Going back to the 1960’s there’s been all kinds of “scary” albums released full of haunting music and scary sound effects. High winds, moaning ghosts, maniacal laughing, shrieking cats and rattling chains are par for the course. It’s only recently that I’ve discovered albums such as Sounds to Make You Shiver (1974, Pickwick International Records) and Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House (1964, Disneyland Records). From my own childhood and for many kids growing up in the 1980’s, the one horror music/effects soundtrack that made the biggest impression was the simple looking orange-and-black cassette Horror Sounds of the Night, which was released in 1986 by Danbury, Connecticut’s very own Topstone Industries.
I don’t know what happened to Topstone Industries. Some say they collapsed under pressure to produce a follow-up to their awesome Horror Sounds of the Night cassette. Some say they were a fly-by-night company that happened to get lucky by producing one of the greatest Halloween soundtracks of all time. Some say they infringed on the copyrights of others by releasing Horror Sounds of the Night in the first place, but who really knows what happened to them? Okay, I’m sure someone knows, but that someone isn’t me.
But if there’s one thing that I do know it’s that Topstone promised Horror Sounds of the Night would be “spine-tingling” and “30 weird minutes” and darnit if they weren’t correct on both accounts! As a kid, I was terrified of this tape, yet still so strangely drawn to it. I would’ve been 5 years old max when this tape came out and while I don’t know if my family owned it immediately upon its release, I do remember listening to it in the late ’80s. Even when it wasn’t Halloween. I also remember my mom placing it in a cassette deck and playing it through the window for the neighborhood to hear one Halloween.
Does this soundtrack still up hold today? Do I still detect a tingling in my spine? YES. Truth be told, I’m still a bit creeped out listening to this tape as a grown man during broad daylight. It takes me back to when I was a kid and afraid of all these scary sounds coming out of the tape player. I can’t imagine any Halloween SFX tape being as powerful and as spooky as this one.
I really wish there was a listing of all the sounds used on this tape (so I could cut and paste it), but here’s a rundown of the types of things heard on Side A (Side B is a repeat of Side A):
– super eerie pipe organ music that could’ve been in a Hammer Films Dracula movie (this ends up playing softly in the background while the rest of the SFX continue)
– creaking/slamming doors
– maniacal evil laughter
– thunder & lightning
– what I imagine is supposed to be the sounds of ghost flying about (“woooo wooo wooo”
– someone methodically walking on a floorboard
– glass breaking
– some type of dog or cat growling/hissing/howling
– woman screaming
– chains being dragged on the ground
– moaning ghost
– church bells clanging
– laughing witch
– woman moaning in agony while a man laughs in an aristocratic fashion…
Okay. Stop. Let’s talk about that one for a sec — the woman moaning. Even as a kid, I always thought this part sounded suspicious. I take it we are supposed to think the woman is being tortured… or are we? It’s always sounded to me like this aristocratic laughing man was simply having his way with her. Maybe it’s a Fifty Shades / Marquis de Sade type of thing. The people who recorded that bit had to have known it sounded like something freaky-deaky was going on! Yeah, she’s screaming like she’s in pain but she’s also ooohing, ohhhing and aahhing. I mean, this is embarrassing to play too loud with all her caterwauling going on. Not that I should be too proud to be blasting a 1986 horror SFX tape anyway.
– moaning woman and man (who are either having sex or trying way too hard to be spooky ghosts)
– lots of cats meowing that gradually start growling and shrieking
– a dog/wolf snarling and growling
– the shutters being slammed about by the wind
– someone making a mess and playing a piano while someone screams in the background
– wind blowing
– manic piano playing
– more doors creaking/getting slammed shut
– more glass breaking
Also, I found out via YouTube that one portion of the organ music is taken froma piece called “L’Arlesienne Suite” by French composer Georges Bizet. Huh. Well done, Topstone. Very classy.
As you can see, there’s a couple of different versions of the cassette. The plain orange & black cassette is the original and the one most kids of the ’80s are probably familiar with. The white edition and the orange & black edition that features bats and the moon must’ve come a few years later. I’m not sure when the tape went out of print. I’m guessing early ’90s. I prefer the original artwork with the plain unassuming black font and orange background. The later “scary” font looks too cartoonish for how weird this tape is. It’s that modest art design of the original that sets up the shock of what you are about to hear so much better.
You can find YouTube and download links for this album online. They aren’t hard to find. You can also find places like Amazon and eBay where you can purchase the actual cassette. Be careful, if you buy a used copy from Amazon, be sure you actually are buying Horror Sounds of the Night.
With my family’s copy of the cassette long lost, I went to Amazon and found a listing for a used cassette. When I clicked on the used copy link, I saw the photo and name of the cassette was different but I figured it was probably the same thing, just repackaged and renamed. Why else would the listing for Horror Sounds of the Night show this product?
Well, the tape arrived the next week and it was not Horror Sounds of the Night. It was a completely different (but still cool) Halloween FX tape. I was disappointed by not angry and decided I would keep it anyway. I did email the Amazon seller o let him know there’s a mix-up with how that particular cassette was listed and told him if he did happen to have a copy of Horror Sounds of the Night that I’d still be willing to buy it. He emailed back shortly after and apologized and said he didn’t think he had a copy but would check. He emailed again to say he found a copy and would be sending it to me free of charge! So now I have a copy of the white version of the cassette, which is awesome. Jim really went above and beyond what I was expecting so I highly recommend people check out Jim’s ShopofHorrors.com for all kinds of Halloween accessories and goodies.
If you grew up in the 1980’s, you’re probably already familiar with this SFX tape. It’s a classic piece of my childhood and I’m extremely proud to own a copy once again. It’s definitely a weird tape, just like they promised. So if you like weird, track down a copy of this one.