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Church Bells

March 2003

I don't know if this is technically a ghost story or some kind of memory, but I attend a Catholic church that my family has attended for over 100 years. The present church was rebuilt in 1927 when the old one burned down (same site- -but not relevant.) It was remodeled extensively two years ago--which is relevant. On to the story.

I have been attending Mass here for over 3 years now, and on occasion would take note of the bells in the tower ringing. I have heard them at times from outside the church, too. As anyone who knows bells knows, each bell has its own tone and sound. These bells were quite distinct from any bells I can recall anywhere else. Rather deep for church bells, but sweet all the same.

After a year, I became a lector in the parish (I read during Mass). Our regular parish priest was ill, and a sub was sent in one day--in fact the retired pastor of the parish. He had retired in the early '80s, but gladly volunteered to come back and say Mass for a few weeks while our priest was out.

While we were waiting in the vestry, I noticed the bell timer on the wall, and absently asked Father if he thought the bells were set to ring at that Mass (a Saturday evening Mass, not the regular Sunday time) as I could not usually hear them from the altar. He replied that he did not know. Time passed, and soon Mass had started. He was greeting the parishioners, when he suddenly stopped, and smiled back at me saying the bells did indeed ring. I stepped from behind the pillar that was in front of me to slightly behind Father, and I could hear them, too. My mother (who was in the pews) gave us an odd look, but I thought she was disapproving of our conversation on the altar.

A couple of weeks later, the Sister who runs the parish was present before Mass and I made a remark about the bells. She looked at me oddly and said the bells hadn't rung in years. I took this to mean since the restoration (as I had heard the bells before then, and through my childhood when my family would travel home for holidays, before we moved back), and asked if they would restore their function when the roof was finished. Again, she looked at me as if I were insane and said they hadn't functioned since just after the priest who had been substituting left-the wires had snapped for no good reason and never been repaired. In fact, she said, they would not be repaired as it would be too expensive to do.

I was concerned that I was hallucinating, so I asked my Mom about the bells. She said that it had freaked her out that day in Mass when the sub priest and I were talking about the bells, because she had heard them ringing, too! And she knew they hadn't been working, so at first she thought she was just remembering them until the priest mentioned them. I asked her what the sounded like, and she mentioned that there had been several, but the big bass bell drowned the rest out and the sound had been very deep, but sweet and not scary.

Now, if these bells had been disconnected before we moved back into state for good, and before I went to Masses there regularly, how would I have come up with the same description for the sound I heard? Perhaps it's some kind of family memory, since so many generations of my family have worshiped, been baptised and buried out of that church. I don't know for sure, but I haven't heard them since then, and I'd think if they were a memory of some sort I'd still hear them, wouldn't you?

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