Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Healy Clock Theft Has Roots in GU History

It’s a tradition that has withstood the test of time: risking life and limb to scale the tower that presides regally atop Healy Hall to reach the wooden booty at its summit – the Healy Clock hands. Though it is unclear why it began, the allure of possessing the Hilltop’s hands of time has captured the imaginations of Georgetown undergraduates for more than half a century.

The tower itself was added to Healy Hall in 1888 in order to provide the Romanesque building with some ventilation. The iconic clock was purchased for $1,188 and came with three massive bells, Holy Mary Seat of Wisdom, Saint John Berchmans and Saint Aloysius. The bells, each weighing in excess of 350 pounds, were rung by Jesuits for more than 40 years before they were replaced in 1931. Bowing to complaints from Georgetown students and residents that the often-unreliable ringing schedule was unacceptable, an electronic timing device was installed.

With no one traveling the elaborate path to the bells in the clock tower, the system of doors and locks was closed forever – or so university officials thought. The 1960s saw a spike in clock tower activity, although this time it wasn’t the bells’ sound that was unreliable: It was the clock hands’ presence. Georgetown lore tells a story of a decade so wrought with timepiece plundering that the university eventually stopped replacing the hands for weeks at a time, a lesson to the culprits: Steal these hands and ye shall be late.

A particularly ambitious group of residents from the fifth floor of Copley carried out one of the most memorable heists of their decade. Known collectively as HOCK – Holders of the Clock Klub – these nine brave souls were behind more than three weeks of a hand-less Healy tower. At 4 p.m. on Oct. 14, 1967, a two-man team of HOCK members entered the fifth floor of Healy through a punched-out hole in the fourth floor of Riggs Library – a campus space now so hallowed the very idea seems sacrilegious to Hoyas. The pair – known publicly only as KC and Scoop – spent four hours removing floorboards from the story above to gain access to the attic. Realizing the long, daunting task ahead of them, they slipped a note to HOCK watchmen playing poker in Healy on the other side of a locked door requesting provisions. After retrieving thermoses of milk and packages of jelly crackers, the team pressed on.

Having passed through more than four series of locks and countless pigeon gravesites, the team finally gained access to the clock tower. Within only minutes, they heard the not-so-distant voices of another group of explorers talking loudly of their quest for the clock hands while fumbling with a locked door. KC and Scoop waited out their clumsier contemporaries.

Their patience paid off – HOCK was able to complete its mission that night. They apprehended the hands, the larger measuring 5 feet, the smaller 3 feet, and unfurled a banner proclaiming their victory: “Tick Tock, HOCK has the Clock.”

When they were forced to return their hard-fought winnings three weeks later, they did so with their mark on Hoya history firmly affixed. Inscribed on the back of the minute hand were the words “HOCK ’71” and on the hour hand, the nicknames of the perhaps the most notorious Hoya heisters in history.

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