Back when I was a youngster, somewhere around 1832, there was no access to scary media. (Relax, this isn’t going to devolve into a “we had to trudge through the snow uphill both ways just to fight over a ticket to get into a nickelodeon to watch Dawn of the Dead” sort of thing…just trying to provide context.) If you were lucky, you could talk your parents into taking you the local independently owned video rental store and maybe they’d let you rent something–depending on the intensity of the cover art, of course. There were all of three television networks and they never showed anything that could offend. (People my age: take a moment and cast your mind back…try to imagine an episode of Walking Dead edited for the television of the late 70s. Now stop, you’ll hurt yourself.)
No, normally the best you could do was either scary literature or scary records. And really, as you’ll see–the records are so terribly kid-friendly they served as more a jumping off point for the imagination rather than something that actually terrified. Most kids didn’t know about old-time radio shows that might have actually given them a jump or two. So in many cases, what you’re about to hear was the best we could do. Pity our younger, more foolish selves.
We start with an album I actually remember owning. From Peter Pan Records, it was Ghostly Sounds. Well. One side was “Ghostly Sounds,” the other side was “The Ghosts From Outer Space,” which had the lame air of “Oh hell, you mean we have to fill the other side of the album too?” Both sides are below for posterity and your amusement.
Oddly that album’s never been released to CD or MP3. It’s available used from Amazon for $5. I say “oddly” because you’d think somebody would want it just for nostalgia and thus be ready to plonk coin.
Next we have Selections From the Haunted House, released in 1970 by Scholastic Records. Track listing of the album scanned in here. As you can see, it’s one of the few Halloween records for kids to have both Langston Hughes and Goethe represented on it.
The book the selections were taken from is here.
And going back to last year’s post in this spot–the Monster Cereals “cereal records” (i.e., flexidiscs you would get in a box of cereal)–is what gave me the idea to seek out Ghostly Sounds. But we need to have cereal represented somewhere. So here’s one from Post cereal.
And all this searching for records about haunted houses put this in my path, included here because we can. It’s a recording of Bessie Smith singing “Haunted House Blues” from 1924, played on a Victrola by–of course–Victrolaman. Don’t worry if you can’t understand the lyrics completely…they’re provided in overlays. Awesome.
Update: The embed option is apparently not working now…so here’s the link to find it on YouTube.
You can find that–presumably in a lot better quality–on MP3 here.