside the boy throughout his life and beyond. (That’s some watch!)

When I was a kid, teachers told us that the ticking sound was most likely caused by an underground spring beneath the gravestone. In recent years, the ticking has reportedly stopped, which suggests the underground spring has shifted – or that Mason’s watch has finally run down.

As for the story that Poe visited the grave – it’s quite possible. In the early 1840’s, Poe stayed at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark, Delaware – the same place where Mason and Dixon stayed nearly a century earlier. He may very well have heard the legend of the ticking tomb at that time.

It is also said that Poe stumbled while getting out of a carriage at the Deer Park Tavern, and for this indignity, he placed a good-natured “curse” upon the place: Anybody who visited it was doomed to return, again and again. The curse is still in effect: The Deer Park was my college hangout when I attended The University of Delaware, and my family still goes there for dinner and brunch! Hard to believe that Edgar Allen Poe – not to mention Mason and Dixon – ate at the same establishment, but that’s just the awesome thing about history. Time marches on but stories last forever.


After a family excursion to the White Clay Creek preserve last Sunday, my family stopped at the London Tract Friends Meeting in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, to visit our local spooky grave, The Ticking Tomb.

It’s been years since my husband and I have visited this cemetery, although I wrote a blog post about the place back in the winter. You can read the story behind The Ticking Tomb here.

We weren’t even sure which tomb was the right one, at first. I had planned on calling up the information on the Droid when we got there, but once on the property I had no bars. NO BARS! It was a DEAD ZONE. Get it? That would have been spooky, if not for the fact that almost all of Landenberg is a dead zone.

So, we just had to wander around until I recognized it – and I did, finally. It was the flat stone inscribed only with the initials R.C., next to the oddly shaped heart headstone. Gina swears that she could hear a slow ticking sound when she pressed her ear to the stone.

Gabbey the Skeptic says no way.

Sorcia was more interested in the treats in Gina’s hand.

Me? Oh, I didn’t listen. I just took the pictures. I’d prefer not to confirm or deny this legend. I just like to wonder about it.

P.S. The mysterious Ticking Tomb is not the only interesting grave in this cemetery. Look at this headstone for Lillie Russell, Beloved Daughter. Have you ever seen one like this before?

P.P.S. Marcy Hatch, my wonderful first beta reader for the Caged Graves, has a review for Struts and Frets (which she won in my 100 Blog Follower Contest) and an interview with Jon Skovron (whom I met at PAYA 2010) on her blog today. Jon’s a riot and a half, and I suggest you check out the interview!


As a follow-up to my post about The Caged Graves in Catawissa, PA, I thought I’d mention another weird PA grave – a very local one for me. (It’s about 10 minutes from my house, and I grew up knowing this legend.)

In the cemetery adjoining the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg, there’s a marker for a grave known as The Ticking Tomb. It was said that if a person placed their ear against the stone, he would hear the distinct ticking of a watch. (Who discovered this first, I don’t know. Who goes around pressing their ears to gravestones?) The Ticking Tomb is an old, old legend. In fact, it is believed that Edgar Allen Poe, while visiting the area, went to hear it for himself and was inspired to write The Tell-Tale Heart.

According to legend, in the mid 1760’s surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were passing through the area while mapping out their famous Mason-Dixon line. A local tot supposedly swallowed Mason’s pocket watch, which continued to tick inside the boy throughout his life and beyond. (That’s some watch!)

When I was a kid, teachers told us that the ticking sound was most likely caused by an underground spring beneath the gravestone. In recent years, the ticking has reportedly stopped, which suggests that the underground spring has shifted – or that Mason’s watch has finally run down.

As for the story that Poe visited the grave – it’s quite possible. In the early 1840’s, Poe stayed at the Deer Park Tavern in Newark, Delaware – the same place where Mason and Dixon stayed nearly a century earlier. He may very well have heard the legend of the ticking tomb at that time.

It is also said that Poe stumbled while getting out of a carriage at the Deer Park Tavern, and for this indignity, he placed a good-natured “curse” upon the place: Anybody who visited it was doomed to return, again and again. The curse is still in effect: The Deer Park was my college hangout when I attended The University of Delaware, and my family still goes there for dinner now and then. The ticking tomb does not hold quite the same appeal …