Unraveling the Mystery: An Investigation Into the Missing Clock Hand

Many objects around campus go missing, but never has something so central — quite literally — to campus disappeared.

by Stephanie Sowa | 2/11/22 3:10am

missing_clockhand
by Charlie Rudge / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2022 Winter Carnival special issue. 

As the sun sets across the Green, the vibrant pink and orange hues dancing across the sky highlight the beauty of Baker-Berry Library. The lavender (indeed, it is lavender) clock face shimmers, ticking to reveal the time to its observers. Our campus is arguably centered around this beautiful structure: congratulatory admittance posts posed in front of the clock on the Green, followed by graduation photo-ops celebrating four years of brains frantically whirring to complete homework in Blobby.

But the beautiful views hide a secret in plain sight: One of the great clock hands has gone missing. 

As my trip leader, Sanjana Goli ’22 urged each and everyone of her tripees to take a tower tour before graduating from Dartmouth. These tours allow students and guests to have a more intimate look into Baker Tower and, for the first time, see it from inside. Individuals walk up several steps past the massive interior of the clock for an immaculate view of campus.

“I’ve sat in 3FB and 4FB and had a nice view of campus, but the tower tours give you a perspective of a whole different Dartmouth,” Goli said. “Tower tours happen on big weekends, so everyone has lots of spirit and has a good time.”

Most students at Dartmouth, however, don’t use this massive clock as its original architects had intended: to determine the time. One warm winter morning, I decided to have a bonding moment with the lovely lavender clock — and check out this missing hand for myself. Staring up at Baker-Berry, I recalled that this is the tallest occupied structure on campus. Its beauty has astounded Dartmouth students since 1928 when the tower was constructed. 

Several people wondered what I could be doing looking up at the clock, sending odd glances my way. Obviously, I could have been looking at what hour of the day it was. But this is uncommon —  most students just stroll past the tower and observe its glamour, rather than use it as it was originally intended. Maybe that’s the reason why the missing minute hand hasn’t caused more controversy — people admire the concept of the Baker clock tower, but they never use it to actually tell the time. 

Parker Rabinowitz ’25 reflects upon her relationship with the clock.

“I realize that I’ve never used the clock tower for time; I just check my phone,” Rabinowitz said. “I don’t see it as a clock. I see it as a monument.”

Now that the timeless (no pun intended) relationship between the community and the clock has been established, I must ask: Who would dare mess with the sacred clock face of Baker-Berry? As you may or may not know, someone has successfully removed a hand from the northside of the library. 

Who could it be? 

Or what could it be? 

Why would they do this? 

I cannot believe the College allowed the clock hand to take some time off. Students don’t get a holiday! Some may think, “the audacity!” Others may wish they were the one to do it.

To my surprise, several students and faculty had not even noticed the disappearance of the clock hand. Chase Bailey ’25, who lives in Wheeler Hall, strolls past the library several times a day due to the proximity to his dorm. However, he did not realize that this disappearance had occurred until I mentioned it. 

“I had no idea that Baker-Berry had a missing clock hand,” Bailey said. “I guess I never paid close enough attention, but I’ll be looking now.”

DDS and fraternities aside, stealing is not prevalent on Dartmouth’s campus nowadays. Big Green theft has been documented in books about the history of the College, however.  For example, Frederick Chase chronicles the issue of stealing on campus during the 1800s in “A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover.” According to Chase, students were expelled for their theft and exposed in publications — such as the chap in 1845 who “was exposed as a wholesale robber of books… and was expelled from the societies and from college.” 

I doubt many students are stealing books from the stacks, but the clock face is in an entirely different realm. Would this warrant expulsion? Perhaps not. But who doesn’t want to unearth the truth?

As I walk through Novak and past the green chairs clustered together in the Tower Room, everyone has become a suspect. Everyone looks suspicious. No one seems to make direct eye contact. They glance down at their wrist watches and phones, disrespecting our beautiful clock that has been disgraced. They know something is off. 

No one claims to have stolen it. But if you had, wouldn’t you be sharing your accomplishment? Even discreetly? You would have had to trek up the mighty tower stairs in hopes of even getting a glimpse of the clock. You would have had to bask in the lavender light, feeling superior to everyone. So why is no one claiming this feat? 

Time to investigate further.

Walking past the circulation desk in Baker, I asked four different individuals working for the library about the missing clock hand. Surely, they would know? But alas, each and every one of them had no clue what I was talking about. I started to lose hope. It seemed that the rest of the world had moved on: I remained stuck in time, trying to discover the truth. 

Until Craig. Craig Pallett: He had the answer. An information access assistant in shining armor resides in the library. He explains that the elements attacked the clock and brought the hand to its downfall.

“It blew off in a storm,” Pallett revealed. “From what I was told, it’s in the snow and they have not been able to find it.”

The elements! At last, we have uncovered the culprit. During the cold, blustery days in the Hellish Hanover Woods, the clock hand fell. While the zealous wind was slapping the rest of our faces and freezing our eyelashes, it also attacked the innocent Baker-Berry. According to Pallett, the library is waiting for the snow to melt in order to recover the missing hand. Peace at last. 

But something feels off. We’ve come to our conclusion in too few minutes. When the snow essentially melted the other day in our forty degree summer weather, no clock hand emerged. As I trek across the Green with piles of white, billowy snow surrounding me, I have little faith for the reemergence of this clockhand. I forced myself to be content with this truth. I accepted this — for now. 

But trends change, rumors fly, questions are raised. Perhaps the hand lies within a fraternity basement? The houses are known for their shenanigans. An old classroom? A professor’s house? Somewhere in town? A senior society? Did the culprit, who or whatever it may be, attain the clock hand after the storm blew it off, or did they get to the clock before the elements could?

Perhaps at this very moment, the clock hand gazes upon a competitive game of Dartmouth pong. Perhaps, as a paddle flies by, almost grazing it, the clock hand thinks to itself, “Ah, tradition.” Perhaps it is comfortable in its new home. Perhaps it was time for it to move on to new adventures. 

Time will tell if the original clock hand is reinstated. I am no Sherlock Holmes. Maybe a lucky frat, club or society will keep it as treasure forever. A timeless centerpiece, indeed. Although it cannot be confirmed which brave soul ventured out into the cold to claim the clock hand, it’s time to tick tock to the next case, my friends.

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