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Strange Tales of Haunted Violins

Besides the various supposedly haunted places of the world there are often haunted objects, items which seem to be imbued with the supernatural and which keep these forces tethered to them. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to what sort of object can be haunted, but it seems the older and more used by someone it is, the more likely an item is to become infused with ghostly energy. One type of object that often gathers to itself tales of the paranormal are musical instruments, and in this case we are looking at violins, those elegant instruments that are often passed down to generations over centuries, and which are known to be at times endowed with mysterious forces perhaps because of this.

One very early account of a supposedly haunted violin can be found within the pages of the book Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural, and it supposedly comes from old Germany in the 12th century. According to the creepy tale, there was a carpenter in the town of Worms, who took it upon himself to fashion a violin out of the last remaining board of a coffin he had built for a dead man. One evening, the deceased man came to the carpenter in a vivid dream, and warned him not to go through with constructing the instrument, but the carpenter took this to be just a dream and did not listen. He would awake, put it out of his mind, and begin making that board into a glorious violin as he had planned.

For the next several weeks he feverishly worked on his new creation, becoming rather obsessed with it in the process, and he crafted an exquisite instrument that he was quite proud of, which he was sure was among the best of them. The only thing remaining to be made now was the bow, but on this evening the spirit of the dead man would again visit him in his dreams to command him not to finish his project, and once again the carpenter would not heed this warning, instead waking up to finish the bow for the instrument. He finally finished it, but decided to wait until the morning to play it as it was getting late, and that evening the ghost came back to him to implore him one last time not to play the violin.

The carpenter ignored this yet again, and upon awakening played his new instrument to find the most haunting melody spring up from it, almost of its own accord and channelled from some other place. However, after playing this wonderful little piece of music the room grew dark, as if the sun were blotted out, and when the carpenter looked outside it was found to be black as night, the darkness complete and without even a sliver of illumination. There was then apparently a sudden shove from behind by unseen hands, which sent the carpenter careening out the window to land in some soft material like quicksand. The carpenter struggled to free himself but only immersed himself more into the muck, finally sinking below the surface to gasp and die. The dead man would then come to the son of the victim in a dream and warn him of the dangers of the newly made violin, and the son would burn it to ashes the next day, upon which he heard the screams of his father as if from a great distance away.

It is a spooky story to be sure, and it is unclear whether this is just a legendary tale or if there is anything to it at all. Moving on into later years we have the tale of the haunted violin of Joseph Hornsteiner, which was supposedly originally crafted in 1769 for a king. It was an exquisite work of art, composed of 365 separate, meticulously inlaid pieces forming its back, and it would go on to come into the possession of a collector of instruments named Harold Gordon Cudworth. In 1945, Cudworth began to learn that there was something more to this particular violin than met the eye, which he discovered while playing the tune “The Broken Melody” by Van Biene. Cudworth would say, “I was playing the instrument, which has a deep resonant tone, at my mother’s home in Wareham when suddenly a rumbling noise occurred, seemingly coming from the area of the kitchen sink.”

He stopped playing and the droning stopped, but when he picked up again the rumbling began yet again, even louder and more persistent this time, reverberating throughout the home. On the next evening he played again, and this time the rumbling started up along with alleged poltergeist activity such as moving and flying objects thrown about the room. In the coming weeks he would resume his playing of the violin, the music divine but every time the rumbling springing up along with it all manner of unexplainable events, always only while playing “The Broken Melody,” with the strange noise emanating from all around him and even heard by his mother. At one point Cudsworth was playing the tune when the latch on his door shook with great might, and when he went downstairs the door to his room was slammed shut. Cudsworth opted to play the piano instead, and found the sheet music for “The Broken Melody” sitting there upon it, placed there by hands unknown, as if urging him to keep playing it.

In the ensuing days, Cudworth went to give a violin lesson to a young girl, and opted to play “The Broken Melody,” with that bizarre, otherworldly rumbling acting up right there in front of everyone, getting even louder and more intense than ever before, to the point that it drowned out the music. On other occasions he was known to play the same song and every time there was that rumbling and various moved objects about the room and swaying pictures upon the wall. It was enough to make him finally put the violin away and give up playing that cursed song, and it was never discerned just what the deal was with that tune and the instrument. Cudworth would die in 1989 and the violin would be lost to history, with no one sure where it got off to.

Another old ghost story involving violins is the so-called legend of Violin Annie. The tale goes that in the 1860s a young girl named Harriet Annie lived in the town of Centralia, Illinois, in the United States, and she was an avid, gifted player of the violin. The girl died at age 11, either from diphtheria or by being beaten to death with her own violin by her father, depending on which story you want to believe, but the end result is that her grave is supposedly very haunted. She was buried at a place called Elmwood Cemetery under a large gravestone bearing her image holding a violin, and it is said that if one is to visit her grave they will hear the sounds of an ethereal violin playing. There have been some who have even claimed the statue of Annie will shed green tears during these ghostly musical interludes, and it all remains a piece of obscure local lore which might be pure urban legend, but which persists to this day.

