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Point/ Counterpoint: The Lowell House Bells

By Christine A. Hurd and Keerthi Reddy, Crimson Staff Writers

The Lowell House bells, a collection of 17 Russian bells, originally came from the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow. They were given as a gift to the house in 1930. The bells are rung on Sunday afternoons from 1 pm to 1:30 pm. Some Havardians love the bells while others maintain that they’re a nuisance.

PRO: By Christine A. Hurd

As a Lowellian resident, I once held the esteemed, informed opinion that the Lowell Bells suck. However, much as C.S. Lewis once lamented that he was angry there was no God, only to become God’s biggest fan, I have converted to the much more psychologically comfortable opinion that they are awesome.

We’re just not using them to their full potential.

As a primer for this argument, let me just say that when people come to a city for college, it seems weird to complain about two things: noise and nicotine pollution. “Oh yes, I absolutely want to study in absolute silence, which is why I am thrilled about living in a city! Also, I have asthma and want fresh country air to breathe.” Also, it is societally acceptable to complain about the Lowell bells and that one girl who stands outside of Lowell House chain-smoking. What about the pan-flautists in the Square? What about the constant Mass Ave. traffic? What about the Owl and the Fly?

I always thought that the Owl and the Fly sounded like a rejected Aesop’s fable. The moral of that story is that it doesn’t matter how goddamn noisy you are, you’ll get a great job regardless. But, we could use the Lowell House bells in order to give a different moral story: that of the Ant and the Grasshopper. You reap what you goddamn sow.

Every time those fine establishments play music at odd hours, we should just start ringing the Lowell bells instead of wringing our hands. Instead of three calls to the Cambridge police, a well-rung “Dies Irae” will stop all festivities. It might wake up everyone a mile around, but a fresh reminder of one’s mortality by Mozart is always more welcome than a dubstep remix of “Call Me Maybe.”

Counterfactuals aside, the Lowell Bells serve one purpose that no other contraption can. They can be used to mourn the dead. The difference when “Call Me Maybe” is played by the Final Clubs and when it’s played by the bells is that the drooping song of the cold-brushed metal reflects the inherent entropy in life. Basically, they’re saying, “I just met you, and this is crazy, but entropy is always increasing in a closed, isolated system, so stop caring. Bitch.”

It’s fifteen minutes on a Sunday at 1 p.m. It’s telling you that brunch is over. Get your face out of the Boston Cream Cake and stop the weekend haze. It’s your wake-up call--your friendly, Russian wake up call. In Soviet Russia, you wake the bells and the bells wake you.

—Staff writer Christine A. Hurd can be reached at

CON: By Keerthi Reddy

Once, dear reader, I was like you. I romanticized those Lowell Bells. I mean, the 17 of them made it here all the way from Russia. That’s dedication. And they’re beautiful. They’re historic. They just scream “OPPORTUNITY!” They’re so Harvard.

But let me tell you a secret: I dated someone in Lowell last year. (Scandalous, I know.) As tends to happen, I developed a lot of “feelings” during that time. At first, I thought I could resist. I sleep heavy. I own earplugs. I’m resilient. But Sunday after Sunday, I kept coming back, and slowly the bells took their toll. I could spill my heart about what it’s like, but who can out woe Poe? He, too, clearly had a lot of feelings, some of which are definitely about those bells.

Before I surrender the page, one last remark: the Lowell bells exist in virtual form. As in, you can play them, according the Lowell website, “in the privacy of your own room.” Intriguing.

“Oh, the bells, bells, bells!

What a tale their terror tells

Of Despair!

How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

On the bosom of the palpitating air!

…And the people - ah, the people

They that dwell up in the steeple,

All Alone

And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,

In that muffled monotone,

Feel a glory in so rolling

On the human heart a stone”

—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Bells”

—Staff writer Keerthi Reddy can be reached at

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