The Ghostly Grim Organist

Imagineered by Tom Marchak


To see five gif-animated views of Tom's realization
of our animatronic figure, click here. Be sure to
click the return link and read his detailed description, below.


For three years, the fate of the Grim Organist hung in the balance. A number of people came forward intending to tackle the project of bringing him back from the Limbo of Slumbering Concepts - a fate to which he was consigned due in large part to my own negligence. Alas, none of those well-meaning souls were able to complete the arduous task of research and development that would certainly be required to summon forth this eldritch musician - save for one, who just this past fall managed the requisite sorcery, and in the nick of time booked the musical specter for a goodly number of command performances on All Hallow's Eve.

Sir Thomas Marchak - an experienced haunter - not only produced the organist, he also made of him a ghostly apparition by using the arcane spell of Professor Pepper, the legendary figure who taught so many of us how to bring forth the spirits. As if that were not enough, our researcher re-created the Baron's castle, so that he might feel completely at home while concertizing. It is hard to imagine anyone giving more devotion to such a project; and we believe you will agree, as you read the notebook reproduced below.

We owe this devoted professor a debt of gratitude, not only for proving that a thing which some said could not be done could indeed be done, but also for his care and patience in documenting it for the community of phantasmechanics around the world to see. Kudos, Sir Thomas, and huzzah for bringing him bach to us!

Incidentally, you can see more of Tom's work at It's well worth a visit!

-Doug Ferguson

Text by Tom Marchak

The following documentation will explain some of the details surrounding the construction of the Grim Organist (Baron FleshVon Riptopen), pipe organ and castle.
Here are the Baron's front and partial side views. You can see the addition of a skeletal mask and functioning hands. I originally made the wire frame for the cowl as you describe in your plans but later decided that my creature needed an identity. Fortunately, I had the perfect mask for my creation. This skeleton mask is fluorescent and illuminates wonderfully under a black light. The hands are another addition that will be described in more detail at a later point.
This rear photo shows the motor for the hands and a partial wire cowl frame. Since I decided to use the mask, a portion of the frame needed to be removed. I left this partial set up because it provided the shoulders and kept the material away from the motor.

Looking closely at the base you will see the addition of a fan. The fan's purpose was to billow the shroud (cheesecloth) to produce a ghostly effect. Unfortunately, the effect did not turn out as I envisioned and the fan was used for cooling of the motors.

Here is a close up of the shoulder modification. The most difficulty I encountered during construction was silencing the cam follower and keeping the follower on the cam. I replaced the screw head follower with a nylon drawer wheel. This greatly reduced the noise generated during operation. This can be purchased at any hardware store, refer to drawing below:

Spring Steel Nylon wheel

The cam was increased in width from I" aluminum to 2" and I purchased a thinner piece than what is outlined in your plans. The thinner aluminum could be bent easily into shape and allowed the cam follower more surface area to operate. I don't recall the exact width of the aluminum but let me know if you would like me to measure it.

Above: In this picture, you can see the left and right arm cam and the shoulder cam shape. You can also see the arm set-ups. You will notice that the left arm follower has been placed at the front of the organist. This position change to the plans was necessary during the early stages of construction. With the shoulder cam rotating in the direction of the cam follower (screw type) it pushed the arm straight back and causes it to jump off the cam. I tried bending the arm to make the angle of the follower less dramatic but nothing seemed to eliminate the problem. I therefore switched the arm position forward so that the follower would ride in the same direction as the cam. The only difference is that the arms follow a different path than the original design. I'm not sure if I would have this problem with the nylon wheel and larger cam. The change was made prior to these modifications and I didn't go back.
Here is a close up of the right shoulder connection showing the nut & bolt assembly, The plans worked fine for the right shoulder but I had a problem with the nut coming lose on the left shoulder. I believe this was due to the repositioning of the arm to the front of the unit. As the cam rotated it was working like a wrench unscrewing the nutibolt assembly. I remedied this problem by placing locking nuts onto both shoulder assemblies. This worked great!
In this series of photos you get a close up view of the shoulder cam and cam follower assemblies. Here you can see the nylon cam wheel the larger cam design and the spring attachments used for the follower arm. I would like to point out a couple of things.

1. My unit was assembled primarily using rivets. I do not intend to take this assembly apart. However, if I were to do it again I wouldn't rivet the shoulder support plates. You may need access to the motor and once riveted it is very difficult to get in there.

2. Take notice of the spring and nylon wheel attachment. If you look closely, you can see where I drilled additional holes. These holes were to allow for repositioning if needed. Trust me you will need it!

3. You can also see the routing of the power cords for the mechanical hands and the wire shoulder frame.

Onward to part 2...

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