Haunted Piano

The phone call came, early one morning, from a terrified and desperate woman – convinced that her piano was possessed – pleading for my immediate intervention.

Intrigued by the unusual nature of her call, I arranged to meet with her that day.  A few hours later, I drove up the coast to her home in Malibu .  The house is a massive six level structure that climbs the steep incline of the sea-side bluffs behind it.  As we ascended the spiraling stairway to the very top level, where the old grand piano was situated, she began to tell me the story.

Several nights earlier she had been awakened in the wee hours by the sound of short melodies emanating from her piano – three levels above the bedrooms.  Discovering that her husband and son were still fast asleep, and being too terrified to investigate for herself (with there being the possibility of an intruder in the house) she woke her husband and, after telling him what she’d heard, demanded that he go upstairs and find out what was going on (while she hid in the closet with her dog).

After inspecting the entire house and finding nothing out of the ordinary, he returned to their chambers and they came to the conclusion that she must have been dreaming. So they had a good laugh about it, crawled back into bed and went to sleep.  Unfortunately the same thing kept happening, night after night. Eventually, unable to discern the cause of the disturbance, she became so flustered and fearful that she was compelled to make that fateful call to me.  She had actually become frightened of the piano and didn’t want her young son to practice on it.  When I started to open the piano for inspection, she immediately left the room!

The good news is that there were no ghosts inside.

The bad news is that the situation was much, much worse.

The ‘music’ she had been hearing was being caused by the nocturnal activities of a mouse that had taken up residence inside of the piano and was in the process of dismantling the action – one bite at a time -to obtain the materials required for building its nest.  The damage was so extensive (keys chewed in half, bushings and hammers destroyed or missing) that the action required more than a week in the shop – where we reconstructed the damaged keys and replaced the missing parts.

Then there were the problems of removing the pest and cleaning the piano – both of which were extensive and tedious projects that required considerable time and effort.

After a couple of weeks, however, we had the piano back in playing order and her son was allowed to return to his studies at the keyboard.  I’m happy for her, of course, that the instrument wasn’t really haunted.  But I think that would have made a far more interesting story.

PS.  If I can find the pictures I took of the action, during that initial inspection, I’ll pin them to this post so that you can see for yourself – how truly frightening it was!

Please leave a comment below in the [Reply] box.  I’m dying to know how this story plays. . .


Haunted Piano — 9 Comments

  1. Well I would love nothing more than a picture or two Jon….since I know nothing about pianos, its hard to visualize. I bet its a real treat just getting to visit these homes.

  2. What a ‘Grand’ story, Jon. I must confess that I chose not to read it before going to sleep so it wouldn’t keep me awake…
    I loved the tale! My imagination conjured another much smaller family pet than the dog was treading across the keys and making a hasty exit when someone entered the room. Somehow you just can’t top Mother Nature for a good laugh.

  3. Poor lady. I’m glad she called you instead of an exorcist! However, poor YOU, Jon…with your love of music and instruments…having to deal with such a nightmare. Having had, and played, piano for many years, I am entirely capable of imagining the horror you found when you opened the piano…UGH. That being said, I can’t think of anyone better than you to take that poor, ravaged instrument into care. Thanks for being you.

  4. Im a calif. piano technician . Every once in awhile , I get a call about a problem piano that isnt working right and mice are the culprits .. They will eliminate all the felt in a piano and as evidenced will also deposit hundreds of clues . A piano left in a garage , which is not a good idea anyway , mice or not is usually where they will start using pianos as an apt .

  5. Jon – I hope you took some photos of the ascent into the house! AND, the trek to the piano itself. You certainly do have some good adventures.

    • Betty, I’ve been in that house many times and never thought to take pics of the house itself
      Maybe next time I’m there – I’ll have to ask her for permission, of course. She may not feel comfortable about me sharing photos of her place on the internet.

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