The Great Stalacpipe Organ

The Great Stalacpipe Organ, originally uploaded by Coilhouse.

Hats off to Mr. Leland Sprinkle, inventor of the world’s largest musical instrument, the one-of-a-kind Stalacpipe Organ. Located deep in the bowels of Luray Caverns in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, its 3 1/2 acres of cavern stalactites produce resonant tones when electronically tapped by rubber-tipped mallets rigged to a large organ console in a centralized chamber.

Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronics whiz employed at the Pentagon, began his colossal project in 1954. For three years, he prowled the caverns with lamp and mallet, tapping thousands of stalactites in search of formations that would precisely match each of the 37 tones needed for a musical scale tuned to concert pitch. After this was accomplished, two master carpenters, Loyd Almarode and Richard Beaver, were brought in to build the beautiful inner and outer consoles of the organ itself.

I first heard the haunting, unpredictable music of Luray Caverns several years ago on a mix tape and had no idea what was producing it. Later on, the wonderful radio station WFMU devoted a segment to the invention. Everyone I know who has experienced the Stalacpipe Organ in person says no recording –not even one using the most fancypants binaural mic in the world– could ever compare to the live experience. I gotta get out there someday SOON. Road trip, anyone?

2 Responses to “The Great Stalacpipe Organ”

  1. zoetica Says:

    Roadtrip indeedy!

  2. nadyalev Says:

    Beautiful! I found quite a few videos on YouTube, but you’re right, probably doesn’t even come close. There’s something really magical about such organic musical instruments. You should visit the Wave Organ when you get the chance: