Tales of the Frightened comprises two volumes of spoken-word vinyl recordings, based on the writings of Michael Avallone. They were both released on the Mercury Records label in 1963. All the stories are read by Boris Karloff and feature subtle but sinister music and sound effects.
The 1950’s and 1960’s saw the release of many vinyl recordings of short, chilling tales, often featuring the ghoulish tones of horror stars of the silver screen; the two most prolific being Boris Karloff and Vincent Price, as not only were they well-know but also in possession of immediately recognisable voices.
Originally written in 1956 by Michael Avallone for a series of pulp magazines, Tales of the Frightened sadly only ran for two issues, but there was enough demand for the twenty-six stories to be collected into a paperback shortly afterwards. These were then presented to Karloff to record for radio broadcast (simply titled The Frightened, they are now believed lost) and were extremely popular. Mercury Records seized upon this and re-recorded thirteen of them across two vinyl records with musical atmospherics provided by early electronic music experimentalists, Tom Dissvelt and Kid Baltan who recorded under the name The Electrosoniks.
Michael Avallone was a prolific writer of what can easily be judged as throwaway chaff but is immensely readable; his works include his film tie-in novelisations of Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Friday 13th Part 3.
Each tale is introduced with typical Karloff faux-gravitas – “Are you one of the frightened?” and each lasts approximately five minutes, not allowing for any thumb-twiddling or kettle-boiling on the part of the listener. The language is deliriously rich and perhaps a little silly in retrospect but this undoubtedly adds to the charm “Do you whistle past the graveyard?”
Humbly marketed as “one of the most gripping narrative performances in the history of spoken word recording”, these recordings have never made their way onto CD and can be tricky to find in their original form.
Have a glass of port…