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The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House is a 1964 album of scary noises created by Walt Disney Studios. I found the record at Barnes & Noble last spring (used, for $3!) and felt like I had struck gold. I mean, just LOOK AT IT.

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(That cover image was made by artist Paul Wenzel as concept art for Disney’s Haunted Mansion!)

For months I was waiting for the perfect time to dust off my record player and take this LP for a spin, and today was that special day (while putting up Halloween decorations, no less). So how does it sound? Allow me to describe the listening experience and then offer a mini-review. (For those of you who would like to listen along, here’s a link to the entire album on YouTube.)

Side 1 features a female narrator describing spooky scenarios (e.g., “You are on a ship in a storm,” “You step out onto the swaying bridge,” etc.) followed by the sounds that depict them. This side is the aural equivalent of a map’s legend, identifying each individual noise for the listener.img_4853

Sound effects include wind howling through chains, screams of the human and feline variety, foreboding footsteps, and even space travel. There is one “sound-nario” that can be best described as a bumbling lumberjack’s mishap with a saw. This can either seem extremely silly or extremely disturbing, depending on where your mind goes while you listen to it.

Side 2 combines the disparate sounds from Side 1 sans narrator to create a continuous stream of unsettling cacophony. The biggest drawback to this side (and the album as a whole) is that, because it offers such a wide and random variety of sounds, it doesn’t set a consistent mood. One minute you’re hearing an ancient creaking merchant ship, and the next, a cackling flock of perturbed birds, and then suddenly, the beeps and boops of aliens.

I also wish there were more classic haunted-house-type sounds, rather than general noise. One of the sound effects is something I can only presume is intended to mimic the echoed slow dripping of water in a dark cave. Instead it sounds like a field recording of a New York City public restroom stall (which, I readily admit, is also terrifying, just in a different way).

Bonus: The inside sleeve, which includes epic 60s-style drawings and suggestions for Halloween party games.

Overall score on an arbitrary scale I made up: 3 out of 5 skulls.

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One skull for the originality of the sounds and the narrator’s creative scenarios, and two skulls for the incredible art design, which strikes the perfect vintage chord.

Honestly, the record looks better on my Halloween display shelf than it sounds to my ears. But hey, it makes one hell of a decoration to add to my seasonal collection.

‘Cuz I’m a Creep

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Cemetery Angel Enamel Pin, $10.

Recently our fiendish friend and guest blogger Ruby recommended that I check out the online shop Creepy Co. And what a find! This store offers inexpensive shirts, pins, and stickers that celebrate the ghoulish side of life.

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Mask Commercial Enamel Pin, $14 … but currently sold out. *sobs*

Creepy Co.’s designs cleverly reference such morbid pop-culture delights as the masks from Halloween III, the lotion basket from Silence of the Lambs, and Twin Peaks cherry pie. They also honor the retro, with stickers that look like those old VHS “horror” labels, Beistle-style re-creations, and colonial headstone skull angels.

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Lotion Basket Sticker, $2.

 

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Beistle Orange Cat Scratch Shirt, $27.

From their site: “Creepy Co. is a collectibles brand born out of a love for all things creepy; especially horror films, the paranormal, everything Halloween, and the general specter of creepiness that surrounds a good deal of people, places and situations (both real and imagined) in popular culture. We’re not just horror: we’re a plastic fang-fueled study in everything that delights those who are Creepy-leaning!”

Sounds like our kind of store.

It’s Now Officially FALL!

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-5-35-27-pmHappy First Day of Fall 2016!

September 22 is officially, astronomically (thanks to Earth’s position in its orbit and this equinox thingy), the beginning of our favorite season.

Finally. Summer is dead. (Good riddance!) All the home-decorating retailers like Target and Michaels have shelves full of Halloween merchandise. Previously vacant storefronts now house Spirit pop-ups. You can currently find skull-shaped confections at Walgreens. Life is good.

Now I know that in many places in the U.S. (including here in New York), it still feels like July outside. But no matter. Let this post be your first crisp fall breeze. That first crunch of dead leaves under your shoes. Your first whiff of chimney smoke and burnt pumpkin flesh.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-5-34-05-pmHere are some links that will help you “get your fall on” without all the calories of an iced PSL.😉

  1. For the ultimate collection of autumnal images, feast your eyes upon Autumn Cozy. This Tumblr is like the softest, fluffiest fall sweater. Wrap yourself up in its visual warmth.
  2. At the Reddit Halloween forum, you can find discussions on topics ranging from Breaking Bad jack-o-lantern carvings to crocheted Oogie Boogies. It’s updated every day, and you don’t have to be a member to lurk.
  3. Trick or … treak? This list of Halloween misspellings (like the one below) will make you evil-chuckle with superiority.   screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-03-38-am
  4. Finally, here’s a charming little time-lapse video depicting costume styles throughout the decades.

