Home > Lankville Action News: YES! > Cathedral Bells Haunt, Taunt Local Residents

Cathedral Bells Haunt, Taunt Local Residents

December 24, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Grady Kitchens

By Grady Kitchens


Have you ever woken up from a nap feeling like a tune was playing in your head that you can’t quite remember? Have you emerged from a peaceful session at the Sanduny Sauna Spa with a song in your heart that somehow eludes identification, even as you continue humming it off and on throughout the day, straining to guess what it’s called?

That’s the sensation experienced by many residents of Old Lankville who live in the shadows of the town cathedral on Pondicherry Square. The cathedral, an exact replica of the famous pilgrimage destination in Lanque-Ville-sur-Lac, Lankville’s sister city in a nearby foreign area, features a bell tower that tolls out a different tune at precise 23-minute intervals. Residents, many of whom have lived in Old Lankville for generations, set their schedules by it.

The bells of Lankville’s cathedral arriving from Lanque-Ville-sur-Lac in 1898.

The bells of Lankville’s cathedral arriving from Lanque-Ville-sur-Lac in 1898.

The unusual chiming interval hearkens back to the tradition of a “de profundis bell” that would ring every twenty-three minutes in Lanque-Ville-sur-Lac throughout the Middle Ages. “De profundis” is a foreign phrase that means “out of the depths of despair.” Upon hearing the bell, the poor denizens of Lanque-Ville-sur-Lac would stop what they were doing, kneel, and loudly curse their miserable fate to God or whoever else happened to be passing nearby, often while pummeling themselves in the kidneys.

To modern Lankville residents, the sound of the cathedral bells filling the air is as natural as the thought of the single-serve plastic utensil dispenser at Barlow Foods. But many have noticed a disturbing pattern in the tunes the bell tower rings out.

“The tune at 12:47pm… it’s almost like a song I know by Persons of Interest,” says Deejay Humphrey as he hums an upbeat number, tapping his saddlebag to keep time. Humphrey, longtime music stylist for Casa Montecristo (an elegant reception hall), finds that the cathedral bells often remind him of songs by obscure local bands from the 1980s. “Right about 3:17 every day, there’s a song I’d swear is by the Burburries,” he says. Another, a sort of postmodern number with a pentatonic scale that plays at 11:13am, reminds him of avant-garde trio Or or OR.

“It’s hauntingly familiar,” he says, a thoughtful expression wrinkling his brow. “Even the phrase ‘hauntingly familiar’ is… hauntingly familiar.”


The bells about to play a hauntingly familiar tune.

The bells about to play a hauntingly familiar tune.

Resident Genevieve Rumpus (no relation to reporter Ida Rumpus), meanwhile, finds herself humming tunes by country-rock balladeers the Hickies after hearing the bells on her way home from work. “It’s kind of annoying, really,” she says, especially since she has fashioned a playlist for her commute that includes contemporary light-jazz fare such as Will You Please Stop Talking and Hold Harmless.

Decorative Ham mogul Chris Vitiello has gone so far as to demand, at town council meetings, that the cathedral bells be silenced. He reports recently being “taunted” by a tune that called to mind a song by his own college band, the Muffed Punts.

“How is that fair?” he asks. “I just want to get on with my life and make the best Decorative Hams that money can buy,” yet the bells keep playing their not-quite-exact replicas of familiar songs. Vitiello also proposed shortening the cathedral tower by about twenty feet, as he feels the old church constantly thrusts itself into the sky with a haughty air.

“They should also be whipped mercilessly,” the executive added.

But Vitiello’s impassioned plea did not meet with favor at Old Lankville’s town council meeting.

“Look, it’s tradition,” observes historian Glenn Ogilvie from his office at the University of Southern Lankville. “We may not kneel in Pondicherry Square and scream obscenities like they used to in the old country,” he says – adding that one tune reminds him of an anthem by forgotten indie-rock band the Tumescents – “but the least we can do is put up with a bit of razzing from our cathedral bells a few dozen times a day.”

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