1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(8 Votes, average 4.25)

This is a bizarre musical instrument. It was dreamt up and painstakingly constructed by Leland Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronic engineer in the 1950s. Rocks that ring have been used as musical instruments for thousands of years. But this is the only lithophone I know of based on stalactites.

Picture of organ

Picture of organ, photo by KristopherM

Hammer Stalacpipe

Hammer Stalacpipe, photo by lossanjose

It’s claimed to be ‘the largest natural musical instrument in the world’, generating a beautiful, ghostly and disorientating sound. The cave acoustics make it difficult to locate where the sounds are
coming from. 37 stalactites produce the different notes of a musical scale. But the tuning isn’t entirely natural, as some sanding of the natural formations was needed to get the notes exactly in tune. Small rubber hammers strike the stalactites; these are electronically controlled by an organ keyboard.

Locations and logistics

Please don’t be tempted to tap cave formations to see if they ring – stalactites and other geological cave features take thousands of years to form. Luray Cavern’s website with opening hours etc.

Credits and sources

  1. Sound released by Luray Caverns into public domain
  2. KristopherM (c) some rights reserved
  3. lossanjose (c) some rights reserved