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MMD > Archives > October 2007 > 2007.10.14 > 01Prev  Next

Mechanical Music on TV "Ghost Hunters"
By Andrew Barrett

Hi Mr. Morgan and group,  I happen to be a fan of Ghost Hunters, and I,
too, have seen this episode several times (it is periodically re-run).
I have gone nuts trying to figure out what the tune and instrument are.
(Note: When referring to the sound, the TAPS/Ghost Hunters team think
it is a "calliope" or one of those "old music players".  Though their
terminology is a bit lacking, they're not too far off the mark.)

The best I can determine is that it is a large cylinder orchestrion
of the type made in the Black Forest by Welte, Imhof and Mukle, etc.,
in the late 19th century.  The tune itself is in the key of D-flat
major and it sounds like a march of the style of the 1880s-1900.
(Their aren't enough measures audible to tell if it's a 2/4 or 6/8
march.)  Of course this is just my opinion.

When I first heard the sound clip I thought the instrument was
a Frati or Bacigalupo barrel organ, but it doesn't seem to have the
tone quality of a loud outdoor instrument such as they made.

The reason I say it's a Black Forest cylinder orchestrion is because
I have heard enough (4-5) of those to know their characteristic sound.
What I hear in the audio clip are trumpet pipes predominating, and
these don't sound to me like the beating reed type but rather of the
free reed type as used by Welte, etc.  As an alternative, the sound
could also be a player reed organ such as an Aeolian Grand or
Orchestrelle, etc., though a pressure (harmonium-type), rather than
suction type (reed organ/melodeon) seems more likely of the two.

I think that if they have a little free time, and are in a good mood,
our real experts on early turn-of-the-century band music (such as Mr.
Stephen Kent Goodman) and Welte-style orchestrions (such as Mr. Durward
Center) could hear the clip and weigh in on their opinions.  I am also
forwarding a copy of this message to Mr. Andy Taylor, since he spent
time in Tombstone, and being a restorer/musician he is probably familiar
with what automatic instruments are or were in the area, and might have
even done research on what instruments were present in the Old West days.

I would be also interested in hearing what anyone else knows about
automatic instruments that have been present in this old town in past
and present times.  I know Tombstone once had a Seeburg H, but that
instrument in the clip is definitely not a Seeburg H!

Finally, I want to say that if Black Forest cylinder orchestrions could
have made it to old mining towns in Colorado back in the olden days,
then it is not too far-fetched to wonder whether some found their way
down to Tombstone, Arizona, as well.

Andrew Barrett

P.S. I find it a very odd coincidence that the replica Bird Cage
Theatre (a copy of the one at Tombstone) found at Knott's Berry Farm
here in California has a Philipps cylinder orchestrion, similar to
what might have made that music in Arizona!  Where did Knott's get
this Philipps?  Is there any known history behind it?  Any additional
cylinders (besides the overture one currently on it) which might have
old marches, etc.?  Any free-reed trumpets in it that might make that

(Message sent Sun 14 Oct 2007, 21:08:09 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ghost, Hunters, Mechanical, Music, TV

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