Year of Release: 1963
Label: Mercury (MG 20815 / MG 20816)
Genre: Ghost Stories / Spoken Word
1. The Vampire Sleeps
2. Mirror of Death
3. Never Kick A Black Cat
4. The Ladder
6. Voice From The Grave
Two classic volumes of ghost stories narrated by Boris Karloff for your listening pleasure. There is actually a lengthy tale behind how these recordings came to be, but I’ll do my best to summarize the story for you. Apparently sometime in the late ’50s/early ’60s there was a syndicated radio feature titled “The Frightened”, which didn’t really get off the ground. No one seems to know exactly how many episodes of this series were broadcast, and none of the original recordings exist. The radio viginettes were written by Michael Avallone and read by Boris Karloff. A magazine of the same name served as a tie-in, with each issue containing one of the viginettes Years later these stories were published in a paperback format entitled “Tales of the Frightened”. That same year Mercury Records released two volumes of Karloff reading these stories as a phonograph record.
These recordings are considered by many collectors to be among the best ghost story albums from this time. Karloff does a masterful job of narrating, creating an eery atmosphere that few others could match. Someone on a forum I frequent wrote: “He has a reassuring, grandfatherly quality, but manages to come across as foreboding at the same time.” These stories aren’t designed to scare the living hell out of you, opting more for the “Twilight Zone” or “Outer Limits” approach.
William Henry Pratt (23 November 1887 – 2 February 1969), better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor.
Karloff is best remembered for his roles in horror films and his portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). His popularity following Frankenstein was such that for a brief time he was billed simply as “Karloff” or “Karloff the Uncanny.” His best-known non-horror role is as the Grinch, as well as the narrator, in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966).
Karloff was born at 36 Forest Hill Road, Honor Oak, London, England, where a blue plaque can now be seen. His parents were Edward John Pratt, Jr. and Eliza Sarah Millard. His paternal grandparents were Edward John Pratt, an Anglo-Indian, and Eliza Julia (Edwards) Pratt, a sister of Anna Leonowens (whose tales about life in the royal court of Siam [now Thailand] were the basis of the musical The King and I). The two sisters were also of Anglo-Indian heritage.
Karloff grew up in Enfield. He was the youngest of nine children, and following his mother’s death was brought up by his elder siblings. He later attended Enfield Grammar School before moving to Uppingham School and Merchant Taylors’ School, and went on to attend King’s College London where he studied to go into the consular service. He dropped out in 1909 and worked as a farm labourer and did various odd jobs until he happened into acting. His brother, Sir John Thomas Pratt, became a distinguished British diplomat. Karloff was bow-legged, had a lisp, and stuttered as a young boy. He conquered his stutter, but not his lisp, which was noticeable all through his career.