Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Nostalgia: "Chamber of Horrors"

One of my fondest memories growing up involves being scared to death.  Whether it was R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books or the Are You Afraid of the Dark TV show (or the Scary Stories to tell in the Dark series, which I've discussed at length already.  Twice.), there was something alluring about being frightened.

Enter an unassuming, solid black cassette tape lent to me by my best friend in elementary school.

The cassette was called "Chamber of Horrors" and even though I was scared out of my mind I couldn't wait to get home to listen to it!  The tape was a collection of spooky sound effects and music meant to be played at Halloween parties, but for my friends and I, it was our go-to mood setter for any time we wanted to scare the bejeezus out of each other.

Listening to that cassette tape, my imagination ran wild.  I could imagine nightmarish scenes in which hordes of monsters, vampires, and witches prowled empty streets, archaic graveyards, and dilapidated houses.  Standout sound effects for me include the bubbling chemicals, the funeral dirge, and the cackling witch.  I remember flinching any time that creepy voice exclaimed "Happy Halloween!" and I had to constantly brace myself for those unexpected, random screams intermingled with the other sound effects...  But I loved every minute of it!

As the sticker on the cassette reads, the tape includes voices, sound, and music.  I'm not sure how I didn't recognize it at the time, but a rip-off of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" plays in the background.  Other musical accompaniment includes with a rendition of a prog rock song called "Birds of Fire", and - inexplicably - some whimsical jazz number, complete with a clarinet and saxophone.  

I had to beg my mom to take me to K-Mart to get my own copy to play on my Walkman.  I wore that tape out and had to buy another the following year!  For a number of Halloweens this was the soundtrack for the "haunts" I set up to terrorize trick-or-treaters in my aunt's yard.  I remember thinking that all it took to set up a proper haunted house was dimming the lights, throwing up some artificial cobwebs, and cranking the volume on the boombox.

Imagine my delight at finding that I still had a copy in my basement!  

And now, for your own listening enjoyment (If your nerves can handle the horror!):

Note:  Apparently some versions of this tape included a narrated story that utilized the sound effects as part of a narrative.  If I can track it down I will share it in a future post!

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