October 19, 2017

HALLOWEEN TAPE REVIEW #19: Horror Sounds of the Night

Title: Horror Sounds of the Night
Manufacturer: Topstone Industries
Year: 1986
Total Runtime: 30 Min
Repeats on both sides: No
Stories: No
Music: Has an opening theme, and various background music throughout
Includes a piece from Georges Bizet's “L’Arlesienne Suite"
Narration: No
Distinct Audio: An infamous masochistic segment (see below)
Review: Horror Sounds of the Night is notable for so many reasons. First, it came from Topstone, a beloved Halloween corporation best known for making rubber masks since the 1950s. Their advertising artwork alone has left a permanent mark on horror culture.

The cassette was ubiquitous. It was produced for many years, and sold through many outlets. Its 1986 release date put it slightly ahead of the Halloween tape glut in the late '80s. Horror Sounds, along with Thriller/Chiller and the other Thriller Chiller, usually gets a big reaction online, prompting commenters to type up a cavalcade of memories.


1993 Topstone catalog via Blood Curdling Blog of Monster Masks

Horror Sounds was the subject of a lawsuit. Surprisingly, it wasn't due to the content being misappropriated (which it was). It arose because Topstone terminated a contract with the guy who presented them with the idea, and then made their own tape independently. From the case file...

"Plaintiff had conceived the idea of an audio-cassette tape of sounds appropriate for Halloween. After producing and copyrighting his recording, titled "Haunted Horror," he entered into an agreement designating defendant Topstone Industries as the exclusive distributor. Topstone later terminated the contract and began marketing a similar Halloween cassette titled "Horror Sounds of the Night." After purchasing copies of the plaintiff's tape from Topstone, defendant D. Robbins & Co. sold those copies, as well as Topstone's "Horror Sounds" tape, to retail customers."

The tape's legendary status is elevated by a segment that features an infamous exchange between a sinister man and his female victim. The sexual undertones are hard to ignore. A shorter version of this is actually the album opener for a popular Children's Record called Sounds to Make You Shiver. (The moaning portion appears on side two as "Count Dracula and His Victim")

This brings us to the last reason why Horror Sounds in the Night is notorious: everything on it is stolen. Well, I can't confirm that it was all illegally used. The fact that the aforementioned scene appears without the layers of chain and footstep effects may indicate that they had access to a source tape. But this is common practice in the Halloween tape biz, and it's hard to believe they would take the time to get legal clearance from three different companies for three different sources, especially considering the other lawsuit.

So what were the sources? On the evening of November 8, 2013 a comment was posted on a site called Blood-Curdling Blog of Monster Masks by a user calling themselves barneyrubble. This comment stands as the most thorough and well-researched dissertation of the digital age regarding the source material behind Horror Sounds of the Night. I'm posting it here in its unaltered form, because changing even one word would be a disservice to the internet.

"At the price for which copies of this cassette are selling, it's good to know that one can get all the recordings on this tape just by buying three old Hallowe'en LP's:

- BBC Records & Tapes's Volume 13: Sound Effects DEATH & HORROR (1977) (The first track on the cassette is taken from this album, listed here as "Phantom of the Opera ('Organ' Sounds)")

- Power Records, "Ghostly Sounds" (presumed early '70s)
(The second track on the cassette is taken from this LP, identified here as "The Phantom of the Cathedral". Two versions of this LP exist, with near identical album covers: the first edition has pink record labels, is reputed to have narration and lists "The Phantom of the Cathedral" as the second track on Side 2, after "The Mad Harpist". The second edition, with yellow labels, moves "The Mad Harpist" to the end of Side 1, and begins Side 2 with "The Phantom of the Cathedral", exactly as it is included on the "Horror Sounds of the Night" cassette.)

- Pickwick International, "Sounds to Make You Shiver" (presumed mid-'70s)
(Believe it or not, the entire remainder of the "Horror Sounds of the Night" cassette is taken directly from Side 2 of this album, in the same running order. It seems like the compiler of "Horror Sounds of the Night" found two favored pieces on the first two albums, then either got bored or distracted and just let the third album play until the tape ran out. On the original album, they are listed in order as "Witch Laugh", "Count Dracula and His Victim" (occasionally noted for its somewhat X-rated overtones), "Screams & Groans" (actually two separate tracks of screams, apparently made by the same lady who appears in "Count Dracula and his Victim"), "Moans & Groans", "Cats", "Dogs", "Banging Shutter", "Phantom Piano", "Creaky Door", and part of "Breaking Windows".)

If you shop around, you can get all three of these albums for less than $50 (with the BBC LP most likely being the most expensive one). I now have all three. Happy hunting! :)"

Sentimentality Rating: 5 of 5
Morality Rating: 1 of 5

Better quality, but embedding is disabled, so I can't stick it here...


Jody Birchfield said...

I've owned this one for years and I love it! Even as a kid I realized that they had ripped off "Sounds To Make You Shiver." Funny side note...the other night my wife and I were watching a YouTube video of "The Jim Nabors Hour" from 1969 (as you do). I noticed in one scene there were some police dogs...and they had obviously dubbed the exact "Dogs" track from "Sounds To Make You Shiver." This special aired in 1969, so those tracks must've existed at least by then. Thanks for posting!!

Kirk D. said...

Nice connection! I'm ready for a Wiki that identifies every appearance in film and TV of every Halloween sound effect. Let's go!

Hauntedheaful said...

Tried to comment on this one earlier, but couldn't for some reason.Anyway, once again you dug up an obscure memory!In 1992, I was living in Atlantic City NJ with my girlfriend who was a showgirl at the Coconut Ballroom in Resorts International.We attended a staff costume party as The Wicked witch of the west(her) and a flying monkey (me!).We won this tape as a door prize and played it on Trick or Treat night.I recognized the parts lifted from the Sounds to make you shiver LP but always remembered that other piece of organ music because I had never heard it before.

Kirk D. said...

Great, memory Haunted, thanks for sharing!
That's some Halloween magic times right there.

Hauntedheaful said...

I'll take the memory one step further.The "Monkey Mask" I wore that night was a novelty I bought years before at Six Flags'Great Adventure Theme Park.It was a blow molded plastic half mask with a lower jaw hinge that moved when you talk.This thing was hideous and always drew a crowd whenever I wore it.I would imagine a little searching online would find this mask easily,if youre curious(like George;p)

Unknown said...

Remember I got this from a Thrifty's store( like Walgreens) on cassette in 1986. Thousand Oaks, CA. Played on my trusty tape player and was transfixed by the organ music. Across street neighbor used tape a sounds effects for adult Halloween party blasting in hi-fi speakers. Was crazy hearing my tape while hill bombing on skate board that night!!! ...a...and the next Halloween party, 1987.

Kirk D. said...

Great memories, thanks for sharing!