I’m admittedly late to this “rebirth of cool” that vinyl has experienced over the last few years, in particular, soundtracks and scores to older horror films. It’s also of note just how many relatively obscure films are seeing their scores released on vinyl as beautifully crafted art pieces. The flashy color schemes used for the records themselves is usually enough to draw my attention.
Fantastic cover images for recent releases like Waxwork’s Tourist Trap or Death Waltz’s Dracula 1972 helped convince me to recently purchase a small, budget-priced desktop player so that I too could also enjoy the music that drove the pivotal moments in films that I love. That said, my main motivation was to now search out older recordings. In particular, sound effects recordings, storybook records, radio plays, and other oddities.
While searching eBay, I came across today’s subject. My initial search was for something along the lines of the Gremlins story books that were available at Hardee’s fast food restaurants following the film’s release in 1984, or even something more sound effects driven like Disney’s “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House”. What I found was multiple sealed copies of a record with cover art that very closely resembled that featured in 1970’s era horror comics, such as Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula or DC’s House of Mystery/Secrets books. As a life-long fan of those books, I needed nothing more to be “sold”.
The records (a 2LP set) were purchased for around $12 (with shipping). It was received sealed, as stated. There was heavy creasing and wrinkles on the sleeve, but I had somewhat expected that. It also featured a small hole punched out of the top right corner, which is something that I had noticed most of the listed copies having. Having worked at a music store as a teen (I can’t call it a “record store” as we sold only CD’s and tapes.), I assumed these copies to be what we then called “cut outs”.
For those unfamiliar, a “cut out” was a CD or cassette that either was very popular in the past and had excess copies to get rid of, or was something that no one ever wanted and the record label thought might sell if discounted. To justify the usually large price cut, a small slice would be cut through the side of the case before shipping to the store. This was enough to classify the album as “damaged”, thus justifying the lower cost.
To my dismay, the records had become at least marginally warped over the years. However, other than a slight skip at the beginning of each side, both records play perfectly. I don’t feel that I can fault the seller too much as the album was sealed, so they may very well not have known what condition the vinyl was actually in.
House of Terror was released by Parade Records in 1982, although it appears that it was originally released by a Peter Pan Records at some earlier point. I was not able to obtain much info on that release, but I have read that it was almost identical. My assumption about the artwork’s origin appears to have been correct as the art was provided by comic legend Neil Adams, although he is not credited in the album’s liner notes or in the provided comic. Adams worked on multiple horror comics during the 1970’s, including the 2 that I mentioned earlier.
Record 1 Side 1:
Side A of the 1st record begins with a brief introduction from the “host”, who sounds like a cross between the Crypt Keeper and Peter Lorre. This segues into a short segment called “The Job Applicant”. In this short skit, a woman unwisely seeks employment at a castle full of monstrous miscreants and meets an unfortunate fate.
The next skit is entitled “A Visit to the Grave”, and is a continuation of the previous skit. In “Visit”, we find that the woman from the first story is now a listless spirit. Her soul cries out to her still-living husband from the depths of her grave. In the deepest reaches of slumber, the man hears his wife’s call and sleepwalks his way to her grave…. which presumably is not far from their house. Otherwise, that could be one Hell of a walk. Instead of finding the woman he loves, he finds what she has become. His fate is no kinder than her own.
The final skit is entitled “The Old Church In the Woods”. Playing off of the ending from the previous story, a couple wandering in the woods late at night encounter a werewolf. This skit was much more sound effects based than the previous two.
Record 1 Side 2:
This side starts out with a few of the best-known and most annoyingly over-played horror hits, namely “The Flying Purple People Eater”, “The Witch Doctor”, and “Monster Mash”, before segueing back into the short skits. The first of these is entitled “A Visit to Mansfield House” and features a caretaker leading a guest through an estate that also serves as the stomping grounds for a werewolf.
Next up is “Ghost Story”, which is a sound effects track of the goings-on inside a haunted house. This is followed by a short twangy little song in the same vein (pun intended) as the previous novelty tracks.
The record concludes with “Bloody Mary”. This one has nothing to do with the “Bloody Mary” mythology, but instead is a sound effects driven piece dealing with a woman named Mary who has become the snack for a thirsty vampire.
