Boris Karloff: “Tales Of The Frightened”.

Are you one of the frightened…?”

Boris Karloff almost always opened “Tales Of The Frightened” with that question.
The way he asked it was always corpse cool and slightly more sinister each time too.

“Tales Of The Frightened” is a 2 volume record collection of short, creepy little horrror tales told by Mr. Halloween himself, Boris Karloff.
It was recorded for the radio in the late 1950’s and released in the early 60’s.

I have a lot of obscure records in my collection but these may be my favourites.

The stories were all written by Michael Avallone and narrated by Karloff.
There was creepy music and amazing sound effects making “Tales Of The Frightened” something pretty special.

And that’s just what it is folks, special.
I once  heard a rumour that Karloff did all the sound effects himself-live on “Tales Of The Frightened”. Could that be true?

I have both of these records and I listen to them all the time.
My imagination goes all over the place when I turn the lights down and drop the needle.

I don’t want to completely give the game away but here’s an example of what you can expect:

Last week, I began to wonder if there was ever a 3rd volume in the series and although there never was, I found something just as interesting.

“Tales Of The Frightened” has had a makeover with Vernon Wells (Bennett in the classic film “Commando”) taking Boris Karloff’s seat and all new spooky music has been added by Eban Schletter.
I bought it straight away and it is very VERY good.
Ideal for scaring the shit outta the kids at Halloween and available on itunes.

Karloff’s original “Tales Of The Frightened” records aren’t as easy to get a hold of these days but MP3 files are out there if you look hard enough.


After I published this short write up, Mr. David Avallone got in touch. David is the son of Michael Avallone who wrote all of the original “Tales Of The Frightened” stories.
David is also the main man behind the new “Tales Of The Frightened” starring the great cult movie actor Vernon Wells.

I was really curious to know about Michael Avallone’s original stories and how the new and updadted “Tales Of The Frightened” project came about so I emailed and asked Mr. Avallone a few questions and surprisingly, he emailed straight back!

And here it is:

Once upon a time, in 1956, my father, Michael Avallone, edited a magazine called TALES OF THE FRIGHTENED. It was supposed to be a launching point for a radio show of the same name, with Boris Karloff reading dad’s horror short stories.

Unfortunately… radio AND pulp magazines were both dying in popularity at the time. The pulp magazine ran only two issues. So the stories written by my father were recycled as a paperback novel.

The paperback had 26 stories, and was reprinted at least eight times in the US, and several times overseas. The Boris Karloff recordings were recycled as a pair of spoken word albums… stories read by Karloff, set to edited tracks from an early electronic music group called “The Electrosoniks”. Mercury Records released the two LPS in 1961 and I’m sure livened many a swinging sixties Halloween party.

Since my father’s death, I’ve been looking for various ways to keep his work in the public eye, with varying degrees of success. I did a web series based on his last “Ed Noon” detective novel in 1999 (SINCE NOON YESTERDAY) but I think we were a little ahead of our time there. Web series are still a rocky proposition… in 1999 it was positively foolish.

In the summer of 2009, I started thinking about TALES OF THE FRIGHTENED. My family owns the copyright on the stories, but not the music or Karloff’s voice and image. When I mused aloud about redoing the stories, my sister Susan said, “What about your friend Vernon? He has a great voice.”

By “your friend Vernon”, Susan was referring to the great Australian cult film icon Vernon Wells, star of THE ROAD WARRIOR, COMMANDO, INNERSPACE and a million POWER RANGERS episodes. Vernon also starred in a little kick-boxing action movie called KICK OF DEATH, written and directed by yours truly in 1997… and we’d been friends ever since. The idea had passed my mind before, and the timing seemed right. So I called up Vernon and enlisted him to the cause.

The original album gained a large part of its spooky appeal from the (then groundbreaking) electronic music. I needed a composer who understood horror, and could create a sound that was retro without even a hint of kitsch. The obvious choice was another good friend, Eban Schletter. Eban has done music for the tv shows SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, DRAWN TOGETHER, and a feature film remake of THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI. By lucky coincidence, Eban was just wrapping up a Halloween-themed record called THE WITCHING HOUR, which was released last year by Oglio Records.

So in the summer of 2009, Vernon came into the studio and read eight of Dad’s stories. Eban got to work on the music, and we had a demo version of the album available in time for Comic-Con.

Now the album is finished… and last October, TALES OF THE FRIGHTENED 2010, written by Michael Avallone, read by Vernon Wells, music by Eban Schletter hit the shelves (digital and otherwise), released by Oglio. Fifty-four years after the original publication and forty-nine years after the original album.

Hope that enlightens. Thanks again for the kind words. Me and Eban and Vernon are very proud of the album, but it’s such a strange product (who does spoken word albums anymore?) that it’s been slow going publicizing it.


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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I remember this series, might have to have a look out for it:-)

    • It comes highly recommended my friend 🙂

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Alan. I was hoping fans of the old one would stumble upon the new one…

  3. Thanks David.
    You fellers did a great job!
    And thanks for getting back to me 🙂

  4. […] a couple of ridiculous replies (The Colour Purple?) David Avallone chimed in with this: “The movie was called “Thursday”, and her name is Porizkova. […]

  5. I had a copy of the book in high school and used to do interpretive readings of it in my Speech classes and drama courses imitating Karloff’s golden tones.

    • I think me and you would’ve been pals had we been at the same school 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!

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