Montgillian’s Alarm

FUTURE  HISTORIANS and GRAVE SEEKERS:    please, pay attention.

In 1984, John Yingling, former principal of the Elkridge High School, relayed this history to a group of men.

Every Halloween, Elkridge boys delighted in attaching a long rope to the Elkridge High School bell and, while in hiding some distance away, pull on the rope to cause the bell to ring.    Unfortunately, these acts alarmed the school custodian, Mr. Montgillian, who lived a short distance away.     It annoyed him so much that the poor devil would come a’runnin’ to the school to see what was going on.   After repeating this performance each Halloween, Montgillian decided that there had to be a better way to combat their nuisance.

So he removed the bell entirely and buried it in the cellar beside the old furnace in the central basement furnace room of the School.

My thought is, isn’t that what all normal custodians would do?


bell 3 use


Mr. Yingling remarked that the bell was never removed and is still there to this day.

All right, back up and hold your horses.    Who was the biggest nuisance here?  Just so he wouldn’t be continually alarmed, Montgillian murdered the bell’s call in purpose.     Revengeful against the boys, he took it upon himself to dispose of school property and a tangible object of school history.    Alternatively, Montgillian could have just let them ring it, as bell ringing doesn’t cause harm; or waited outside to scare the boys off.    He also could have cut off their added rope, saving everyone else a lot of stuff and needless future nonsense.    Or, he could have called the police.    But NO. 

Historically, the kids were unwittingly repeating actions of centuries ago in the “Dark Ages,” when ringing a bell was practiced to drive off evil spirits.    And if you believe in this sort of noisy warfare, what a better time for it than at midnight on Halloween in Elkridge?!  

But the bell ringing didn’t scare away this ol’ devil, it just made him mad. 

Like the beating heart under floorboards in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” (“Poe”tic) justice for his abnormal reaction would have been for the buried bell to ring in the pit on its own accord.    Now THAT WOULD have alarmed Montgillian!    But alas!   This pipedream wasn’t the scripted scenario and the closest Elkridge got to Edgar Allan Poe was when Poe apparently had a friend at Rockburn.   His parents, society people according to the Baltimore “Blue Book,” did dally at Belmont.

However, the custodian’s reaction begs a multitude of queries.  Under whose authority did Montgillian act?  The school administrators knew about this so why didn’t they make him dig it up?

cabooses                                                                                   “I say, better left ignored.”

Was no one paying attention to what some custodians were doing back in the day?  Apparently NOT.

The same year after Yingling told this story, the Elkridge Heritage Society (“EHS”) was anxious to retrieve the bell for its historical collection.    George Chaney, a member of the Society, was contacted by the head honcho of the EHS to see about the retrieval of the bell.    So Chaney did not fail to communicate with the former owner of Elkridge High School, and found the building had been sold and developed into an apartment house.    Unless that occurrence had been very recent news at that time, I don’t know why they hadn’t kept tabs on that development before that.    Yingling, knowing the bell had been buried there ‘n all, could have taken the opportunity to retrieve it before this development. 

Anyhow, thinking it still retrievable, Chaney telephoned Yingling to ascertain the exact location of the burial, since there were three cellars in the former school.    From their conversation, it seems that the middle furnace room basement was converted into a laundry room for the apartments, and its floor, under which the bell was buried, had been cemented over. 

Currently, the EHS is still very interested in obtaining the bell, and because the number of devils has increased, we at the EHS will strongly consider ringing it on Halloween as an Elkridge tradition.     Hence, should the apartment building ever be condemned or sold for another use, this cellar room with its cemented grave should be made available to us for digging.

I’ve my canary, mining hat, waders, and a shovel ready to go!

3 thoughts on “Montgillian’s Alarm

  1. Has anyone thought to see if they can get someone with GPR to volunteer to look for the bell?

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