In 1977, the BBC released "Death & Horror" — an album of horror-themed sound effects which (unlike most sound-effect records) made its way onto the UK's Top 100 charts. The entire album is on YouTube, so perhaps some of you might find a use for it this Halloween.
The success of the album attracted a prominent critic. As reported by the Associated Press (Mar 17, 1977):
A new BBC record contains sound effects of a stake being driven through a heart, an arm being sawn off, a hot poker gouging out an eye and other grisly tidbits. Self-appointed decency campaigner Mary Whitehouse says she is "horrified" by it.
She called the record "utterly irresponsible" and said Wednesday she will ask the government to ban it.
The publicly financed British Broadcasting Corp., a generally sedate organization known to many Britons as "Auntie BBC," said the long-playing record was intended for drama groups, owed most of its effects to "the mistreatment of large white cabbages," was made "without the loss of a single member of the staff" and assuredly was no cause for alarm. . .
Mrs. Whitehouse, who has campaigned against stage nudity and pornography such as a proposed film on the sex life of Jesus Christ, sent protests to the head of the BBC, Sir Michael Swann, and said she will complain to Home Secretary Merlyn Rees.
"What is the BBC's aim?" she asked. "To brutalize and desensitize people?"
Execution And Torture
00:01 The Guillotine
00:10 Arm Chopped Off
00:15 Head Chopped Off
00:22 Sawing Head Off
00:31 Leg Chopped Off
00:38 Neck Twisted And Broken
00:43 Arm Broken
00:49 Stake Driven Through Heart
00:55 Branding Iron On Flesh
01:08 Red Hot Poker Into Eye
01:18 Nails Hammered Into Flesh
01:40 The Scaffold (Trap Opens, Body Falls)
01:50 Sawing Leg Off
02:08 The Firing Squad (Commands And Volley)
03:15 Three Gun Shots
03:27 Burning At The Stake
04:00 Dagger Thrown Into Wood
04:08 Arrows Fired Into Wood
04:20 The Pendulum
Monsters And Animals
04:55 The Mad Gorilla
06:05 Monsters Roaring
06:36 Wolf Howling
06:58 Werewolves Howling
07:22 Wolves Baying At The Moon
08:00 Wolves Howling And Snarling
08:48 The Hell-Hound (Growling And Snarling)
09:28 The Hell-Hound (Panting)
09:48 Bats Calling
10:24 Bats Squeaking And Flying
11:00 Dracula In Flight
11:55 Snake Hissing
12:58 A Cat Howl
Creaking Doors And Grave Digging
13:10 Creaky Door Closes
13:19 Creaky Door Opens
13:28 Creaky Door Closes
13:40 Heavy Creaky Door Opens
13:49 Coffin Lid Closes
13:59 Nailing Coffin Lid Down
14:31 Coffin Lid Opening
14:47 Assorted Creepy Creaks
15:30 Crypt Door Closing
15:45 Grave Digging (In Stoney Ground)
16:36 Grave Digging (In Wet Ground)
17:25 Portcullis Closing
Musical Effects And Footsteps
17:38 Phantom Of The Opera (Organ Sounds)
18:44 Ghostly Piano Sound (Low Pitch)
19:01 Ghostly Piano Sound (Low Pitch)
19:23 Ghostly Piano Sound (Low Pitch)
19:40 Ghostly Piano Sound (High Pitch)
19:51 Ghostly Piano Sound (High Pitch)
20:10 Ghostly Piano Sound (High Pitch)
20:22 The Lost Chord
22:05 A Gong Roll
21:22 Gong Struck Once
21:45 Ghostly Footsteps (With Chains)
22:40 Squelching Footsteps
Vocal Effects And Heartbeats
23:21 Strangulation (Male)
23:35 One Scream (Male)
23:43 Two Screams (Male)
24:00 Three Men Screaming
24:10 Heavy Breathing (Male)
24:45 Two Screams (Female)
24:59 Three Screams (Female)
25:15 One Long Scream (Female)
25:30 Two Women Screaming
25:44 One Woman Sobbing
26:23 Heavy Breathing (Female)
26:55 Lunatics Laughing
27:44 Human Heartbeats
28:25 Electronic Heartbeats
28:57 Frankenstein's Heartbeats
Weather, Atmospheres And Bells
29:35 Three Thunderclaps
30:15 Thunderclaps And Rain
30:54 Approaching Thunder
31:15 Rain And Distant Thunder
32:31 Heavy Rain
33:25 Eerie Wind
34:29 Weird Wind
35:23 Cathedral Bell Tolling
35:52 Church Bell Tolling
36:28 Church Bell Tolling In The Wind
37:15 Wind Howling In Ship's Rigging
38:02 Jungle At Night
38:43 Tropical Atmosphere At Night
39:23 The Electronic Swamp
