Ghostly Sounds is a perfect model of the virtues of this marvelous, undying part of the whole, harmless Halloween bacchanal. These “spooky sounds” records (For lack of a better name) are, like other, more traditional sound effects albums and tapes, composed of a variety of horrific noises, usually tied together by narration. They are familiar to almost any kid. A perfect cross-section of the kind of effects that might wind up on a given spooky sounds album can be found on the Ghostly Sounds record jacket: “Flying Bats; Walking Monsters; Cackling Witches; Screeching Cats; Rattling Chains; Haunting Ghosts; Shrieks of Horror and many, many more scary sounds.”
The sounds themselves were only half of the show, though. The cover art, like George Peed’s Ghostly Sounds art (whoever the terrific, unheralded George Peed is!) was often a marvel in and of itself to a monster-fixated, juvenile consciousness. The best of these records had cover illustrations that precisely accomplished the treacherous balancing act between deeply frightening and harmlessly juvenile images. The Ghostly Sounds cover, with its top-hatted vampire with skull cufflinks, textbook haunted house, and fanged skeletons was diffused by a dopey, grinning monster and the most unthreatening cartoon frog in the history of comic art. But, as added bonus thrills, there was one pupil-less monster, and the stern warning “Not for the very young.” If anything would get an eight-year-old hot and bothered to hear a record, it would be that little test of his manhood. Almost every one of these albums’ covers features a grotesque, Charles Addams-ish haunted house. Why did these houses never seem to exist in any real neighborhoods?
With its narrator ever present to guide us through Halloween territory, Ghostly Sounds begins with marvelous effects of wailing, cackling witches, and their bizarre spell-casting. Howling wolves and keening cats are heard. All the while, the eerie noise of wind purrs in the background. Many of the album’s effects, all untitled, were done on a synthesizer, and those awful canned music machines were seldom used to better effect.