From Fantastical to Frightful: Halloween Recordings for Everyone

The autumn season brings Halloween — dressing in costume for parties, indulging in candy, and watching scary movies for thrills and chills.

It’s also the perfect time to play seasonal vinyl records.

I share some of my favourites here. But, which are too scary for the young and the young at heart to hear? I’ve divided my picks into three categories: 1) Light-Hearted, 2) Borderline Scary, and 3) Downright Scary. I categorize these recordings based on my personal opinion. I would welcome a good dialogue on others’ ideas about the subject.

Let’s begin with the Light-Hearted:

Casper’s Haunted House Tales (Peter Pan): The album starts with a cover of the theme song and then goes directly to the adventures of the friendly ghost and his friends, with four stories narrated by the occupied haunted house. It’s a fun album with a few scary elements and non-nightmare-inducing situations.

A Spooky Halloween (Wonderland/Golden): Here’s another fun album that features 16 songs sung to the tunes of well-known favourites. Examples: “The Pumpkin on the Vine” (“The Farmer in the Dell”); “Twinkle Twinkle Candlelight” (“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). In case you are wondering, this is where you would hear: “We…are…here…to…SCARE…you-oo-oo-oo!”

Trick or Treat (Disneyland): Based on the Walt Disney animated short of the same name, Ginny Tyler narrates as Witch Hazel (voiced by June Foray in the film), complete with the song, music and sound effects from the soundtrack. Side B offers an edited version of “The Haunted Mansion;” two Halloween masks are printed on the inside sleeve.

As for the Borderline Scary:

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House (Disneyland): First released in 1964, this album contains a collection of sound effects from the Walt Disney Studios, accentuated with narration from Laura Olsher (on Side 1). Though intended for older children and adults, it was so popular that it not only went through several editions (as well as a follow-up album from 1979), it was also re-issued in 2015 for new generations.

A Story of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman (Peter Pan/Power): A 12” LP book and record with an original story in which the three famous monsters meet in unusual and bizarre circumstances. While it may not be very scary, what sells it is the full-length comic illustrations provided by Neal Adams and his associates at Continuity Studios.

Ghostly Sounds (Peter Pan): The cover of this album features detailed graphics by George Peed and contains the blurb, “not for the very young,” and in some cases, it’s true. The heightening noises of moaning and what sounds like desperate gasps for breath (“Scared parents?!”) would be enough to send a youngster running out of the room. But what might bring them back is the light-hearted story on Side 2: “The Ghosts from Outer Space.”

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People (Golden/Wonderland): Released in 1962, this LP plays precisely like the anthology television series, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, introduced by the Master of Suspense himself. John Allen narrates the collective stories that follow. As in the show, each contains a continuity with a touch of macabre: here, Hitchcock tries to handle a leaking problem in the house, which soon worsens.

And now the Downright Scary:

Sounds to Make You Shiver (Mr. Pickwick): From 1974: a collection of sound effects that place you in a haunted house (Side 1) and short tracks ideal for skits (Side 2). If you were a kid in the ’70s and heard this for the first time, your imagination would have run amok through the night until the sun rose. You may have different ideas as an adult, but it’s still chilling!

Sounds of Terror! (Mr. Pickwick): Also released in 1974, this album is one of the scariest for children. It disarms you at the beginning with a cover of the classic novelty song, “Monster Mash”. From there, it fires on all cylinders with “sound stories” of terror, fright, and the supernatural. From a personal viewpoint, the most terrifying story on the album is The Exorcism, which goes as well as one would expect. As a kid, the conclusion rattled me so much that I was not able to sleep for three days.

Music labels have produced many Halloween-themed records over the years, and these are only a handful of them. There are some I have yet to acquire for my collection, but once I do, you can be sure I will enjoy them for years to come.

Happy Halloween!