Record 2 Side 1:
The second record features a word for word recitation of the story presented in the comic contained within the album. As the story starts, a young couple are being chased through woods at night by a pack of hunting dogs. The couple is soon cornered, but before the dogs can pounce, a voice calls them off. The voice is that of the dogs’ owner, a blond mustachioed man with a heavy European accent. The actor’s performance is that of someone trying to give their best Bela Lugosi impression.
The owner apologizes for his dogs, after which the other man reveals that he is Vincent Von Frankenstein, the nephew of the notorious “mad doctor”, Baron Victor Von Frankenstein. The woman is his fiancee, Ericka. Vincent attempts to tell the man of the events that led to the Baron’s death, but the mysterious man already knows all about the doctor’s creation and the events that followed. The enraged villagers attempted to lynch Vincent and Ericka due solely to their relation to the notorious Baron.
The couple is then escorted to the man’s castle to rest the night. As Vincent takes a bath, he hears Ericka screaming from down the hall. He rushes out of the room in search, but their new “benefactor” intercepts him. He informs Vincent that he knows where Ericka is. The man leads Vincent to a lab that looks exactly like the Baron’s. The man informs Vincent that he will have to re-create the Baron’s experiments in order to create a servant for the man if he wants to see Ericka again.
With no other form of recourse, Vincent sets to re-creating his uncle’s experiment using bodies provided by the castle’s owner. The experiment is a success and a new “monster” is brought to life. As promised, Ericka is released. In the confusion and anger of its rebirth, the creature grabs Ericka and tosses her out the castle tower window. She falls the long way down, shattering her body on the ground far below. Somehow, she has survived the fall, but her body is broken and useless. As if this weren’t bad enough, she is then attacked by a werewolf as she lay crumpled on the ground below.
Ericka is soon found by a group of passing gypsies. The gypsies take her back to their camp and nurse her back to health, which is easier than expected due to the werewolf blood now coursing through her veins, only to make her their servant. She receives beatings if she does not heed their demands. The 1st side of Record 2 ends with Ericka left to her servitude.
Record 2 Side 2:
Ericka has completed her day’s chores and is chained to a wagon wheel to rest for the evening. She receives some sympathy from a simpleton named Torc who brings her food, but the man runs off in terror after seeing the pentagram marking that has formed on her hand. It is the night of the 1st full moon since Ericka was attacked by the werewolf…. and now she is changing into one herself.
In her new form, Ericka kills Bela, the man in charge of watching her. This brings the full attention of the gypsy camp, but they are quickly taken down by Ericka’s lycan form. As she fights her captors, a sound rips through the crowd. The sound of another werewolf! This is the one that originally attacked and turned Ericka.
The 2 werewolves fight. As the battle rages, a single shot is fired…. which hits the other werewolf. It dies and begins to revert to its human form…. revealing the human corpse left behind as that of Maleeva’s, the gypsy “queen”. Knowing that another bullet may soon come her way, Ericka flees the scene. She soon finds her way back to the castle where her husband is being forced to work on insane experiments against his will.
She makes her way to the laboratory, where Vincent and the madman are still trying to control their creation. Hearing the man’s voice fills Ericka with rage and she lunges at the man, but he tosses her aside like a mere pup. Angered by the attack, the man reveals himself to be Dracula. He vows to destroy Ericka, but also dictates to Vincent the reasons for having the Monster created. The monster is none too happy to hear that he is nothing more than a slave made to kill for Dracula’s dinner and attacks its “Master”. Their battle knocks over torches and the castle goes up in flames, presumably killing both creatures.
Vincent escapes with the assistance of the werewolf. The sun is rising as they exit, which reverts Ericka back to her human form. The couple leave the remains of the castle and the record ends with Vincent telling Ericka that he knows a doctor that might be able to help her end her curse.
House of Terror takes us back to the days when storytelling was a viable form of recorded entertainment, a time that feels further removed from today than it actually is. While not particularly “deep”, the record provides simple entertainment. There is nothing profound to be heard in the recordings presented on these albums, but the satisfaction derived from listening is timeless. Sure, the record could have been in better condition, but that is presumably an individual case and surely not indicative of all the copies currently available from sellers online.
As stated, copies can be found online for around $11-$15 dollars, depending on condition. While the albums contained are fairly short, the price tag is on average half of what the more recent soundtrack releases sell for from their respective vendors. As any collector of any item can tell you, those prices usually climb once that vendor runs out and the “secondhand” market dictates it’s “value”. As such a comparatively low price for a vintage collectible, House of Terror is a definite hit!