The grave of Violin Annie

A rather weird tale of a haunted violin comes from the site Reddit, from a commenter who claims that they were actually in possession of one for a time. He claims that upon receiving this antique violin he found that other instruments in the vicinity would be found knocked over or even broken, even though there was no one there who would want to do such a thing, and there were other strange phenomena orbiting it as well. The instrument itself is described as an 18th century “Milan school” model, and the witness says:

Shortly after finishing this instrument and hanging it up in the humidity closet, strange things began to happen.Lights would go on and off by themselves, my daughter would wake me in the middle of the night to ask why I standing in her room. She told she could hear someone talking, but not very loud. 2 weeks ago, I had guests who slept in the same room as the closet were the violins are stored. They told me that the touch lamp in the room kept turning on, and that after unplugging it, they were awakened by someone touching their shoulders, but there was no one there.

 

The real kicker is that last week the electricity went off for a while, and while the family and I were downstairs, the door to the upstairs guest room shut, and we could hear faint classical music coming from upstairs. We do not own any battery powered radios. After my last experience, I did not discount the possibility that the new instrument could have a spirit with it. I took the violin out of the closet and placed it on the entertainment center. I then played a cd that was only solo piano music. If I left the room, to go upstairs, or if I went down to basement, I (and others who did not believe me) could hear a violin begin to accompany the piano music. If we went back to great room, the violin music stopped as soon as we were in sight of the haunted violin.

Lastly we have the case of an account published on Fein Violins, which apparently happened in 2011 in the state of Minnesota to an Andy Fein. It begins with a customer who came into the witness’s violin shop to try some instruments out and fell in love with a German specimen from 1870. It seems that this would be the basis of the strangeness that would follow, as he describes:

I gave him several violins to play. After a short while he kept coming back to one German instrument from about 1870. He kept playing other violins and then going, “No, there’s something about that old German violin that I really love.” Eventually, he played through all the violins and kept coming back to that one. He spent most of the afternoon playing it. As he did, I could hear his playing improve dramatically and I could hear the violin opening up and really singing for him. At the end of several hours Mr D said,”Wow! I really love that violin. I mean, I REALLY love that violin. I want to buy it, but my in-laws are coming into town tomorrow and then we’re all heading up to the cabin. If it’s still here in a couple weeks when I get back, I’ll know it was really meant for me.

Two days later, I was opening up the shop as usual at 10AM. I opened the door and there was a violin that had fallen off the rack and crashed to the ground. The scroll was cracked. My heart sunk when I realized it was the violin Mr D had REALLY loved. Over the next few days, I did the best and fastest scroll reapir I had ever done. “Whew”, I thought, “I’ll need to tell him about the damage, but it plays as nice and sounds as good as it did before. Maybe he’ll be happy. I can’t ask for as much money.”

 

Days went by. Weeks went by. I didn’t hear back from Mr. D. Another client played the violin and was interested in it. I explained how much Mr. D had loved the violin and that I wanted to at least call him before I sold it to anyone else. Luckily, the player understood.

 

I called Mr. D’s home the next day, and his adult son answered. I said who I was and asked to speak to Mr. D about the violin. His son said, ” Yes, my dad was talking about that violin that evening. But I’m really sorry to tell you my Dad passed away.” I was shocked! he was a pretty healthy guy as far as I knew. I said, “I’m so sorry, I really liked you Dad. How did it happen?” Mr D’s son said, “Well, my dad went up to the cabin ahead of the rest of us to fix things up a bit. We got there at 10 the next morning. When we opened the door, there he was, dead on the floor.” I again said how sorry I was and asked when that happened. His son replied, “Oh, it was just two days after he was at your shop.

 

Two days after he was in the shop???!! That was the day the violin that he loved had fallen off the rack. The violin that he REALLY loved. I guess the feeling was mutual. And very close. And independently, both his family and I had opened the door, walked in and there he/the violin were on the floor!

Violins are certainly elegant, almost mystical instruments with a long history and often used throughout the ages, heirlooms that seem to resist the pull of time. It is perhaps this quality that draws in these supernatural forces, or maybe it is just the almost larger than life air they hold about themselves, haunting sounds demanding a haunting atmosphere. Whatever the case may be, these are some undoubtedly spooky accounts of haunted objects, and one wonders just what may be at the root of them, or indeed if they are even real at all.