Someone left a piano in the woods

I hope that whomever left this working piano in the woods of Harwich, Massachusetts was planning on coming back every night and beating the hell out of the keys with some kind of all-night swing session, playing and playing as the piano deteriorated through the fall and winter, going mushier and wetter, until all that would come out of it was its own funeral march.
Discovered by a woman who was walking a trail, the Baldwin Acrosonic piano, model number 987, is intact -- and, apparently, in tune.

The piano was at the end of a dirt road, near a walking path to a footbridge in the middle of conservation land near the Cape.

Mystery piano in woods perplexes police


  1. Actually, I hope someone goes and adopts it, and keeps it in their home to enjoy. They might not have been top of the line, but I learned to play on an Acrosonic — and if I weren’t so far away, I’d rent a U-Haul and go pick it up.

  2. There’s something familiar about this. I have a vague memory of a similar story, with an equally vague recollection that it was in the UK.

  3. I assume the piano placed in the woods is kin to the jar in Tennessee, “round . . . upon a hill, . . . and tall and of a port in air” in Wallace Steven’s “Anecdote of the Jar”:

    I placed a jar in Tennessee,
    And round it was, upon a hill.
    It made the slovenly wilderness
    Surround that hill.

    The wilderness rose up to it,
    And sprawled around, no longer wild.
    The jar was round upon the ground
    And tall and of a port in air.

    It took dominion every where.
    The jar was gray and bare.
    It did not give of bird or bush,
    Like nothing else in Tennessee.

  4. It took a handful of police to move the piano into a vehicle to transport it to storage, so it would appear that putting it into the woods took more than one person.

    No kidding. Even a piano that size is damned heavy. I remember moving our old piano to a relative’s home and there were at least five of us, one of whom routinely picks up gravestones by himself and three more who are quite large. Our piano was bigger than the one in the story so moving it involved mostly rolling rather than lifting.

    My guess is that piano weighs at least 300 pounds, probably more like 400.

  5. Any task that requires “several” government employees to accomplish can easily be performed by one resourceful, reasonably strong individual.

  6. If you see a dead body in the woods, I understand calling the police. Ditto something on fire, an impending disaster, or something like it.
    I don’t follow the link of “A piano! Quick, call the cops!”

  7. perhaps this would be the best fate for the old upright. But 700 pounds….

    any good piano moving disaster stories out there?

    1. any good piano moving disaster stories out there?

      All piano moving stories are bad. One friend (a professional pianist) had the professional piano movers get it stuck on the stairwell and have to cut off a corner to get it out in any direction.

      We had an out of tune, abandoned, landlord piano that we finally decided to move to the garage. The first try involved a team of half a dozen large, young, male movers who couldn’t manage to do it. The next try consisted of two tiny, little old men who had the thing downstairs in three minutes. When moving a piano, brains count.

  8. someone left a piano in the woods

    I heard someone else left the cake out in the rain.

    Why assume it was hauled there by someone? Could be a rift in the fabric of space/time. Is there a military base nearby?

  9. You guys call the police for the oddest shit.

    If thay was Ireland or UK that piano would have been ignored and decayed gracefully over years, becoming part of the scenery..

    Or tagged up and torched, depending on where it was left.

  10. @ #10
    If thay was Ireland or UK that piano would have been ignored and decayed gracefully over years, becoming part of the scenery..

    Or tagged up and torched, depending on where it was left.

    What’s the difference?

    I do think its ridiculous that they removed the piano though. I think it’s a pretty moving example of guerrilla art. Imagine walking in the woods and finding that piano there, and then sitting down and playing some music or making some sounds for the woods.

  11. More than likely, the police-caller probably thought she was doing some sort of good deed – figured it was stolen or lost.

    Look, it’s not a _smarter_ theory, but I doubt she thought it was a bomb.

    Wait… was this near Boston? Fuck, nevermind then.

  12. @Cicada #6: Somebody dumped their trash in the woods. It could be a car wreck, it could be an old stereo it could be tree vats of chemicals. In this case it’s a piano.

    To think that a fully tuned piano is somehow nobler than any other piece of discarded junk and therefore deserves to be exempt from littering laws smacks of classism to me.

    I personally think that the piano was left over by one of those “rave” get togethers. You know where the bright young things get together in their finest wigs and attire and dance to young Mr. Mozarts menuets till dawn. It’s an awful nuisance to see those kids all hopped up on coffee and snuff waving their fans and reciting Boccaccio to each other.

