It's every DePauw student's obligation to study hard, to be honest and forthright, and to try to steal the Motion Bell.
The trouble is—as the reverend Martin Luther King Jr. learned in a Birmingham jail and as Henry David Thoreau noted in his own journal of incarceration—that the sound of a prison door clanging shut rings in one's ears like eternity. For Matthew Ingle the moment of truth came on Sunday, Sept. 19, when he found himself in the Montgomery County Jail, in Crawfordsville, Ind. In addition to felony counts of breaking and entering, and attempted theft, Ingle faced possible expulsion from DePauw University and who knows what punishment from his dad for using the family car as a getaway vehicle.
"But I wasn't really scared," Ingle said afterward, "until I found out the prosecutor was a Wabash grad."
Ingle was right to worry. The object he had attempted to pilfer—a 350-pound brass steam-locomotive bell mounted on a cast-iron stand—was the lawful property of Wabash College, an 806-student all-male liberal-arts college in Crawfordsville. To indicate to all that the bell was meant to stay put, Wabash had bolted it to a concrete slab above the doors in the lobby of the school gymnasium. That was where Ingle, wielding a wrench, had been perched at 2:30 a.m. that Sunday when Wabash security guard Don Money approached the building.
"Someone's coming!" Ingle said to two accomplices who were hiding in the shadows. Ingle quickly dropped to the floor and joined the others in a dash across the lobby. Throwing open the rear doors and leaping eight steps in a single bound, the fugitives tore out into the dark street, where two more conspirators were parked in a 1984 Subaru station wagon. Screaming "Go!" and "Get out of here!" Ingle and his friends piled into the car.
The getaway driver panicked: he couldn't remember how to start the car. "Turn on the lights so I can see!" he cried. With the dome light on, he got the engine to turn over, but by then Money, a white-haired man of 63, had made it around the building and was closing fast. While everybody in the car screamed, the driver yanked the gearshift into low, slammed his foot on the accelerator and gritted his teeth as the car crept away from the curb. Ingle estimated the Subaru was doing 10 miles per hour when it passed the security guard. Money aimed his flashlight at the license plate and calmly took down the number as the car chugged off.
"Needless to say, we think our driver deserves most of the credit for our capture," accomplice Damon Sanderson, a DePauw sophomore, grumbled.
In point of fact, no one was captured. The Crawfordsville police traced the car to Ingle's father, Stephen, in Indianapolis, and when Matthew got back to his dorm room at DePauw, in Greencastle, Ind., there was a message on his answering machine: "Call Patrolman Largent."
Ingle turned himself in that afternoon. Within minutes of his arrest and fingerprinting, he found himself behind bars, breathing the fetid air of Montgomery County Jail. Bail was set at $4,000. Ingle was advised to get a good lawyer.
"I expected a slap on the wrist or a lecture," Ingle said later, shaking his head in disbelief. "We didn't see it as stealing. We were just trying to return the bell to its rightful owners."