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Wareham's Haunted Violin

Thomas D'Agostino

I remember reading this account many years ago as a child and it has always intrigued me. The mere fact that it made world news alone made this next story a legendary tale for Halloween, especially since the ghost is not a misty figure roaming the dark chambers of an old mansion but rather a beautiful ornate violin.

The Joseph Hornsteiner violin was made about 1769, presumably for a king. The 365 separate inlaid pieces mostly comprise the back of the instrument. Along the way, the instrument came into the possession of Harold Gordon Cudworth, an avid player and collector of instruments. This instrument was a bit more prized than the others, not only for its sound, but its attitude towards certain musical compositions. It all started in 1945 when Cudworth first decided to play a certain tune of the instrument.

 Cudworth said, "I was playing the instrument, which has a deep resonant tone, at my mother's home in Wareham when suddenly a rumbling noise occurred, seemingly coming from the area of the kitchen sink."  At the time Cudworth was playing the famous tune "The Broken Melody" by Van Biene.

When Cudworth lifted his bow from the violin, the noise immediately ceased. He started playing the tune where he left off and the rumbling resumed, this time louder and more intense. The incident was strange to him but this would just be the beginning. The following night he repeated the song on his Hornsteiner and not only did the rumble return but it was accompanied by flying coffee cups and plates.

Two weeks later he chose the Hornsteiner to practice for an upcoming concert. When he struck up "The Broken Melody," The rumbling began but this time above him. He paused and the noises followed suit. Cudworth stood silent wondering what to do next. He knew it was not his imagination as his mother heard the same disturbance.

Several months later he decided to play the same tune on the violin but this time there was no rumble. The latch on his door, however, shook violently. Cudworth left the room and started down the stairs. That is when the door to his room slammed shut on its own. When he went back to his room, the sheet music to "The Broken Melody" had mysteriously traveled from his music holder in the piano bench to the music stand. This would happen on another occasion when he chose to play the same song on the Hornsteiner.

Cudworth was asked to give violin lessons to someone's daughter in New Bedford. At the end of the lesson, the father asked Cudworth if he would play a tune. Cudworth decided to temp the spirits and play "The Broken Melody" on the infamous violin. As the bow ran across the strings, the rumbling began as the front door opened and closed several times, each time getting louder than the last.

A woman in Rochester, Massachusetts called on Cudworth in 1960 to tune her piano. When she found he had the violin in the trunk of his car, she requested he play a song. He never got a chance to finish composition before she told him never play the song again as it made her feel very uncomfortable. In 1966, a Mattapoisett family asked Cudworth to play for them a song on his Hornsteiner. Out of curiosity, he chose "The Broken Melody" They had to cut him off midsong, as the pictures on the wall had begun to sway to one side, stop, and sway to the other side as if swaying the rhythm of the tune. He soon retired the violin into his collection but never found out the ghostly connection between the violin and "The Broken Melody."

Cudworth died in 1989 and the violin may have been auctioned off with the rest of his collection. Its whereabouts are presently unknown unless someone decides to play a certain tune on the right violin.