Test Prep is a series of essays that I occasionally write to complement episodes of The Terror Test, a horror podcast. The guys are currently setting up a new website (actually, they are currently on a “monster trip” in Europe, and then they’ll be setting up the new website–I’ll provide links when it goes live). You can hear episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. This originally coincided with The Conjuring and The Conjuring II episode.
In elementary school, I anticipated the monthly book orders more than anything but library or movie days. I didn’t have an allowance, but I was allowed to order books and I bought everything with sharks or comic strips. My interest in sharks gave way to ghosts and monsters, especially ones like Bigfoot and Nessie. I read titles like Peter Costello’s In Search of Lake Monsters until my cheap paperbacks crumbled into pieces. There were giant creatures all over North America. I had photographic evidence. No one I knew cared.
I met Ed and Lorraine Warren, the couple behind the characters in The Conjuring films, in one of those paperbacks: Satan’s Harvest: A Shocking Case of Demonic Possession. They looked like my grandparents, but were listed as “demonologists.” I knew that couldn’t be a real job and then I saw a picture of Ed teaching a class at an early form of The New England Society for Psychic Research. I had found my calling. I was going to be a demonologist. Or a ninja. I was also reading histories of martial arts and was keeping my options open.
I think one reason my first memory of the Warrens is so strong is that during that time it was hard to find material on these subjects. There weren’t ghost hunters on television. Found footage horror films weren’t a genre, though there were early versions infrequently available. There were shows that would feature cryptozoology, but they weren’t shown with any regularity, and definitely not as easy to find like Monster Quest or Ancient Aliens are today.
Like the photo of the Warrens, I got interested in artifacts, in particular, recordings. I searched for field recordings, found sound, and anything “bizarre” I could find that had been put on tape. Famously, the Warrens have an Occult Museum that visitors can tour. Ed died in 2006 and Lorraine seems to have retired [Note: Lorraine followed Ed this year.], but the museum, where Annabelle is housed, is still operational. I thought I’d offer a similar tour, an Occult Sound Museum, if you will.
Pre-Metal Military Mixtape
“Ghost Tape Number 10” or “Operation Wandering Soul” was broadcast into areas of Vietnam. A voice speaking in Vietnamese claims to be the wandering spirit of a dead soldier that urges others to “go home.” “Ghost Tape Number 10” was used by the 6th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Battalion and the Navy to confuse and frighten potential combatants. While I am by no means an expert, I’ve read varying reports of its success.
I think it was after the third mention in as many hours of “real” mermaid behavior that I finally stopped a class and asked what was going on. A mermaid documentary had aired the night before on Discovery or Animal Planet. In the biz, we call these “teachable moments.” But first I had to watch some mermaid footage and the documentary reminded me of how well the books on lake monsters captured the same feel as true crime books did, particularly with the middle section of grainy, black-and-white photos of crime scenes or giant underwater “faces.”
Even after I showed them the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) rebuttal, I know some were skeptical. I had flashbacks of eagerly telling my teachers about Sasquatch sightings. However, I did get interested when I found out that “The Bloop” mentioned was real and either recorded or archived by NOAA in 1997.
The Bloop lived in an imaginatively fertile field of “unknown sources” for a while. Speculation included giant sea mammals. Interestingly, the Bloop also triangulates to about 1,000 miles from where H.P. Lovecraft said the city of R’lyeh is in “The Call of Cthulhu.” The Bloop has been identified as an icequake and some have identified that as what they want us to believe.
As below, so above, right? As long as I’ve been listening to deep seas, I’ve been listening to space. One of my favorite recordings is a five-disc collection released by NASA called Symphonies of the Planets. Electromagnetic data from Voyager I and II were used to create this ambient, sometimes eerie, music. It’s out-of-print, but can still be found used and it’s available on YouTube for now.
Count von Count’s Easy Listening
I remember the first time I heard about the Numbers Stations. Even though it seems well-documented that they are products of intelligence and security organizations, the idea was not only cryptic, but apocalyptic. So, of course, I had to listen. Unmarked bootlegs helped give the listening event mood.
In 1997, a group of shortwave broadcasts were released as The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. The label, Irdial, is still doing work on the broadcasts.
The Greatest Hits Album Not Seen on TV
In Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Occult Museum, the possessed doll Annabelle, too dangerous to touch, sits under a glass dome. My final listing is also not for the ears of the easily disturbed. Occult Voices: Paranormal Music, Recordings of Unseen Intelligences, 1905-2007 is a fantastic document for anyone interested in unusual recordings. Glossolalia, exorcisms, possessions, electronic voice phenomena—it’s all here.
UbuWeb has permission to post the collection, but if you want a more enjoyable experience with continuous playback order the box set or find one used.
Leave a comment about any found sounds or bizarre field recordings that you think we should hear and remember to come back next week to find out if The Conjuring and The Conjuring II pass the Terror Test.
I like red peppers and Jan Švankmajer movies.
1. Current Listening: Lots of soul from Muscle Shoals
2. Current Viewing: A Hard Day's Night (1964).
3. Current Reading: H.G. Wells: In the Days of the Comet