  13. That is beautiful. Sucks it’s been taken away. I mean your imagination can just run away with something like that.

  14. Noen

    I don’t think this piano was from a rift in time because 4.) it wasn’t a couch, g.) it wasn’t bobbing along pleasantly, .14) it wasn’t on a cricket pitch, and first of all there wasn’t a man in a bathrobe sitting on it.

  15. A piano in the woods? Sorry, but this sounds like the work of a writer whose story we rejected.

    As I recall, I cited that although there was nothing wrong with a piano appearing in the woods, the instant-dancing behavior of the police officers on the scene seemed a tad unrealistic.

    The writer emailed back something to the effect of ‘I’ll show you’. He was from Massachusetts, if I’m not mistaken.

    I never expected this, though.

  16. @16- For litter, it would seem calling the grounds crew or parks department would be more apt. Involving whatever a “handful of police” is, plus an investigation seems a bit of overkill.

    One might hope to save the police for the dangers to public safety. Unless the piano’s dangling out of a window, it probably doesn’t qualify.

    On the other hand, I’m guessing Harwich, Massachusetts is a very, very quiet town.

  17. It’s an art installation. It isn’t meant to be played. You are supposed gaze upon it and contemplate the music of nature all around you contrasted with the canon of western music of which the piano is a signifier.

    Someone should have taken photos and submitted them to Art Forum along with the above. God, I bet I could write that up and get a grant. It could be a movie: “Piano with Silverback Gorillas” signifying the clash of civilization and endangered species. Or “Piano on an ice flow” signifying the collapse of civilization as the poles melt.

    I’m gonna need funding.

  18. I would be pretty annoyed if I turned up with my enormous trebuchet to find that the cops had taken my ammo.

  19. If it was in such immaculate condition, and in a place where people are likely to occasionally show up (a walking path), I’d too think it was guerilla art.

    We need more objects placed in random places, completely out of context. Like Dadaist installation art. Imagine the most random object of elegance & mystery you can, and place it somewhere out of the way and strange.

    We could create a movement out of this. Duchamp would be pleased.

  20. Hmmm. What with Thanksgiving coming up, the first thing that came to mind was, “Is that Officer Obie?” but it looks like Harwich is a good 200 miles from Stockbridge. I wonder how Alice and Ray are doing these days?

  21. over the years I have found 2 perfectly working typewriters AND 2 perfectly working sewing machines… (ok, but not out in nature)

  22. this is an art installation commenting on the current banking crisis IMO.

    from the wiki on Baldwin Piano’s:

    ‘Throughout the 1970s, the company undertook a significant bid to diversify into financial services. Under the leadership of Morley P. Thompson, Baldwin bought dozens of firms and by the early 1980s owned over 200 savings and loan institutions, insurance companies and investment firms.’

  23. Here is some info about a prject to place pianos in public for anyone to use.

    “Play me, I’m yours.” So reads the tag sprayed onto fifteen pianos that appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in various locations scattered across Birmingham one spring morning earlier this year.

    Luke Jerram is the installation artist who worked with the FIERCE arts festival to bring the pianos to the streets.

  24. Wow the police must be bored out there in Harwich. Where I live, if the police found a piano in the woods it would have remained there.

  25. Was a nude Terry Jones from Monty Python seen leaving the scene?

    Alternately, it might be an alien who’s come to Earth and assumed the form of a piano-shaped lifeform.

  26. If you’re interested in the aforementioned Ross Bolleter, here’s a radio show from my archives:

    “This week’s show went very well. I attempted to keep things on track with a general theme. In this case, the theme was a reflection upon decay, and pianos. I know that sounds silly, but with the week I experienced– William Basinsky popping up in a variety of discussions, reading a book about John Cage’s early piano compositions, losing a hard drive, learning about decaying cassette loop art, etc– well, the show starts to make more sense. Topping it all off was a listener “request” (rather, a bit of musing, I suspect) wondering about the sound of a piano on fire. Even though I didn’t have any flaming pianos handy, I did have a nice recording of one being dropped by a crane. I also played more of the fantastic Danielle Palardy Roger release “Bruiducoeur, prieres des infideles” from the ever-amazing Ambiances Magnetiques label. I’m not so sure it didn’t scare the pants off the little boy who came to the studio to help his mother with the children’s music show that follows my broadcast!” –“It’s Too Damn Early,” WDBX-FM 2/25/06

    Here’s the download link

  27. You guys call the police for the oddest shit.

    Nah, Harwich is a very small town, and expensive things like tuned pianos or cars or boats found on public land have a good chance of having been stolen and ditched.

