The Disappearance of the Fenwick Tower Bell: A Holy Cross Mystery

The historic bell disappeared from campus in broad daylight in 2009 — and some dedicated alumni have been on the hunt for it ever since
October 5th, 2017 by 

The empty cradle where the Fenwick Tower Bell once hung, along with the plaque that once was adhered to it, outside O’Kane Hall.
The empty cradle where the Fenwick Tower Bell once hung, along with the plaque that once was adhered to it, outside O’Kane Hall. Photo by Tom Rettig.

“Once upon a wintry morning, while in slumber I lay yawning, and the college-bell was ringing as it often rang before…”

So begins a poem published in “The Purple” in 1900, setting the scene of campus with one of Holy Cross’ historic main characters: the Fenwick Tower Bell.

In 1853, the 400-pound copper bell was cast by Henry N. Hooper in the copper foundry formerly owned by Paul Revere, and in 1854 it was mounted in Fenwick Hall.

In April of 2009, 155 years later, the bell disappeared.

The caper unfolded on O’Kane Lawn, where the bell had been relocated in 1974 after one-too-many pranksters had scaled Fenwick Tower to ring it. In its new home — a heavily trafficked area of campus — students and other “witnesses” are said to have seen men, dressed as workers, removing the bell in broad daylight and loading it into a truck. Assuming the bell was being taken for maintenance, it all seemed routine.

“I don’t believe there was any attempt to secure the bell with anything more than bolts holding it onto the cradle,” says Mark Savolis ’77, Holy Cross archivist. “Clearly a few men with basic tools could have unfastened it and taken it away in a matter of a few minutes.”

According to Savolis, the late Rev. Anthony Kuzniewski, S.J. was one of the first to notice the bell was missing. The campus was searched top to bottom, junk yards and recycling centers scoured and antique markets monitored. Eight years later, the bell is still nowhere to be found, but theories continue to swirl.

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The bell as it was, back in 1975. Photo courtesy Holy Cross Archives.

“Since other bronze items have been removed from monuments in Worcester and other locales and never found, it seems logical that these items were melted and sold for the scrap value,” says Savolis, who explains that with bronze running between $5 and $8 per pound on the market, a 400-pound bell could be worth up to $3,200.

Others, including some alumni who have taken particular interest in hunting down the artifact, believe that it is still out there somewhere. But so far each new lead has come to a dead end, with the would-be bells weighing too much, cast at the wrong foundry or measuring too large in diameter.

For most of the College’s history, the toll of the Fenwick Tower Bell could be heard across campus — signaling time to wake up or go to dinner, mourning the burial of a Jesuit or celebrating the end of war.

Today, its cradle stands empty, and while the bell’s fate may seem bleak, the community remains hopeful that it is still out there somewhere, ready to return home.


Written by Evangelia Stefanakos for the Fall 2017 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.

About Holy Cross Magazine

Holy Cross Magazine (HCM) is the quarterly alumni publication of the College of the Holy Cross. The award-winning publication is mailed to alumni and friends of the College and includes intriguing profiles, make-you-think features, alumni news, exclusive photos and more. Visit magazine.holycross.edu/about to contact HCM, submit alumni class notes, milestones, or letters to the editor.

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