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Where most stories rely on a suspenseful soundtrack to foreshadow the monster's attack, some go a step further, giving it its own ominous theme in-universe. Either because it's been tagged with or entangled by a telltale noisemaker, or because it's eaten an audible mechanism -- often along with the person who'd been carrying it -- such a creature usually won't be much good at sneaking up on the heroes, as it'll be accompanied by a distinctive sound of its own.

The Trope Namer is the crocodile from Peter Pan, which had swallowed a clock and was always accompanied by a 'tick-tock' thereafter. Fridge Logic issues such as why the clock (radio, phone, etc) can be heard through a large creature's belly wall, or why it doesn't run down and/or get expelled in time, are often ignored.

Usually a subtrope of Hell Is That Noise.

Examples of The Croc Is Ticking include:

Anime and Manga

  • Zaraki Kenpaichi in Bleach, arguably a predator, deliberately put bells on his hair to invoke this trope.

Comic books


  • In Jurassic Park III, the Spinosaurus eats a man who's carrying a satellite phone. The phone is later heard ringing just before it attacks, and again from a gigantic pile of dinosaur poop.
  • In Tremors 2, one of the Graboids eats a radio that's blaring music, which is then heard from underground before it reappears.
    • Although inaudible to the human ear, the vibration of an approaching Graboid can be detected by seismometers in the films and the series.
  • In a variant, the monster from Supershark emits an energy that makes radios succumb to static when it comes near.


  • Captain Hook's crocodile nemesis in Peter Pan is the Trope Namer.
  • The Beast Fable called The Bell and the Cat or The Mice in Council discusses a plan to put a bell on a cat so the mice will hear it coming. Averted because none of the mice is brave enough to actually install the bell.
  • In Hex And The City, the Reality Warper Madman is preceded around the city by his own personal soundtrack, which is helpful to people who want to stay the hell away from him.
  • In Sewer Gas and Electric, a sewer-dwelling mutant shark eats a tunnel worker whose new digital watch plays Bolero. Its next appearance is heralded by the sound.

Live Action TV

  • Played with on Get Smart, "Ship of Spies": A KAOS informer is killed just before giving Max some important information. The only clue: the killer made an unusual "clip-clop" sound. They investigate and end up on the eponymous ship where it turns out just about everyone makes that clip-clop sound - a woman with castanets, a man with a peg leg, etc.
  • The Clock Punk monsters of Doctor Who's "The Girl in the Fireplace" make ticking noises as they move, and break the mechanical clocks around them so people won't notice that it's them ticking rather than a nearby timepiece.
    • In the Christmas special "A Christmas Carol", a flying shark bites off the tip of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. He later detects that the missing part is coming closer, just before the shark attacks him and a young boy.
  • An episode of Seinfeld has Elaine using this technique by giving a container of Tic-Tacs to an employee who sneaks up on her in inconvenient situations.

Video Games

  • In Persona 3, if you stay on one level of Tartarus for too long, you will face having the Reaper spawn. You're able to tell he's close by the sound of chains coming from his direction.
  • Throughout the Silent Hill games, the protagonists have radioes which emit static whenever monsters are near--though it's never clear when exactly will they pop up.
  • All Minecraft monsters make their own distinct noises that warn you when they're near. Of all monster noises, though, the most dreaded is the Creeper's hiss. This is because Creepers don't hiss (or make ANY noise, for that matter) until they're right next to you, and they only hiss for a second and a half before they explode. [1] So when you hear a Creeper's hiss, you usually only have time to think "Oh Crap" before the Creeper detonates and kills or severely injures you.


Western Animation

  • In the Tom and Jerry short The Little School Mouse, Jerry's last lesson for Nibbles is how to set this up by slipping a bell onto Tom. After he completely fails, Nibbles simply offers the bell to Tom as a gift, and the cat's thrilled with it.
  • Parodied/blended with Why Am I Ticking? in Futurama, in the following Show Within a Show excerpt from a film billed to have "a vampire AND an explosion":

 Woman 1: Don't open that coffin! It's ticking

Woman 2: (with stake and hammer, over coffin) I have to! This coffin isn't going to open itself!

Dracula: (flinging open coffin and emerging) BLUUUUAAAH!

(explosion, as advertised)


  • Common in tales of ghosts that are Chained by Fashion.
  • Real Life: Cowbells, although mainly used for easy location of stray livestock, could also give a clanging warning when a ticked-off bull or ram was charging an unsuspecting target.
  • Rattlesnakes, of course, use their tail rattles to scare off predators.
  • One particularly Tear Jerker-tastic example was invoked in parts of India. "Untouchables" (people of "unclean" castes, such as garbage collectors or leatherworkers) were generally despised, and people feared that even interacting with them would corrupt one's spiritual energy. Therefore, when Untouchables left their segregated communities and entered areas with other people, they had to sound a wooden clapper to warn others to get out of the way.
  • Medieval lepers carried bells or clappers to warn other people of the risk of contagion; the sounds these devices produced also constituted a plea for charity.
  • Not a threat, but tin cans strung behind the vehicles of "Just Married" couples provide a rattling declaration that newlyweds are approaching.
  • Supposedly, Gan Ning (of the Three Kingdoms period) wore bells on his waist sash to frighten his enemies.


  1. The reason for this has to do with how a Creeper explodes. Creepers blow themselves up by burning gunpowder inside their bodies, and the hissing noise is actually the sound of the gunpowder igniting. The Creeper will only light the gunpowder on fire when it's right next to you, because that's the only way the explosion will do any damage.
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