This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 4.
We’ve all been there before. You’re just going about your day, planning your next D&D campaign and then you hear it: the tell-tale sound of a deep, hellish chiming. A grandfather clock has appeared from nowhere and with it comes the knowledge that Vecna will arrive from the Upside Down to ensnare your mind, break all your bones, and intern your body in hell forever. Mondays, am I right?
Such is the set of circumstances facing Hawkins, Indiana in Stranger Things season 4. Vecna, the latest ghoulish enemy from the Upside Down, operates without subtlety. A vision of the decrepit grandfather clock that once inhabited Creel House always foretells his arrival…and some poor schmuck’s death. Stranger Things fans online have had some fun with this concept, posting countless videos to social media joking about clocks that only they can see.
In addition to all of the memes and jokes, however, the Stranger Things faithful may have uncovered something else about the Creel house clock that could have foretold Vecna’s eventual arrival as early as the series’ very first episode. Allow us to explain!
As previously stated, Vecna’s kills in Stranger Things season 4 are always accompanied by the arrival of a grandfather clock and absolutely unmistakable noise it makes. The Stranger Things sound design department really put their backs into this one, creating an otherworldly clock strike that reverberates through its victim’s (and audience’s) bones. The sound is so instantly unnerving and iconic that some fans believe they’ve recognized it no fewer than two times during their rewatching of the series.
The first time that Stranger Things introduces a noise akin to the grandfather clock comes in season 1 episode 1 “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”. As young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is biking home from his latest D&D session at the Wheeler household, he comes across the shadow of the Demogorgon in the road. He crashes his bike and then we hear it: two subtle chiming noises amid the usual atmospheric soundtrack.
That chiming is fairly subtle and could very well just be a part of the show’s ambient noises. Later on, however, there’s a similar yet more distinct chiming sound. In season 3, episode 2 “The Mallrats,” Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) is dragged into the Upside Down and as he encounters a doppelganger version of himself there are three familiar chimes from an unseen grandfather clock. The sound isn’t identical to season 4’s design but it is definitely similar.
If that weren’t enough, some Twitter users have reported hearing clock noises throughout season 2, though we haven’t been able to corroborate any of those. So what gives? Did Stranger Things creators the Duffer Brothers have Vecna’s arrival in mind from the very first time they sat down to write the show?
Knowing what we know about the creation of Stranger Things, that seems fairly unlikely. Like many great TV shows, Stranger Things appears to have been more of a collaborative improvisational process among its writers than a strictly plotted out series with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Recall that early on, the Duffers even planned for the show to be an anthology with a new cast and story stepping in each season. That plan was wisely scuttled once it became clear how magical the original cast was.
The clock noises heard in season 1 and potentially season 2 are almost certainly coincidental. The sound team at Stranger Things has been tasked with creating a foreboding vibe and the echoing ring of a clock at night certainly helps capture that. Having said that, however, there is something more articulated and loud about the clock noise that accompanied Billy in the Upside Down in season 3. That clock is noticeable enough that it’s entirely possible it was inserted by the writers to foreshadow the events of season 4.
Even if the clock wasn’t intended to foreshadow anything though, the good news is that canon isn’t always a straight line. Like the timeline of The Upside Down itself, a show’s continuity can be altered or retrofitted by creators or fans to best serve their interests. If we or the Duffer Brothers want those early clock noises to signal the impending arrival of Vecna then we can go right ahead and do so. For Vecna did eventually arrive all the same.
All seven episodes of Stranger Things season 4 volume 1 are available to stream on Netflix now. Volume 2 will premiere on July 1.