<1988 “‘Time of death was put at between ten and midnight . . . Something wrong Sergeant?’ ‘Nothing, sir. Someone walked over my grave.’”—A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George, page 95>
The above exchange is placed in England in the 1980s. But it’s hard to visualize that this saying gets much use in modern times. However, surprisingly, a Google search on the various combinations (someone/someone’s/somebody/somebody’s, walked/walking/is walking/was walking) produced around 150,000 hits (at my space-time coordinates).
The following dictionary listing adds a bit to what Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable
had to say above.
ALLEN’S DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH PHRASES
SOMEONE IS WALKING OVER MY GRAVE
: An expression used when shivering or shuddering involuntarily. It first occurs in a satirical dialogue by Jonathon Swift as part of his Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation
in 1738, in which a character shudders and declares ‘Lord! There’s somebody walking over my grave.’ It is derived from the popular folklore that one shivers when somebody walks over the site of one’s future grave.
After sifting through a fair number of hits, I would add to the above definition as follows:
The thought that follows a sudden, convulsive chill occurring a) for no apparent reason or b) due fear. [The ‘fear’ sense was not an original meaning, but the phrase has come to be used this way.]
The following quotes are from archived sources:
<1879 “‘You are cold, my love? You shivered.’ ‘I am not cold,’ said Clara. ‘Some one, I suppose, was walking over my grave.’”—The Egoist by G. Meredith, page 246>
<1924 “Really, I don’t know why I shivered. Perhaps someone is walking over my grave.”—Evening Tribune (Providence, Rhode Island), 24 July, page12>
<2000 “The loss of body heat from emptying my bladder caused my body to shiver momentarily - one of those ‘somebody is walking over my grave’ shivers.”—Thorns to Kilimanjaro by Ian McCallum, page 161>
<2007 “All of a sudden, a chill goes down my spine and the hairs on the back of my neck and my hands and arms are standing on end. I shivered but thought nothing of it. Just someone walking over my grave, as we say.”—Liverpool Echo, 10 November>
<2009 “A thought suddenly struck me which made me shiver like somebody walked over my grave.”—scribd.com, 29 August>
<2012 “My body shivered – someone walking over my grave? I don't believe in ghosts. . . This is ridiculous, get a grip! I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.”—North Devon Journal (England ), 26 April>
<2013 “I felt a shudder up my spine, as if someone was walking over my grave, I turned to see no one.”—wattpad.com, 26 January>
Ken G – March 10, 2013