    Small town Massachusetts law enforcement, even 40 years later, is still well described by Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving classic “Alice’s Restaurant”. I listen to it every Thanksgiving.

    CicadaI’m guessing Harwich, Massachusetts is a very, very quiet town.

    It really is, especially after the summer tourists go away and the cranberries are harvested, not far from where I am.

    I’ll bet the piano was brilliant in the foliage a couple weeks back. Harwich gets good colors.

  28. I’ve seen this piano story in a few places, and the lack of actual “newsworthy-ness” makes me thing this is some kind of viral marketing ploy. People leave junk lying around all the time, some of it is very nice junk, it doesn’t make it national news.

  29. We did something very similar with all the furniture after our college tenure except we left ours in front of someone’s garage door.

  30. Anecdote of the Jar
    Wallace Stevens

    I placed a jar in Tennessee,
    And round it was, upon a hill.
    It made the slovenly wilderness
    Surround that hill.

    The wilderness rose up to it,
    And sprawled around, no longer wild.
    The jar was round upon the ground
    And tall and of a port in air.

    It took dominion every where.
    The jar was gray and bare.
    It did not give of bird or bush,
    Like nothing else in Tennessee.

  31. I love finding things abandoned in the woods. My favorite was a washing machine tagged with the words “Be The Agitator.”

  32. Whomever left this working piano”?

    Cory, you’re a professional writer. You, of all people, should have a handle on your pronouns.

  33. @ #9 Noen

    it was probably just an eddy in the space time continuum. Someone look around for a towel or a sack made of rabbit skin nearby.

  34. I dunno. I think this has been done before – Annea Lockwood’s piece Piano Garden is well known. And her first pieces in the series “Piano Burning” and “Piano Drowning” are pretty much in the canon of modernist music along side stuff by Cage, et al.

    I’ll never have that recipe again…

  35. I grew up in Brewster which is right next to Harwich. It is indeed a quiet area, especially in the fall/winter. The Harwich police don’t have much more to do than bust drunk drivers in the winter.

    I was actually in Harwich last night – it’s pretty bizarre that this story is getting national (international?) attention. I even saw it on

  36. Must have been a slow news day. That’s the only explanation I can see for including the homophobic joke about police officer “Liberace” in the story.

  37. Someone left the piano in the woods
    And I don’t think I can take it
    Because it took so long to bake it
    And I’ll never see that recipe again
    Ohhhhh nooooo!

  38. @Danwarning:

    When I was a kid some friends and I bought some chairs and a table from some garage sales and set them up in the woods. We used them for a few years before somebody found them and cleaned them up.

    @SC Wolf

    I wonder how it sounded from other vessel’s listening in to try and detect “enemy” subs….

    I suspect the “in tune” claim. Most of the times that somebody has gone out of the way to tell me that a particular piano is “in tune”, it’s clearly *not* upon playing. Most people don’t know the difference between an in-tune and out-of-tune piano unless the out of tune piano is severely out of tune.

    Two modestly strong guys with back straps can move uprights that weigh far more than an Arcosonic, which is quite light as far as pianos go.

  39. I used to keep a piano soundboard, just the part with the strings, in my backyard. I especially loved it when the acorns fell of the trees. I moved and I don’t have a backyard anymore, but I’d do it again.

  40. There’s a beach on the shore of a Loch in Scotland I used to visit in the ’80’s that had a beautifully decaying metal grand piano skeleton on it.

    I wish I could’ve taken it away and hung it on a wall – it was gorgeous.

  41. I have considered doing something like this for years– there are always free pianos on craigslist, I would get a kick out of putting it someplace weird and sitting there and playing it in the middle of the night.

  42. all I have to say is: have you ever tried to get rid of a piano? No one wants them. Goodwill won’t take them; schools don’t want them; churches already have pianos. You can’t PAY people to take them most of the time. Maybe dumping it in the woods was easier than trying to take it somewhere legit to get rid of it.

  43. OH. MY. GOD. This is so embarrassing. It was mine. :(

    My recently ex-girlfriend really liked that song, “You Give me Something,” so I picked up a guitar six months ago and tried to learn so that I could surprise her and sing it to her (secret #1). I am AWFUL at guitar!

