Every pipe was lovingly carved and lacquered, treated for years to be just the right combination of light, strong, and resonant. The great organ contains over 20,000 pipes, and each was fashioned from the bone of a living, thinking being. The exact reason for its existence are obscure. Villagers of the Czech hamlet of Kostníměsto, where it is a tourist attraction filling up one end of a grand but now-dilapidated church, prefer not to discuss it. Many believe that the bones came from executed criminals, put to death by a long-forgotten noble of the Holy Roman Empire. It’s also said that the organ is a macabre jest, either the insane fulfillment of a prophecy or the tortured nature of a Catholic sadist coming to the fore.

Whatever the case may be, the organ is cleaned and maintained by the people of Kostníměsto to keep it ready for tourists. But they have one unbreakable rule: it must never be played.

When the Czechoslovakian government seized the property in 1919 from a exiled nobleman who hadn’t even been aware he owned the crumbling church, they had found a single piece of sheet music on the stands; it remains there still.

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