SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake 6er bell has been silenced … again.
Village Administrative Assistant Cassandra Hopkins said the bell went missing from where it hung at the Berkeley Green gazebo on Nov. 8 and has not been seen since.
Ringing the bell is the cherry on top of completing the Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge. Only after summiting Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, St. Regis and Scarface mountains can hikers ring the bell.
Now, the hook sits empty and hikers will have to finish the challenge with only the satisfaction of their accomplishment — and maybe a patch.
A history of theft
Hopkins said the bell has disappeared and reappeared several times since it was first installed in 2013.
Former Saranac Lake resident Joe Dockery came up with the idea for the bell and donated the $450 ringer to the village.
The bell was stolen in 2013, a mere four months after Loring Porter of Lake Placid became the first Saranac Lake 6er.
John Varga, who owned the former Eat n’ Meet Grill and Larder on Broadway, donated another bell.
Two-and-a-half years later, as Dockery did some yard work outside of his home, a young man approached him and told him he knew where the bell was — high up on Dewey Mountain. The man returned two days later and left the hefty bell on Dockery’s porch in a bag.
“There were no questions asked. I didn’t know who it was, but he said he knew the people who took it,” Dockery, who now lives in Virginia, said on Monday. He said he was just glad to have it back. “It was a little bit odd, but someone must have felt guilty.”
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau said Dockery’s bell was returned to the gazebo. Hopkins said Dockery’s and Varga’s bells have been swapped in and out for repairs over the years. Rabiedau said he believes the village returned Varga’s bell at some point.
Dockery said he likes the 6er hiking challenge because it’s a “do-able goal.” The Adirondack 46er challenge is “daunting and impressive,” he said, so the 6er challenge is a good introduction or alternative.
“I’d hate to have it become some sort of fraternity prank,” he said. “If that’s the case, so be it. I guess you just have to tolerate the immaturity of others.”
“Ay caramba,” Rabideau said. “We’ll have to get another one. It’s tradition. … Not bad. Six years (without a theft) is a good run.”
Six years since the original bell was returned, it disappeared again.
“Could it be fate?” Rabideau asked.
The Kiwassa curse
Hopkins said it is possible whoever took the bell may suffer the “Kiwassa curse,” a hex placed on anyone who rings the bell without hiking all six peaks first.
“That person probably has boils all over their body,” Rabideau said, then referencing the Biblical figure Job, whose faith was tested by horrible tragedies.
“The Kiwassa curse will make Job look like he had a walk in the park,” Rabideau said.
Anyone with information about the missing bell is encouraged to chime in and contact the village at 518-891-4150.