    Six months ago I had also started saving for an engagement ring (secret #2).

    I soon abandoned the guitar idea and signed up for piano lessons. My mom let me borrow a keyboard that she bought years ago when she tried to learn piano so that I could practice.

    By then the plan had been that I’d drive out the night before to these woods, plant the guitar in some place where it wouldn’t be stolen, and then happen upon it and perform a mini concert and – hey! – there’s a ring in my pocket, too!

    Well, the keyboard needs electricity, so that won’t work. Hey, thinks I, how crazy of a story would that be if I took an actual piano out to the woods? Surely she’d be impressed and have a story to tell for all her friends.

    So, with the help of my cousin Will, I bought a piano from Craigslist and took it out to the right spot Saturday night. Sunday we were supposed to take our little stroll to “admire the forest” before full on winter.

    Her dog died yesterday. MAJOR BUMMER. We postponed the trip. We WERE going to go today, but since my piano is gone, I have some quick thinking to do. And, I guess, some phone calls to the Harwich police.

  44. JesseMoya ftw (and good luck, man).

    If you’re any good, find a piano-bar with a view and secretly tip the player to take a 10-minute break.

  45. Acrosonics are crap. VERY high inharmonicity. That essentially means that even if they’re in tune, they’re out of tune. There’s no way this piano was in tune. They just said that to add to the oddity. Plus, I know for a fact that a piano can go out of tune in literally minutes from sunlight. My class at North Bennet Street School will have a good laugh at this one tomorrow morning.

  46. @MDH

    I thought of that, but wondered how the whole “public proposal” thing might go over with her. I, er, will have to look to find a bar like that around here.

  47. I think the fact that someone called the cops on this and they REMOVED IT (!!) is more absurd than the piano being there. This makes me want to get one of those old free pianos from craigslist and haul it into the woods.

    How amazing to find a piano in the woods…

  48. This reminds me of one time out hiking in the backwoods of Minnesota and coming upon a large man-made pole complete with a phone. It had a dial-tone and everything. In the middle of the woods. Like the deep deep woods. Like bear fur on the pole.

    Maybe it was the bear’s party line?

  49. My theory is that it was set up for a wedding in the woods, and the police either ruined the wedding by taking the piano while the wedding party was getting ready, or (hopefully) took the piano after the service and the “piano movers” were at the reception, with plans to pick up the instrument before going home for the night.

  50. @ #96:

    Yeah, I was at work and didn’t re-read my post that well.

    I initially only went into so much detail because I was going to introduce “cousin Will” earlier in the story and then say that the reason it was still there was because she had cheated on me with none other than the guy who helped me take the piano out to the woods! So I couldn’t ask the same guy to help me move it out of the woods.

    I was hoping to then add that when I confronted him we got in a fight so he then went to move to live with his uncle and his auntie in Belle Aire.

    But, ah, the story was getting pretty long so I aborted from the obvious joke to a less amusing hoax. Not my finest work.

  51. @MHD:

    Hey, thanks for that. The girlfriend is real, and the plans to learn that song are real. See, she’s got this birthday coming up, and a classy chick like her would probably LOVE that place you suggested. Thanks!

  52. Reminds me of a beautiful children’s book called “The Man Who Took The Indoors Out” by Arnold Lobel.

  53. @Ivan256

    Very cool. What perplexed me about the ones we found was that they were expensive leather wingback chairs, just plunked down in the middle of nowhere.

    So weird.

  54. my friend found a 54 ft. 2-masted wooden sailboat in the middle of nowhere woods in minnesota. he fixed it and sailed her down the mississippi. for reasons that would take too long to explain here, it was called “the doll’s arm”. she was a good ship an’ true…

  55. …strangest… I’ve found all kinds of things, natural and otherwise, but a good mystery…. that’ll take some memory dump and sort.

  56. This reminds me of one time out hiking in the backwoods of Minnesota and coming upon a large man-made pole complete with a phone. It had a dial-tone and everything. In the middle of the woods. Like the deep deep woods.
    Houston Piano Lessons

  57. This reminds me of one time out hiking in the backwoods of Minnesota and coming upon a large man-made pole complete with a phone. It had a dial-tone and everything. In the middle of the woods. Like the deep deep woods. Houston Piano Lessons

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