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Image: organ sitting inside of a massive cave

The World’s Largest Musical Instrument is Hiding Inside This Cave

There’s hardly any sound as powerful as a pipe organ; the resonating sounds fill every inch of the room. Whether you’re most familiar with the sound from the heart racing intro to The Phantom of the Opera or the classic bridal march, there’s a magic to the sound of an organ. So, what if that acoustic power was combined with an even more awe-inspiring power, nature to create the world’s largest instrument?

In a cave below the hills of Luray, Virginia there is an acoustic wonder that combines music and nature into a singular, incredible experience. The Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns turns the Earth into a magical instrument producing one of the most unique concerts on the planet. 

What inspired such a musical feat? And how does one harness a cave’s formations to create a musical instrument?

Image: The Great Stalacpipe Organ, the world's largest instrument sitting inside of a massive cave
Source: Copyright Howard Ignatius via Flickr

The Great Stalacpipe Organ

Invented in 1954 by mathematician and electronics scientist Leland Sprinkle, the Great Stalacpipe Organ spans 3.5 acres across Luray Caverns, making it the world’s largest musical instrument. The idea came to Sprinkle after he and his son took a tour of the caves where the guide used a small rubber mallet to hit the stalactites creating a beautiful resonating sound. 1

Inspired, Leland began a three year journey searching 64 acres of caverns to find and perfectly tune stalactites to create the massive pipe organ. With his “pipes” found, he attached small mallets and pickups to each of the formations and wired them back to the central organ—which looks much like a traditional organ—from which the cave could be played. 2

The result, a 3.5 acre percussion instrument unique both in the world and in its tone, with the sound coming from the unique formations, minerals, and shape of the Luray Caverns. Each note reverberates across the caverns creating an otherworldly, all encompassing sound.

Listen to the World’s Largest Instrument

It’s difficult to describe just how incredible this instrument sounds, so here is a short video from one of our favorite video creators, Great Big Story, to give you a special listen.

Via: Great Big Story 3

Exploring the Stalacpipe Organ

Now, if you’re a curious sort, or musically inclined, you may have some questions about how this whole thing works. How does the sound make its way to the organ? Who plays this thing? Do you need to tune it?

These are all great questions with fascinating answers. Like any instrument, the organ needs ongoing upkeep. Though the maintenance specialists don’t have to tune the organ—it can take over 150 years for an inch of stalactite to grow— they do have to work to replace the hammers, and metal pickups and wires that carry the sound back to the amplifiers. This is, of course, a specialist’s job as they don’t carry stalacpipe organ parts at any stores.

Today, the organ is mostly played by an automated system so that guests can enjoy the sound of the organ, but on special occasions they call in long-time cave organist Otto Pebworth. After years playing the organ—which, like any instrument, has its own unique quirks—he has seen how this incredible feat of engineering, music, and nature continues to inspire generations of listeners.

If you have a little extra time I highly recommend you take a few minutes to watch this video from musical YouTuber Rob Scallon. He not only dives deeper into the history and technology of the organ, but gets to play the Great Stalacpipe Organ and brings his own guitar to play alongside Otto in what can only be described as one of the most beautiful and unique concerts on YouTube.

If you’re interested in just listening to Otto and Rob’s beautiful improvisation accompaniment jump ahead to 12:32.

Via: Rob Scallon 4

If you’re a music fan you have to go checkout Rob’s YouTube channel, there you’ll find him taking on all kinds of fascinating musical adventures, from creating entire albums in a day, to playing some of the world’s most unique instruments. 

Taking a Moment to Listen

How often in our lives do we get the chance to just, sit, listen, and enjoy the beautiful music of nature? Though the Great Stalacpipe Organ is certainly a unique example of the music of nature—in quite a literal sense—it is a beautiful reminder to sit quietly and let whatever natural soundscape we are surrounded by wash over us. The way the dawn chorus of birds changes as the seasons change, the way you can hear a gust of wind come upon you as it makes its way through the trees, the crunch of leaves, snow, or twigs underfoot. We are surrounded by nature’s music every day, if only we take a second to listen.

If you’d like to explore a few more auditory experiences, here are some of our favorite articles to put your ears (and eyes) on.

The Extinction of Silence and the Man Who is Saving It

Modern noises find us almost everywhere we go, and it’s having an impact on our health! But Gordon Hempton is leading the charge to protect and preserve the places we have left. (Make sure you have your headphones when you pop into this)

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Whales Have Viral Music, Too!

Did you know humpback whales have viral songs, too? Just like us, humpback whales love a catchy new tune. From Australia all the way to Ecuador, viral whale songs are taking over the ocean. This astonishing discovery is changing how we see whales and ourselves in the natural world.

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Don’t Look for Connection in Nature, Listen for It with Liz McKenzie (Episode #105)

If there are times when a moment of delightful joy or wonder would save the day for you, then our guest today has a message that will be a gift that keeps on giving. Liz McKenzie is an expert in giving us all access to the quiet, small wonders – usually just steps away – in a window sill, balcony, our own backyard, or a nearby park. No vacations are necessary to “get out into nature” and feel its calming warmth. It’s all around us all the time, and listening for it might be the greatest joy of all.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

I hope you find a moment to just listen today, whether you’re taking in the sounds of the Great Stalacpipe Organ, or your local flock of birds. Inspiration and grounding is all around us if we just take a mindful moment.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!



  1. “The Great Stalacpipe Organ – Luray Caverns.” Luray Caverns, 2023, luraycaverns.com/news/the-great-stalacpipe-organ/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.
  2. “The Largest Musical Instrument in the World Is Underground in a Virginia Cave.” NPR, 7 Nov. 2023, www.npr.org/2023/11/07/1211027608/the-largest-musical-instrument-in-the-world-is-underground-in-a-virginia-cave. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.
  3. Great Big Story. “Real Live Cave Music: Marvel at the World’s Largest Instrument.” YouTube, 4 Feb. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm1_aCjrC5o. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.
  4. Scallon, Rob. “Cave Organ (a Cave That You Play).” YouTube, 21 Mar. 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU7qsaVfn-8. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.
Image: Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber


Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at the Goodness Exchange. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV

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