All this month, I’ve been spotlighting rock songs that in one way or another, exude the Halloween spirit. There are a lot of worthy candidates I didn’t get to, including at least hundreds in the heavy metal genre. I also passed on novelty hits like Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” and Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” in order to give props to lesser known bands like Bohemia, Off Broadway, Over The Rhine, The Goldstars, Fingerprintz, and The Umbrellas. But I tried to present a good variety on my list by including songs from Blue Oyster Cult, Heart, The Hoodoo Gurus, Fleetwood Mac, Lene Lovich, R.E.M., The B-52’s, Queen, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Warren Zevon, Ministry, and David Bowie. And now, the rock artist who gets the honor of appearing in the 31 Songs For Halloween finale is . . . Henry Mancini???
“Experiment In Terror” has a slow, ominous beat and twanging guitars that conjure images of a monster creeping along some darkened street, but it was composed for a 1962 cops and robbers movie called Experiment In Terror. In the Chicago area, this song is much better known as the theme for Creature Features, which presented old time horror movies like House Of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy’s Ghost on WGN every Saturday night from 1970 to 1976. In addition to “Experiment In Terror,” the show opened with a poem, which according to the “Unofficial” Creature Features website was written by WGN staffer Karen Verwolf. From what I can tell, that’s her real name. Werewolf? There, wolf. There, castle. Why am I quoting from Young Frankenstein? Anyway, Verwolf’s lines like, “Gruesome ghouls and grisly ghosts, wretched souls and cursed hosts” were read by Marty McNeely and Carl Greyson, both of whom served as announcer during the show’s run.
To be honest, “Experiment In Terror” wasn’t even on my 31 Songs For Halloween list until my wife Pam suggested it about halfway through October. I realized it would make a great finale since it will be forever linked to that horrifying guy in the top hat and cloak in the minds of many Chicagoans. In my comedy group Famous In The Future, we used “Experiment In Terror” to introduce a satirical skit I had written about the workplace called “Night Of The Living Temps.”
“Experiment In Terror” recalls our youthful fascination with monsters, the hours we spent trick or treating, carving pumpkins, and going to neighborhood Halloween parties in garages or basements. Plus, it’s a great song. In addition to the eerie guitars, a string arrangement adds drama and a cinematic feel. Later, there’s even a sexy sounding saxophone that puts the vamp in vampire. Have a fun time partying today. Happy Halloween.