Since before the time the first “Hoya!” was ever officially uttered in the name of Purple Pride, it has been a curiosity and a source of conversation for Holy Cross students, walking up Linden Lane or perhaps looking from out their window in Wheeler Dormitory at nighttime, to look up and see what appears to be a tiny candle flickering in a window just beneath the O’Kane clock tower face. Strangely, no-one seems to be able to provide an actual source for the light, and not a single student at a single meal in Kimball can ever offer a definitive answer from their own contrary experience.
This is understandable, because the 5th floor of O’Kane – on which this haunted chamber is found – is mysteriously hard to access. The stately staircase in the northwest corner of O’Kane ascends unbroken from the Public Safety offices in the basement all the way up to the entrance of the 5th floor – at which point the stairs abruptly end at a locked door. With a heavy lock that’s always barred, the door shuts out the hopes of every potential ghostbuster and truth-seeking cynic that comes its way to put the matter to bed.
Many over the generations have tried to explain the light and the source of it:
The Physics Department said, “The light is a mere bending of photon molecules around a temporal shift in the glass plane of the window”;
The English Department said, “It’s a highly layered, complex metaphor for the deep yearning of Holy Cross students to find meaning in life”;
The Philosophy Department said, “How do you know there is a light up there? What is light, even?”
The Spanish Department said, “Hay un fantasma inquieto en esa ventana.” (what this meant, I cannot pretend to say).
As far as I can tell, this last guess by the Spanish Department was the correct one. I can back up their claim on the evidence of some very good authority: that of my own two eyes! I tell you now, reader, they’ve seen their fair share of amazing sights in their time, and although they’re a little too accustomed to the sight of their eyelids for generous amounts of time on a nightly basis, I’ve never had cause to doubt their vigilance. That is, until the night they were met with the sight of the Fenwick Phantom!!!
I had been in the English Department study room, with its shelves of old moth-bitten volumes, poring over ghost stories as part of research for a class. It was a late October evening, and a misty fog had settled on the campus that blotted out everything but the halos of light around the lampposts and the figures that would occasionally flit through them in a scene straight from the streets of Sherlock Holmes’ London. You, sitting reading at your computer screen in the broad light of day, are probably thinking to yourself at the moment, “the nut’s finally cracked on this one,” but I defy any one of you to be placed in the same environment and NOT be prepared for any kind of haunted happenings!
Despite the campus’ incredible level of safety and security, the Fenwick and O’Kane hallways became suddenly shadowy and mysterious to my story-addled mind. And it was there, in the corridors fresh out of an episode of American Horror Story, that I saw it – the ghost drifting away up the staircase!!! I say it was a ghost, because I’ve yet to meet a living person with the space above their shoulders unoccupied as this apparition’s was. The customary tenant of that region was instead wrapped tightly in a set of rags hanging from the figure’s hands; its eyes glowed brightly with a ghostly light, and he seemed to be using them as a kind of lantern to light his way (headless people in general possessing very poor eyesight). Forget “Nearly Headless;” this phantom was a card-carrying member of the Headless Hunt.
Since the fifth floor was his apparent destination, I have only to guess that this ghostly sentinel is the cause of the elusive clock tower light. How he found himself in his current predicament, and why he maintains his nightly vigil at the clock tower window, I never managed to inquire, as I
ran away shrieking lost sight of the figure and have never dared been able to see him again. I was able to learn just one more detail of O’Kane’s spectral inhabitant from my brief glimpse: the ghost was attired, from premature top to bottom, in the armor of a Knight of the Crusades, and his coat of arms was very clearly a Holy Cross. What this outfit denotes, and its possible bearing on the origins of our much-adored mascot, I won’t venture to say. Perhaps some other students, in the College’s earlier years, caught a glimpse of this selfsame spirit, and were so affected by him as to incorporate him into the school’s national identity. The real answer remains for you to discover, as you wander around the empty hallways of Fenwick and O’Kane at night, or chance to glance up at the dot of light in the windows just beneath the clock face.
The Fenwick Phantom dwells up there, and he’s waiting for you!!!
Andrew Cook '15