The Kentucky Caver Quarterly Proceedings of the
Bluegrass Grotto: the North Central Kentucky Area Chapter of the National Speleological Society
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 vol. 41. iss. 2, June 2006

(cave entrance)

(solenoid apparatus)

(1906 post card)

(1950's post card)
to orchestras and bands that played in the Ballroom on special occasions. Within five months of the cave’s discovery, its owners had already installed a plank floor for balls, and this long-established affinity to musical endeavors must have only increased Sprinkle’s certainty that it would serve as the perfect site to unite his experience in electrical engineering with his talent as an organist.
    My first chance to experience a performance of the Great Stalacpipe Organ came at the end of a marathon solo drive from New York City. When I arrived at the entrance I realized with tired disappointment that I had probably missed the last tour of the day. Fortunately, I found the staff at Luray Caverns to be sympathetic, and guide Don Campbell agreed to take me into the cave himself in order to see
the world’s largest musical instrument and answer questions that had come out of my attempts to research Sprinkle and his work during the previous few months.
Sprinkle created the instrument over three years by finding and shaving stalactites to produce 37 notes within the Western scale. He then wired each with a rubber striker – similar to a xylophone mallet weighted correctly for each stalactite – that is activated by pressing the corresponding key on the instrument's keyboard. The 

stalactites are distributed through approximately 3.5 acres of the cavern but can be heard anywhere within its 64-acre confines. The result is that one is literally inside the instrument, and its tones can be heard in an infinite number of harmonic variations simply based on where you are standing as it is played.
    I hadn’t been inside a cave in a long time, probably not since a field trip to Carter Caves more than ten years before, so it was disconcerting to be rushing through chambers of profuse, vibrant formations on our way towards the cathedral without time to really even acclimate to being underground. As we kept up
our brisk pace, Don pointed out some cave features to me, explaining that a period of intense chemical erosion brought on by acidic glaciated slush wore away large portions of the cave formations in the distant past which led not only to grotesque reshaping of existing features but also the deposition of new growth from a lighter, often translucent solution afterward.
Along the path we followed I had seen several of the instrument’s solenoid-fired strikers from a distance. After covering about half a mile, Don left me standing alone near the Organ and Chimes as he went ahead to activate the instrument. “I think you’re standing above B-flat,” he called back to me before disappearing off the trail.
When you’re not inside the cathedral itself, not every note played on the instrument can be heard immediately, but by the time Don made it back from the control area I could hear the unmistakable bell-like tones of the instrument reverberating throughout the cave. “Now that we’ve changed back to A Mighty Fortress is Our God, this one should be pretty active,” he whispered, pointing to the striker.
    Surely enough, as the sound of the organ continued to build around us, the solenoid about fifteen feet below activated, and as the rubber


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