Witchcraft – Magic: An Adventure in Demonology is a 1969 spoken word album, featuring the florid tones of horror legend Vincent Price as he discusses the world of witchcraft and the occult in all forms across four sides of vinyl, clocking in at an impressive (and exhaustive) 105 minutes.
While Price would crop up as narrator on albums by Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson (Thriller) in later years, this is his magnum opus – a book-length study of witchcraft, produced by Roger Karshner and released by Capitol Records. Terry d’Oberoff is credited as both composer and director, while the impressive stereo sound effects were supplied by Douglas Leedy, a pioneer of late Sixties electronic experimentalism. There is no credit for the text, though it seems likely that this too is d’Oberoff.
The LP consists of Price telling tales of witchcraft and devil worship – not fictional horror stories, but factual (well, factual-ish) accounts of historical events and aspects of the occult, helpfully split into various chapters on the sleeve – ‘Hitler and Witchcraft’, ‘Women as Witches’, ‘The World of Spirits and Demons’ and so on.
Price seems to have fun with the more lurid descriptions, his voice and (most likely) tongue in cheek attitude giving a gleefully macabre and somewhat leering tone to lines like “fornication with the Devil, child sacrifice, feasts of rotting human flesh” and “the tearing of her flesh with pincers, her body broken on the wheel, her fingernails ripped off, her feet thrust into a fire, whatever horrors the twisted mind of the hangman could devise” in the two part section entitled ‘Witch Tortures’.
A surprising amount of the album actually seems to be a ‘how to’ guide to witchcraft, with handy chapters on ‘How to invoke spirits, demons, unseen forces’, ‘how to make a pact with the Devil’ and ”Curses, Spells, Charms’. “Of course you should never resort to this… except in the case of the most dire necessity” says Price of selling your soul to Satan, giving a little chuckle as he does so, before going on to give full and frank instructions nevertheless. Oh those Satanic Sixties!
Price’s narration is occasionally interspersed with Macbeth-like witches cackling away in heavily treated manner. These are possibly the most over the top moments of the album, but they work as dramatic interludes.
The music by d’Oberoff is impressively creepy and discordant, as are the sound effects, which float from speaker to speaker in the way that only records from the early days of stereo did – even Price’s voice moves from left to right and back, adding a sense of displacement to the narration.
This is not easy listening, and neither is it the most approachable of audio books. But fans of Price and anyone interested in the occult will probably enjoy it. If nothing else, it’s a curious artefact from a time when public fascination with witchcraft, Satanism and black magic was at its peak.
Originally released as a double album with accompanying booklet, the album has been issued on a CD of dubious legality and can also be found online if you look hard enough.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA