Monday, May 17, 2010

A Talking Organ

[Don Cochrane's (self-published?) memoir consists mostly of humorous incidents from his career as an embalmer and funeral director in Ontario. He left the profession in 1968. The following excerpt is in the tradition of legends of church organs or sound systems picking up radio transmissions. -- bc]

Don S. Cochrane, Die Laughing (British Columbia, Canada: Little Mountain Publishing, 2001), pp. 83-4.

Behind the Funeral home was an older house owned by an elderly Irish gentleman. His passion was ham, or amateur radio. A visit to his radio room was very impressive, because he talked to other radio operators all over the world. On the top of the house was a very substantial radio tower.

Our organist would turn the electric organ off between hymns as it made an audible humming sound. After one funeral, she had complained that the organ had made several strange sounds while she was playing. It was as if someone was talking inside but it was slight and garbled. We could think of nothing that would cause the organ to act in such a way.

One day, the Minister was in the middle of a funeral service. He had come to the part of the service that called for the second hymn. In preparation our organist turned on the organ. It began to hum and then in a very clear loud voice she heard the words, "Are you there? Are you there? Am I getting through to you?"

There was a piercing and blood-curdling scream. She leapt up from the organ, charged through the chapel, and flew by the minister and casket just as he was asking the people to rise and sing. With her gown flowing, her hair streaming, and still screaming, she rounded the corner and headed down the long hall to our office at the front of the funeral home.

She was in full sail. Her considerable bulk was moving at an amazing speed and her continued screams echoed off the walls. She was convinced the organ had been possessed and was inhabited by aliens or was at least transmitting a message from God. She went straight out the front door while the other Funeral Director and I ran to the Chapel to see what had happened.

The people in the Chapel were buzzing, the family was dumbfounded and the voice in the organ kept talking. It was picking up the radio transmissions from next door.

The funeral continued without organ music and it took almost a month of talking and assurances it would not happen again to get her back but she was never really comfortable again.