For hundreds of years now, Halloween has been one of the most celebrated and endearing social holidays. However, there was certainly a time when Halloween was…simpler. There was a time before YouTube, Spotify and the Internet. Television and radio programming was limited and constrained by social moral codes. Home video technology was still a thing of the future and therefore options for horror-centric home entertainment were limited in scope. And yet, things were not quite as dire as this may seem to us modern fiends. There was, of course, vinyl. In order to satiate the public’s thirst for horrifying at-home entertainment, there was a period of time when the market was flooded with a glorious amount of ghoulish, spooky sounds to spin.
From the 1950’s through the early 1980’s these Halloween and horror novelty records would come fast and furious. Capitalizing on the public’s fascination with horror (and especially the Universal Classic Monsters), these records offered folks an alternative to radio, television or treks to the movie theater. They also offered people new stories from familiar characters and an experience that could be replicated again and again. Some of these records focused more on stories, while others were more sound-effect heavy. Some utilized famous voice talents, and others relied on killer artwork and catchy songs to sell copies. And even though the specifics of these records tended to vary, the goal was always the same; to cash in on people’s lust for creepy content. There’s a staggering amount of these releases in existence but here are 10 of the best to get you in the spooky spirit.
10. Sounds To Make You Shiver! (1974) – Pickwick International
A super spine-tingling sound effects album, this is an all-inclusive record ready for your haunted house. With a variety of screams, moans, creaks and scares there’s almost no cliche fright left unturned. With some of the best album artwork out there for this weird little sub-genre of albums, it’s no wonder this album still remains much loved and recognized even today.
9. Ghostly Sounds (1974) – Power Records
Power Records was a sister record label to the more famous, Peter Pan Records. They specialized in storybook records for children, and most notably stories featuring Marvel and DC superheroes. However, not wanting to leave that horror cash on the table, they also released a variety of spooky records including this full length LP. While the record does feature some short stories and dialogue, where it scores is it’s sound effects. It provides a well-rounded spook that still provides equal parts kitsch and quality.
Top Tracks: Three A.M. Horror, The Swamp Creature
8. Alfred Hitchcock presents Music to be Murdered By (1958) – Imperial Records
Described by Hitchcock as ‘mood music in a jugular vein,’ this album provides a more atmospheric spook than most of the other records on this list. Classic Hollywood sounds coupled with interspersed sound effects and narration by Hitchcock himself. Perhaps a more sophisticated scare? It leaves you the listener with the responsibility of filling in the gory details, yet sets the stage in a way only Hitchcock can. While the notes written and spoken by Hitch himself are maybe not quite politically correct or sensitive, it’s certainly a gimmicky time capsule that seasoned horror fans will find amusing.
Top Tracks: Music To Be Murdered By, Suspicion
7. Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House (1964) – Disneyland Records
Taken from the liner notes of this very record:
The Sound Effects Department of the Walt Disney Studio has been collecting all kinds of noises since 1927. The first sound film which Walt Disney made and the first sound cartoon made by anyone was Steamboat Willy starring a little mouse named Mickey. This picture, like every other one Walt Disney has made, whether short subject or feature, animated cartoon or live action, contained many sound effects.
Drawing upon this enormous library of sound, Disneyland records has produced this LP.
Horror and film nerds alike can’t ignore how cool this album is. Classic Disney sound effects culled from the vaults and then combined to make this one record. While the first side contains short stories, the second side is purely sound effects. Not a cohesive or satisfying listen per se, but one that is equal parts nostalgia and fascinating.
6. Famous Monsters Speak by Cherney Berg (1963) – Wonderland Records
Another children’s record label, Wonderland Golden Records was founded in the 1950’s and specialized in children’s story records. This, a release for kids drawn to spooky, is a spoken word record focusing on Frankenstein and Dracula in conjunction with the famous magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland. Side 1 sells itself as a news report releasing the first recordings found of Frankenstein‘s monster speaking to his maker. Side 2 features Dracula himself, revealing his secrets and stories. A fascinating listen that most certainly did not have the proper license to these characters and images. Simpler times indeed.
5. Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People (1962) – Golden Records
Yep. Another one from Mr. Hitchcock. But should we really be surprised by that? Unlike the previously mentioned album, this one is clearly geared towards younger fans of the genre. The tone is much more innocent and features short stories narrated by John Allen. These engaging stories with accompanying sound effects provide a listening experience drenched in nostalgia and pure gimmick.
Top Tracks: The Helpful Hitchhiker, The Haunted and the Haunters.
4. The Original Monster Mash by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers (1962) – Garpax Records
There are few records more infamous, or more recognizable than this one. Bobby Pickett was only 22 when he released the album, playing off a bit he created impersonating famous movie monsters. While his dream was to become a famous actor, this silly album and it’s 100% killer kitsch would become his most famous life’s work. An album full of fun, fully fleshed out songs, this is the Halloween album that all others are measured against. While certain tracks are certainly over-played, there’s a lot of other good stuff on this album and certainly a necessary addition to the spooky section of your collection.
Top Tracks: Monster Mash (of course), Graveyard Shift and Bella’s Bash
3. A Story of Dracula, The Wolfman and Frankenstein (1975) – Power Records
A true story book record from Power Records, this is a really unique and special release. Not only does the spoken word recording feature various vocal talents and music backing tracks, the release comes with a full color 16-page comic book to follow along with. There’s even the classic bell tones to let you know when to turn the page. As the story unfolds over both sides of the record, it’s quite easy to get lost in the story and images. With killer artwork by famous comic artist Neal Adams, this is a release easy to overlook, but extremely worthy of picking up.
2. Sounds of Terror! by Wade Denning and Frank Daniel (1974) – Pickwick International
Already we are seeing Monster Mash as an enduring Halloween staple with this album firmly on that bandwagon. However, alongside this classic tune we have a plethora of short stories and sounds. This album has everything from zombies to exorcisms, werewolves to torture chambers. It’s an all exclusive package of sounds from the bargain bin masters at Pickwick. If you’re looking for spooky sounds and clips to sample, this album is a goldmine.
Top Tracks: The Exorcism, The Nightmare of Lost Souls and The Werewolf Attacks
1. Boris Karloff in the Inner Sanctum: Mayhem Behind the Creaking Door! (1981) – Radiola
Originally aired on CBS Radio on November 12th, 1945, this Inner Sanctum radio broadcast was released by Radiola in the early 80’s for a whole new generation. Karloff became best known for his roles in classic horror films like Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and The Mummy. Over time, his voice and reputation became infamous and eternally entwined in the world of horror. This release and radio program played on Karloff’s fame and provides a truly engaging and interesting listen even now. A glimpse into days long gone, this well acted, well crafted radio broadcast and release shines as a true gem. With all the flash, technology and hyper-stimulation that horror often lives in today, sometimes it’s stories and recordings like these that help reinforce the simple building blocks of true suspense. So dim the lights, get that pumpkin spice candle lit, wrap the blankets tight and enjoy!
There’s seemingly no end to releases such as these, and yet they provide a rush of nostalgia with each discovery. None are particularly valuable and none are necessarily hard to find. Spend some time digging at your local record store and odds are one of these killer album covers (or something similar) will appear beneath your fingers. While us fiends may currently be living in a golden age for horror fandom, let these killer cuts remind us to never forget those horror fans who came before us. Spooky has, and always will be, in season and these wicked wax time capsules will help provide the soundtrack.
Do you have any of these in your collection? Have a favorite that we’ve left off the list? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!