Why are students not allowed in the Pioneer Hall bell tower?

Debunking Linfield myths: a series

Daniel Clausen

For the Review

The Pioneer Hall bell tower is one of Linfield’s most recognizable icons. Rising high above the Oak Grove, it is the backdrop for graduation and an enduring symbol of the school’s heritage. But, our beloved belfry also has its share of bats.

Any landmark as old as Pioneer is bound to accrue some folklore. Dedicated in 1883, for many years the building housed the entirety of the college.

The history book written for the centennial anniversary celebration, “Linfield’s Hundred Years,” details the former importance of the structure. Students, and even some professors, lived, studied, worked and performed in the impressive four-story building.

Even though electricity was installed in the building in 1907, it was still considered rustic. Students had the option to include the cost of firewood in tuition or opt to chop their own. Obviously, the hall was aptly named.

Even in the straight-laced Baptist days, pranks were not unheard of. One hazy legend has it that several students out for a lark stole a live cow and herded it up the stairs of Pioneer. Arriving in the narrow stairway that leads to the attic and cupola, the tired cow stood her ground. Sadly, she did not have enough room to turn around. As cows are supposedly unable to back down stairs, the poor heifer had to be killed to be removed.

Perhaps this untimely death accounts for the strange aura which surrounds the cupola. Student residents have long complained of footsteps and creaky floorboards in the attic, although the door is securely locked, and students are not allowed into the attic for safety reasons.

Rick Carruth has worked for Facilities Services since the ‘80s and remembers helping investigate such a complaint.

He, along with one other employee and Bob Wells, supervisor of Facilities Services at the time, entered the cupola in search of the source of the noise. Although it was summer, the bell tower was unseasonably chilly.

“I’m not a ghost hunter or anything, but I definitely felt a sort of a presence,” Carruth said. “It wasn’t always cold up there, sometimes it was very hot, but sometimes there was a real cold presence.”

He had never heard of the cow story, and he did not connect his experience to a cow in any way.

“We did remove a bird from up there once, and there were a bunch of dead crows and sparrows until recently,” he said.

A few students have seen the inside of the cupola. Senior Koleka Sequeira worked for Facilities Services last summer and got to go up.

“There are lots of names written and carved into the wood and lots of dead birds,” she said. “I didn’t see any ghosts, but it did seem dangerous, which is probably why students aren’t usually allowed up there.”

She added her own name to the roster on the walls, though likely at considerably less danger than some of the vandals.

Several alumni on staff, who preferred not to be identified, said students used to sneak up to leave their mark on the oldest building of the college. Methods and specific stories were not included.

Though most of these stories are all but impossible to tie to documented events or facts, they are also hard to discount. Professor of Philosophy Marv Henberg, who recently wrote “Inspired Pragmatism: A history of Linfield,” said he has encountered a version of the cow story at most campuses he has worked at in his career.

“That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” he said. He guessed that it could have been a popular stunt at one time.

These legends, passed down through the years, are, in the end, welcome additions to the bell tower, and help make it as distinctive as much as its cupola and bihourly carillon.

 

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