Have I set the mood? Good. Welcome to the very best time of the year.

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Images via Autumn Cozy; video by Mode.

The $99,000 Tortilla

Got some extra cash burning a hole in your trick-or-treat bag?

Here are a few of the pricier auction items that appear if you search “Halloween” on Ebay. Some might be worth playing the lottery for. Others, not so much.

-How about some zombie-head lawn stakes ($3000; free shipping)? There are three heads total … that’s $1000 per head.

But they’re made by Wal-Mart, which is truly the Tiffany’s of discount stores.

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-This Michael Myers Halloween II mask ($3500; $10 shipping) is pretty great, though. It’s one of only 28 copies, signed by the artist, and numbered on the inside.

-The inflatable slide-plus-jumping castle ($9,599; free shipping) might almost be worth its sky-high price tag, because it looks pretty cool. (However, I’m not sure what it is. Maybe a haunted farmstead? A menacing tornado?)

Buyers should make sure to heed the instructions [sic]: “Avoid children play with older children at the same time to avoid collisions.”

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-Why buy a cheap costume in a plastic bag when you can wear an authentic Last Samurai suit? At $9999.99 ($199.99 shipping, ouch), it comes with a certificate of authenticity. Sure, the film got mixed reviews, but the armor gets two thumbs up.

-Get there in style with your own pumpkin carriage ($3500; free[!] shipping). I really like the idea of these, though perhaps not the rather lumpy execution. And I’m guessing they’re probably not air conditioned.

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-For something a little more road-legal, this Cadillac Hearse Limo is a killer choice ($24,000; pickup only). Not pictured: The listing description notes that the car includes “under-carriage red neon lighting.”

-Or, for the price of 3 hearses, you can buy yourself this extremely rare “haunted miracle,” truly the coup de grâce:

The E.T. tortilla ($99,000; free shipping) is described thusly: “You are bidding on a naturally occurring E.T. image on a cooked, organic flour tortilla.  The tortillas were purchased raw at Costco, and my daughter cooked up a batch for dinner in a frying pan. We were amazed to see this strange image of little E.T. smiling with his finger under his chin.”

Wow, spitting image. Hard to believe it was naturally occurring. (By the way, 47 Ebay users are “watching” this item. Just thought you should know.)

 

Best Told in the Dark

scan-9I know I’m late to this party, but I recently purchased my very first Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book. Of course I got the old edition, with the legendary black watercolor illustrations by Stephen Gammell (a few of which I’ve scanned for you, dear readers).

If you don’t own a copy, you have no excuse not to pick one up, especially since it only costs 1 cent.

Here’s my favorite story of the collection (so far):

“A man named Joseph Blackwell came to Philadelphia on a business trip. He stayed with friends in the big house they owned outside the city. That night they had a good time visiting. But when Blackwell went to bed, he tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep.

Sometime during the night he heard a car turn into the driveway. He went to the window to see who was arriving at such a late hour. In the moonlight, he saw a long, black hearse filled with people.

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The driver of the hearse looked up at him. When Blackwell saw his queer, hideous face, he shuddered. The driver called to him, ‘There is room for one more.’ Then he waited for a minute or two, and he drove off.

In the morning Blackwell told his friends what had happened. ‘You were dreaming,’ they said.

‘I must have been,’ he said, ‘but it didn’t seem like a dream.’

After breakfast he went into Philadelphia. He spent the day high above the city in one of the new office buildings there.scan-5

Late in the afternoon he was waiting for an elevator to take him back down to the street. But when it arrived, it was very crowded. One of the passengers looked out and called to him. ‘There is room for one more,’ he said. It was the driver of the hearse.

‘No, thanks,’ said Blackwell. ‘I’ll get the next one.’

The doors closed, and the elevator started down. There was shrieking and screaming, then the sound of a crash. The elevator had fallen to the bottom of the shaft. Everyone aboard was killed.”

-Alvin Schwartz

Paper Cuts

Friends, let us now drool together over these incredible framed 3-D paper tributes to classic horror films by artist Rubén Martínez.

Including the Exorcist stairs…

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The phone booth from Hitchcock’s The Birds

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And the Psycho house …

Plus that unmistakable carpet design from The Shining

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Sigh. For sale (for about $200 each) on the artist’s website.

Memories of Salem

“On Halloween, witches come true;
Wild ghosts escape from dreams.
Each monster dances in the park …”
-Nicholas Gordon

I’m planning a Salem, MA, trip for mid-October and getting really excited. Here are my iPhone photos from last year’s visit. Click on one to enter the slideshow.

It’s such a magical place.