Every afternoon of my pre-school era was spent in my bedroom listening to one record. That record was from Disneyland Records, that is, the Walt Disney Company. It was called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.
This album was initially released in 1964 and contained a collection of sound effects that Disney engineers had created and cataloged over the years, sound effects like those heard on “Lonesome Ghosts” and other Disney cartoons. On the B-side of this album was just the bare special effects, one after the other. The idea was that kids could use these special effects to create their own stories. But on the A-side of this album was something more: a story. Ten stories, actually. On this side, the special effects were arranged to tell ten different tales, tales such as “The Haunted House”, “Shipwreck”, “Chinese Water Torture”, and “Your Pet Cat”. Introducing each of these tales was a female narrator. She not only set up the story, explaining in a very foreboding way what was about to happen, but she actually set you in the tale. She told it as if it were going to happen to you. In this very simply way, the album told some very scary stories.
My favorite of these was “Timber”. In this story, you play a lumberjack. After the opening narration, this story proceeds with a slow sawing sound accompanied by a man’s whistle. Then there is a crack as the tree falls and a man’s scream. You felled the tree on yourself . That’s what I guess you did, anyway. At the time I thought you had sawed through a bridge your were standing on, and I guess you could envision it as you cutting down a tree you were in. Whatever may have happened, it was a very tense thing for a four-year-old to listen to, and I listened to it again and again and again.
Now the Disney company was apparently concerned about the effect this record could have on its audience. In fact, it was regarded as their most mature and controversial offering to date. The album sleeve even stated in bold letters that it was “not intended for children from three to eight” but rather for “older children, teenagers, and adults”. Apparently my mother missed this little caution as she handed the album over to me and allowed me to listen to it in my room unsupervised every afternoon. If I needed an excuse for the way I turned out, I have it. My excuse is that I was exposed to the worst horrors Disneyland Records could contrive too early, that I was chilled and thrilled by Walt Disney.