The Devil's Dream

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"The Devil's Dream" is an old fiddle tune of unknown origins. Played as either a jig or a reel, it is attested to as a popular tune from at least 1834 in New England.[1] It also appears in a folk tale from central England dated to c. 1805.[2]

The Devil's Dream is, and has been since its introduction, a popular tune with fiddlers and dancers and has been recorded numerous times.


The earliest known recordings of the tune include records by John Witzmann (in 1906 with the Victor Dance Orchestra and again in 1920), Harold Veo (1917), George Stehl (1920), William B. Houchens (February 1923), Jasper Bisbee (November 1923) and Tommy Dandurand (March 1927).

Pop culture[edit]

It is used by Bernard Herrmann as one of the principal themes in the film score to the movie The Devil and Daniel Webster to represent the plight of the New Hampshire farmers.

Mentioned in Michael Martin Murphey's song Cherokee Fiddle, popularized by Johnny Lee. The song was also featured on the consonant sound animated insert on Sesame Street that featured an animated violinist playing the song on a violin until the violinist's violin strings broke. Pa from Little House on the Prairie plays the song on the fiddle in the first book of the series, Little House in the Big Woods.

It is used in the film 12 Years a Slave in the opening scenes, played by the character Solomon Northup during a small gathering of white individuals dancing. It was played by Tim Fain, an accomplished violinist who co-arranged the soundtrack for the movie.[3]

Appears in the film Rosemary's Baby (1968) on a television showing a Western film's barroom brawl.


  1. ^ Gilman, Memoirs of a New England Village Choir, p. 20: "Now, by a seemingly miraculous rapidity and perfection of execution,he would exert an irresistible power over the muscular frames of his delighted auditor, putting their feet and hands in motion as they sat before him, and often rousing up the younger individuals who were present to an unbidden, spontaneous dance, to the tune of 'The Girl I left behind me,' the 'Devil's Dream,' or and equally magical and inspiring combination of notes that exteporaneously flowed into his own mind on the occasion."
  2. ^ Allies, On the Ignis Fatuus, pp. 31-32: "As an old fiddler, of the name of Pengree, was one night, about forty years ago, returning home by himself to Old Storage, from the wake which had been held at Knightford Bridge Inn, he had to pass a place called 'Hell Garden,' which was situated at the bottom of the Cherry Bank, near to the Upper House, in Alfrick; and when he came there he said, "Oh I am come to 'Hell Garden!' well, I'll give the 'Devil's Dream;'" which no sooner had he struck up than (to show he was not alone in his glory) about 150 strange female figures came and danced all round him in pattens,which made him not only unshoulder his fiddle pretty quickly, but take to his heel as fast as he could run."
  3. ^ "12 Years a Slave (2013) - IMDb". IMDb.


  • Allies, Jabez. On the Ignis Fatusus: Or Will-O'-The-Wisp, and the Fairies. London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. (1846).
  • Gilman, S. (A Member). Memoirs of a New England Village Choir with Occasional Reflections. Boston: Benjamin H. Greene (1834).

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