Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tricks & Treats 09: And Now A Few Ghost Stories . . .

My father earned a living during his teen years as an usher in a movie theater. Back then it was pretty common to have ushers that showed you to your seat and also passed out promotional items to the customers. He loved to tell the story of the time he had to come in early when the theater was showing the film, "The Tingler". The reason for his coming in early was to help wire the seats with a device similar to a joy buzzer. At a crucial moment in the film, the screen would go black and the announcer would shout, "The Tingler is loose in the theater" at which point the seat buzzers would be activated. If you think about it, gimmicks like that were the precursor to today's "4-D" films that are shown in various theme parks around the world. The king of these gimmicks was a man named William Castle. Some of his other gags included certificates for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London given to each customer in case he/she should die of fright during the film, "Macabre"; an inflatable glow in the dark skeleton attached to a wire floating over the audience during the final moments of some showings of "The House on Haunted Hill"; the passing out of a "Magic" (gold colored plastic) coin during the film "Zotz", which, of course, did absolutely nothing. The list goes on and on. In 1972, Peter Pan Records released an album of Ghost Stories entitled, "Ghost Story_ Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of Fright & the Supernatural". This LP was something of a tie-in to the NBC anthology show that Castle produced from '72-'73. The show was called "Ghost Story" but aside from the tracks on Side One being dubbed "The Horrors of Mansfield House" there's no real connection. There's certainly Castle-esque hype slathered all over the cover though; "This record should not be listened to by the very young or tender-hearted", it shouts. "This recording is definitely not recommended for children under eight years of age". It seems that the record was yet another gag aimed at the public to attain their interest in the mighty William Castle's work. Here it is for you now. Enjoy!

Ghost Story_ Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of Fright & the Supernatural

1 comment:

Dex1138 said...

I'd read all about Castle's gimmicky theater tricks and think he's an absolute genius. I remember the first time I watched the Tingler a couple years ago and that scene during the blackout just blew me away!
It gets loose in a movie theater and then you're in a pitch black theater and random people are getting buzzed in their seats..shear genius!!

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