40:44 Dr. Jekyll's Lab
41:23 Midnight In The Graveyard
43:30 Daytime In The Graveyard
44:35 The Chinese Water Torture
45:39 Boiling Oil
In 1969, Alfred Mardarello et al. were granted a patent for a "noisemaking device" which could be attached to a missile. When the missile was fired and flying through the air, their gadget would create "weird, alien sounds" intended to terrify the enemy. From their patent:
The invention relates to a projectile that is adapted to produce frightening noises while in flight, whereby such alien sounds will have a terrrifying effect on people nearby.
The psychological effects of weird or unexpected noises, which accompany an artillery projectile or missile, have been explored in many ways, prior to this invention, with minimum results. The Germans, in World War II, attached a noise producing device to aerial bombs, somewhat similar in construction to the organ pipe. A high pitched noise was created. This could be used only on large bombs and was too massive for use on artillery projectiles...
The insufficiencies of the prior art are overcome by the noisemaking adapter of the instant invention. The adapter ring is so designed that they attach to an existant missile without requiring modification of said missile. Centrifugal force, as a result of the spinning motion of the missile after being fired, causes the noisemaking arms or fins to extend and to produce weird, alien sounds of such magnitude as to be heard over a substantial area. The psychological effect, to create panic to those in the vicinity, is thus effected.
I have no idea if this patent was ever used in combat. But I don't really understand the point of making something that's already terrifying (a missile) even more terrifying by having it produce weird, alien sounds. Isn't the terror of the missile itself enough?
Operation Wandering Soul was a propaganda campaign and large scale psychological warfare attempt exercised by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War...
U.S. engineers spent weeks recording eerie sounds and altered voices, which pretended to be killed Viet Cong, for use in the operation, with the intended purpose of instilling a sense of turmoil within the enemy, the desired result being for the soldier to flee his position. The tape, dubbed Ghost Tape Number Ten, was played on loudspeakers outside U.S. bases.
I've come across reports in early 20th-century newspapers of an invention, designed to stop snoring, that worked by directing the sounds of the snoring into the snorer's own ear.
Oakland Tribune - Nov 26, 1933
I'm not sure if anyone ever really built this device, or if it was just a joke repeated by reporters.
The earliest report of it I've been able to find ran in newspapers in 1871. It attributed its invention to an unnamed woman from Iowa. However, I haven't been able to find a record of anything resembling this in the U.S. Patent Office, although there are numerous patents for anti-snoring devices.
Accelerators have inspired a number of weird inventions. For example, a few years ago we posted about the "Deaccelerator" which was a device that aimed to prevent speeding by making it harder to depress the pedal in your car once you reached a pre-set speed (usually 50 mph).
And yet another odd accelerator invention is the whistling accelerator. The idea is that if the accelerator is depressed too rapidly it will produce an annoying whistle. This will remind the driver not to accelerate too quickly, thereby saving gas.
Another whistling accelerator was patented in 2012. Its design was more sophisticated, but it was overall the same idea — accelerate too quickly and the thing starts whistling. The patentees described it as a "vehicle fuel efficiency monitor and signalling device".
Personally, I'm content to drive without any bells or whistles attached to the accelerator.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.