Saturday, October 1, 2016

Kick Off Halloween with the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Album (1964)

By Chris Lyndon

It's that time of year again here on Disney Avenue when the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake. HalloWishes is playing in the Disney Avenue Music Player and our Halloween Banner is up (keep an eye out for lightening). What better time to revisit one of the best selling Disneyland Records of all time than now. You will hear these frightening sounds as never before as Chris Lyndon from has painstakingly cleaned up this album for your listening pleasure, removing all background hiss and editing glitches. Join us as we kick off the Halloween season with some frightfully vintage Disney tunes...

While the Haunted Mansion sat empty, a sign posted by Disneyland’s “Ghost Relations Department” graced the gates of the mansion, recruiting house-hunting haunts for the upcoming attraction.

"Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House" was one of the best selling albums ever produced by Disneyland Records. The album first was released in 1964, shortly after the Haunted Mansion building had been erected in Disneyland. Although the structure was completed by 1964, it lay empty, with no attraction inside, for several years before the Haunted Mansion 'E' Ticket adventure debuted in the Park in August of 1969. There is some debate among Disney historians if this 1964 album was actually meant to promote the up and coming attraction, or if its timing was a mere coincidence. Adding to the debate is the cover art on the original album. The image (seen below) consisted of an early concept painting of the mansion's exterior, originally used in development of the Disneyland attraction, and painted by Imagineer Paul Wenzel. Also adding to the debate is the fact that many of the sound effects heard in this album would later find their way to the final attraction.

Haunted Mansion album cover art

However, the album's contents bare very little resemblance to the story-line of the theme park attraction. In fact, it is very dark in tone when compared to the Disneyland version, which is a significantly more lighthearted, "happy haunting ground" with a silly assortment of 999 jolly spirits. Although it does have its comical moments, it delivers some very heavy fare, such as death by explosion, a dog attack and a catastrophic ocean liner disaster. In fact, the album was considered so frightening, and out of character with the other albums being released by Disneyland Records at that time, that the following disclaimer had to be added to the record jacket...

"The Disneyland catalogue of children's records is one of the finest in the world. The primary audience for children's records is the age group from three to eight years. Most of the records in the Disneyland catalogue are made specifically for that group, although there are some whose appeal reaches into the early teens. This particular record, CHILLING, THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE is not intended for young, impressionable children from three to eight. It is intended for older children, teenagers and adults."

The deep and foreboding female narrator heard on this album would go uncredited. Her name was Laura Olsher. She was a writer for children's radio programing in the late 1950's and soon found herself doing narration for her own series when no other actors were available. This soon caught the attention of Walt Disney, who asked her to record a children's album for the Disneyland label on how to tell time. When she was in the Disney studio recording that album, the director handed her another, very different script and asked if she could give it a go. The fact that this was a last minute and spontaneous recording session made for a fantastic performance, and it would be hard to imagine these lines being delivered by anyone else.

Laura Olsher, the deep and foreboding female narrator

Side A of the album consisted of 10 different scenarios, each introduced by Olsher, and the scenarios were then played out by a series of very convincing sound effects. The sound effects used were all from the library of sounds developed by Disney audio technicians over the decades for use in the studio's classic animated films. Many will recognize these sounds from their original origins, such as the moaning ghost at the end of the album's first track, "The Haunted House," which was originally used in the 1937 Mickey Mouse short "Lonesome Ghosts."

Side B of the album repeated all the sound effects from Side A, without narrative, so that one could create their own spooky scenarios for homemade neighborhood Halloween haunted house tours or to just frighten trick-or-treaters. The sound effects included a series of moans and screams, explosions, crashes, thunder and rain, and eerie sounds from outer space.

1979 album cover

In 1979, Disney Records released an updated version of "Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of the Haunted House." This time there would be no narrative, but the album mirrored the original in that Side A consisted of a series of spooky scenarios, and the flip side had individual sound effects. Many regard the 1979 version of the album to be even more frighting than the original.

And now, sit back, turn out all the lights, make sure you're home alone, and take a listen to this classic album from Disneyland Records. You will have a frightfully fun time...

For more Halloween fun, all October long, be sure to check out my weekly podcast, Jiminy Crickets! All five weeks this month we will feature a special spooky themed show. New show's are released each and every Monday.

Also, every day this month, my "Disney Song of the Day" on will feature a Halloween themed song. So be sure to stop by daily for some terrifying tunes. 

See ya real soon!

- Chris Lyndon


Chris Lyndon grew up in Southern California, near Disneyland. He formed a lifelong fascination with all things Disney from a very early age, especially Disney music, and has studied the history of the Walt Disney organization for decades. His very first summer job was at Disneyland at age 16, and he also worked at the Florida parks during his college years, as part of the Walt Disney World College Internship Program. His lifelong passion for Disney music has evolved into his website, All manner of Disney music can be enjoyed there including the Disney Song of the Day, but the main focus is audio from the original Disneyland theme park in a collection he calls the "Disneyland Magical Audio Tour," with over 1200 audio tracks, full color imagery and historical information for every track posted. Chris also provided archival Disneyland audio for the September 2015 PBS Walt Disney American Experience documentary. In 2014 he joined the Sideshow Sound Theatre podcast group as a co-host on the MouseMusic podcast, and in December 2015 he began his own weekly podcast covering all things Disney, called Jiminy Crickets! He is now also co-host of Magical Day Radio program, where he interviews notable people within the Disney community.

You can find all of Chris's articles here.

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