Today, we’re taking a trip in the wayback machine, kids. We’re going to head back to about 1982 or 83, when an early chapter in my horror-loving origin story was written. When a man by the name of Wade Denning scared the holy hell out of me and helped instill my fascination with all things macabre for the rest of my life.
In 1975, Pickwick Records released “Famous Ghost Stories With Scary Sounds,” a collection of short horror stories by the likes of Edgar Allan poe, Charles Dickens, Washington Irving and more. Denning–who was well-known for his commercial jingles at the time–narrated and provided the sound effects for the stories.
While the record came out in 1975, it probably wasn’t until about ’82 or ’83 when I heard it. I was in elementary school, hanging out at a friend’s house, and he had a record player in his basement. There was a copy of “Famous Ghost Stories With Scary Sounds” in his parents’ collection, and we put it on one afternoon.
It was horrifying.
I remember being huddled under a blanket while we listened, both of us afraid to come out until the stories were over. Even then, we would fight over who had to go out and turn the record over, so we could be terrified by the second side.
Two stories in particular–“The Headless Horseman” (from Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”) and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” stick in my head to this day. Denning’s reading of them was superb, and he lends a madness to the stories that ratchets up the terror. Combined with the sound effects on the record, we were transported into the worlds of those stories.
I can’t tell you how many times we listened to that record over the next few years, but it was absolutely one of the defining moments of my fascination with horror.
As luck would have it, there are several rips of the record out there, and you can listen to both “The Headless Horseman” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” below. Turn out the lights and enjoy these classics, as they are every bit as terrifying today.