Official Site (Label)
The Phantom of the Organ/The Vampyre at the Harpsichord, Electric Lemon Records 2000 (Original release dates: 1972 and 1974)
Verne Langdon had practically done it all before passing away in 2011. He had worked in television and movies, he ran a wrestling gym and created countless monster masks for the legendary Don Post Studios. In fact, he once co-owned that particular company! As someone who started practicing music as a child it was only natural that he would end up creating numerous albums for labels like Dejavu Record Company and Electric Lemon Records (the latter of which he ran with his friend Milt Larsen). There were releases filled with romantic music, comedic tunes from his “Johann Sebastian Bork” character and, yes, he got to indulge his love of the macabre many times. Verne Langdon was sort of a one man Midnight Syndicate in his day. In addition to the subjects of this article, he also created themed albums like Music for Magicians, Halloween Spooktacular and Dr. Druid’s Haunted Seance. That last album acted as both the soundtrack to and instructions for a theatrical séance, complete with haunting voices from beyond! Although these vinyl releases were sold in stores, many know them from their appearances in the “Captain Company” ads which appeared in countless magazines from Warren Publications during the 70’s and 80’s. Selections from his various albums have appeared on the radio and on numerous television shows and his spooky music has appeared in numerous professional and home haunts across America. After a lengthy hiatus from that genre, he eventually returned with Music For Zombies and Music For Dead Things in the early 2000’s.
The story of how The Phantom of the Organ and its kin came to be is an interesting one. The year was 1972. Milt Larsen and Verne Langdon were having drinks at the Magic Castle and discussed how their 1967 album An Evening with Boris Karloff & His Friends had been pulled from the shelves due to licensing issues over movie clips, which were apparently caused by a lawsuit between Bela Lugosi’s heirs and Universal. They had been unable to regain control of the album at the time and decided to create their own album of scary music. As Langdon has provided the music for An Evening with Boris Karloff & His Friends and the backing music for the Magic Castle’s Houdini séance, he was a natural choice to create the music for their new project. The decision to create an entirely original collection of music for Halloween was commendable considering how many “Halloween albums” of the time were content to reuse material over and over again. The only reuse here was how it was recorded at the same studio and on the same Wurli-Morton pipe organ used for the séance! The release was a smash success and fans quickly requested more albums like it. The rest is history.
I love the creepy introduction to “Horror of Erik.” It’s a perfect blend of moody organ work and other instruments (along with some soft moaning). Not only does it provide something you can use instead of “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” in your phantom organist scene, but it also sounds like something you’d hear as the theme to an old horror anthology show! It’s also a neat reference to the Phantom of the Opera. “Depression” has an eerie buildup which transitions into low, slow organ work. It admittedly sounds bit like something from an soap opera at times, but that could be said for many of the organ tracks. “Symphony of Death” starts off powerful and heavy, only to tones things down later. However, the sense of unease is always present. That’s why I think it’s perfect for any haunted house’s funeral home. The organ work in “Dementia Macabre” might begin with a soft, lurking feel but it picks up soon enough. The track certainly lives up to its name and would fit in with any spooky room. It’s also a great opening track for the first room of an attraction themed around a haunted mansion. The moaning and moody tones of “The Devil’s Love” are like something out of a dark soap opera. “Sound Trip Through the Catacombs” is the album’s longest track and runs over 8 minutes! The listener can hear the sound of a horse-drawn carriage on cobblestones, along with talking people and soft music. But then the Phantom of the Opera strikes! His heavy breathing and evil laughter immediately cause a commotion and he’s soon heard running through a wet catacomb to escape. Although the authorities can be heard, this doesn’t stop the Phantom from terrifying more people. There’s even some storm sound effects thrown in for good measure! Play this softly in some catacombs of your own when guests exit your phantom organist setup. That way it will sound like the organist is out wreaking havoc in elsewhere while looking for your guests. “Echos of the Organ” closes things out with some epic “bad dream” music and spooky organ work.