Deathwatch Beetle

A deathwatch beetle is a small insect which makes a ticking or tapping sound as it bores into wood. The beetle is especially heard in woodwork, benches and wainscoting during the summer months. In folklore beliefs in the United States, Britain and Europe, the sound of the deathwatch beetle is a harbinger of a death in the family. Various specific beliefs exist; for example, in Lancashire, England, it is especially ominous if the deathwatch beetle ticks only three times. Records in England dating back to the 17th century attest to the terror the deathwatch beetle held over people.



  • Opie, Iona, and Moira Tatem. A Dictionary of Superstitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley  – September 1, 2007

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