Archive for the ‘Dan Gutman’ Category


The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: March 11, 2013] The Get Rich Quick Club


I grabbed this audio book because I knew we were taking a longish trip and I wanted something for the kids to listen to.  It’s hard to find a book that both a 7-year-old boy and  5-year-old girl will enjoy (although truth be told, T. and C. are up for just about any story as long as the language isn’t too hard–nevertheless, I try to find stuff that’s age appropriate.  (Which means that the stories I’m excited for them to enjoy are about two years off yet) .  The library has a great online resource (Listen NJ) but the search features are awful–it’s really hard to search by age and it’s also hard to find stories that are a good length (2 hours or so). There’s so many that are 8 hours or 8 minutes.

But anyhow, I knew that Dan Gutman was a fun author (C. loves the whole My Weird School series) but I didn’t know this story.  And it turned out to be great.

The story is set in Maine.  It’s about five kids.   Gina Tumolois the leader.  She says right out that she always wanted to be rich.  Her hero is Bill Gates and she wants to be a millionaire before she is a teenager (she’s 11).  She is unabashed about her love of money.  And she is very bummed that she has none.

The summer starts and she is bored.  Because she has no money.  So she and her friend Robert , who hang out in the branches of the tree in the park behind their house start talking about what to do for the summer.  Then their friend Quincy comes over.  Quincy is my favorite character because she is from Australia and she speaks in Australian slang (which is very helpfully translated every time she speaks–you can learn a lot of great funny slang including some very finny words for “idiot” from this book).  There’s also the Boggle twins, 8 year old boys who are a pain–and unstoppable liars. (more…)

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