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Trifecta Week Sixty-Two: Phibes is Back

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the Trifecta Writing Challenges? If not, hear me: I really enjoy the Trifecta Writing Challenges. This week’s is no less challenging than others, but it made me think of my all-time favorite pair of films, Vincent Price’s “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.” If you don’t know these films but love the campy stuff of the late 60s/early 70s, you must rush out post-haste to view them. In the meantime, watch the trailer below and then enjoy my Week Sixty-Two ode to Mr. Price er, Dr. Phibes.

Oh, be warned: I am a huge fan of pipe organs, so this piece deals heavily with the topic of such. There are all sorts of funky organ facts included in the bullet points below my submission; if it’s not your thing, just click elsewhere when you get to the end of the poem…

“Some minor decorating, some touching up, and it will seem like home,” Phibes cooed as he surveyed his Atlantic City abode. It was a far cry from Maldene Square, but it provided secret access to the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ; he was sure it would be the perfect place to again enjoy life, or after-life, with his beloved Victoria.

The Worlds Largest Musical Instrument. Atlantic City`s Boardwalk Hall Pipe Organ

He found fall to be the best season there; less heat than summer, lower humidity than spring, yet more comfortably warm than winter. He roamed the night streets freely, his hood and cape no more theatrical than the accoutrements of the other nocturnal wanderers he occasionally encountered. He had found a subterranean entrance to the hall and his nightly concerts had become a welcomed but eerie addition to the usual din of seagulls and slot machines. He warmed up to Mendelsohn’s “War March of the Priests” each evening; the tune stretched his abilities to work all the stops, and the organ voices in the last chords brought a satisfying rumble from the mouth of the primary Grande Ophicleide. As the great beast’s four gallery voices faded to silence in the large empty space, Phibes smiled as a plan to revive Victoria once more began to form and he spoke aloud:

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

For those organ neophytes, particularly you who do not know the joy of the Boardwalk Hall Organ, here are some tidbits and terms for you. For those who are also Phibes neophytes, here are a few reference points from the films as well:

  • The initial quote (“Some minor decorating…”) is from the second Phibes film, “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.”
  • Maldene Square is identified as the location of Phibes’ primary residence and apparently is a fictional London neighborhood.
  • The Boardwalk Hall Organ is a global treasure; it holds a world record as the largest pipe organ. Read about it here, and check out some fabulous photos too.
  • Phibe’s wife, Victoria, is the focus of his “work” in the first film.
  • “War March of the Priests” is the first song played in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” film.
  • Stops are the parts of the organ that allow or keep air from moving to the pipes. Read a proper description here.
  • The Grand Ophicleide refers to one of the 100-inch stops on the Boardwalk Hall Organ. This organ has four stops this size and they are lovingly referred to as “the big reeds.”
  • The four gallery voices refer to the number of voices (or sounds made by the pipes) contained in the Gallery I section of the Boardwalk Hall Organ; organs are usually divided into different parts or sections.
  • The “large empty space” references the size of the main auditorium in which the Organ is housed (488 feet long, 288 feet wide, 137 feet high).
  • The closing poem is part of John Donne’s “The Good Morrow,” which is partially quoted in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.”

If you happen to be extra curious, or are a fan of pipe organs (large and small), check out this video:

And as a final aside (can you tell I really enjoyed writing this???) as a kid I used to get to go hear what has been dubbed the largest fully functional pipe organ (or something like that), which is known as the Wanamaker Organ. And on a family vacation once we visited the Stalacpipe Organ is the largest instrument in the world…


  1. themisanthropicmuse January 29, 2013 3:54 am

    That is one funky looking organ in that picture!

    • AR Neal January 29, 2013 3:31 pm

      Oh, yes…and it’s the real thing. That is the organ master’s space in the Grand Auditorium of the Boardwalk Hall 🙂 I couldn’t resist using a color photo. No need to make stuff up–the real world is weird enough on its own!

  2. KymmInBarcelona January 29, 2013 3:17 pm

    Think I’ll stay away from boardwalks at night.

    • AR Neal January 29, 2013 3:32 pm

      🙂 The AC boardwalk is one of my favorites, especially at night! As kids we used to do our best to stay on the Wildwood boardwalk until everything closed. Ah, teenaged angst 🙂

  3. awriterweavesatale January 29, 2013 4:20 pm

    I love these challenges too. A chance for a few minutes to escape!

    • AR Neal January 29, 2013 4:23 pm

      Yes! That’s it exactly!

  4. humanTriumphant January 30, 2013 12:20 am

    It was easy to imagine Vincent Price’s voice reciting that poem.

    • AR Neal January 30, 2013 12:22 am


  5. tedstrutz January 30, 2013 7:56 am

    Wow… this is some post! A labour of love I think. Very descriptive setting the scene (love secret access to things in stories). I liked your poem. Thank you for Dr. Phibes, I had not heard of him… the search begins.

    • AR Neal January 30, 2013 3:57 pm

      Thank you so much! Oh, if only I could claim the poem! It is a very good one though; and wait until you hear Vincent Price recite part of it in the first film–I fell in love with the movie when I heard it.

  6. Draug419 January 31, 2013 1:08 am

    There was a large pipe organ built into the walls of my middle school’s auditorium. Unfortunately, it was unfit for playing until it was repaired several years later–after I had already moved onto high school, of course. *sigh*

    Well, I mean to say great piece (:

    • AR Neal January 31, 2013 1:41 am

      Thank you 🙂 That. Is. Awesome–having a pipe organ, even just to admire, in middle school? How fabulous. And of course it would be repaired after you went off to high school…go figure.

  7. barbara January 31, 2013 5:31 pm

    the catholic church where I spent most of my childhood had a huge pipe organ – not the same as yours, but I do love the sound of one.

    and, really . . . Vincent Price??? Awesome! 🙂

    • AR Neal January 31, 2013 5:44 pm

      Thanks, Barbara! Yes, there were quite a few Catholic and Presbyterian churches around us with them, but nothing like this one. And oh, yes! Vincent Price, one of my horror story boyfriends. 🙂

  8. joetwo January 31, 2013 7:05 pm

    A good piece, nice setting.

    • AR Neal January 31, 2013 8:32 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  9. atrm61 February 1, 2013 10:47 am

    Never seen a pipe organ in my life though have seen some awesome pics on the net a couple of years back while designing rooms for a challenge;-)This was very informative & interesting AR:-)

    • AR Neal February 1, 2013 1:42 pm

      Ah, nothing like a good pipe organ. My husband often says they remind him of Dracula, since so many of the old Dracula movies had some sort of organ music in them. He is so funny 🙂

      • atrm61 February 2, 2013 9:24 am

        Ha!ha!Loved Dracula-always been fond of such dark ,evil characters;-)

        • AR Neal February 2, 2013 3:43 pm

          🙂 same here even when they were more comical than evil sometimes!

          • atrm61 February 3, 2013 7:35 am


  10. Neil Sissons April 1, 2013 9:57 pm

    I’d like to know who played the Mendelssohn organ music in Dr Phibes. It’s not credited on the film and I’m 200 percent sure Price wasn’t playing it himself!

    • AR Neal April 2, 2013 2:50 am

      Hi Neil! Great question! Basil Kirchin handled the score, but it is noted that VP “played” the organ that had real music dubbed in (http://www.hirten.com/the-pipe-organ-on-film/). You are right– there is no attribution on who might have played the Mendelssohn…

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