Prank Disrupts Lowell Website

Lowell House residents who checked their online facebook last Friday were greeted by an ominous message proclaiming “All Your Bells are Belong To Us.”

“Mr. Duck, the Rushin Hacker,” claimed authorship for the mysterious message, which apparently referenced the bells housed in Lowell tower that originally belonged to the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow.

The message was displayed for about two seconds before users were redirected to the normal website.

Lowell House Webmaster and Resident Tutor Daniel J. Ellard ’86 said the message was a joke orchestrated by people within the Lowell House network, although he would not reveal their identity.

“It was completely intentional,” Ellard said. “It happens regularly, we just leave them up as surprises.”

Students who saw the page said they found it benign and amusing.

“I thought it was hilarious,” said Lowell House resident Thomas M. Bechtold ’04. “It wasn’t a malicious hack at all because it redirected to the [Lowell House] site.”

Though this particular incident was not reported to the police, Ellard said, unauthorized access to a computer website can carry a penalty of 30 days in jail or a fine of $1,000 under Massachusetts state law.

Ellard said he knew in advance that the message was going to be posted. Because it was only a joke, he said, there was no reason to report it.

Originally crafted for the monastery in the 17th and 18th centuries, the bells were purchased in the 1920s by industrialist Charles Crane when the Russian government threatened to melt them.

Crane, a Harvard graduate, then presented the 18 bells to University President A. Lawrence Lowell as a gift in 1930, when Lowell House was under construction as part of the College’s new residential plan.

Officials at the St. Danilov Monastery have said that the bells should be returned by March—the 700th anniversary of the death of their patron saint.

While the fate of the bells is still uncertain, Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck said in December that it was “highly unlikely” that a decision would be made before the March deadline.

Removing the bells would likely require several months of renovations and cost tens of millions of dollars, former Lowell House Master and Arnold Professor of Science William H. Bossert ’59 said in December.

—Staff writer Katharine A. Kaplan can be reached at kkaplan@fas.harvard.edu.