|Originally Performed By||Phish|
|Lyrics By||Jimmy Johnson|
|Vocals||Laura Olsher (Narration Samples)|
|Historian||Parker Harrington (tmwsiy)|
Haunted houses are integral memories of practically every child’s life growing up.
First, there is the haunted house trope that is commonly explored in TV shows, movies, books, video games, and all other forms of media. There are entire movie and book franchises centered around haunted houses. Children are first exposed to haunted houses in literature or movies with something as innocuous as “Scooby-Doo” or “The Hardy Boys.” The exposure to haunted houses then becomes a little more real when kids are taken to haunted houses at carnivals, fairs or set up around Halloween as a fundraiser for the local PTO. All sorts of ghastly creatures, demons, ghosts, apparitions and “Freddy” style psychopathic characters jump out from hidden corridors and give kids looking for candy more than they bargained for.
Then, of course, there is the actual house in the area of most every neighborhood that is speculated to be haunted. Every kid knows the house to avoid (or the target for some “legend tripping”)….. the one at the end of the block that has been unoccupied for years, the one that is grossly oversized for the meek widow that currently inhabits it, the one by the side of the tracks with the rumors of a gruesome murder from a bygone era….. etc. The physical house is often gothic looking, very old, massively large with unkempt grounds, and quintessentially “scary” looking.
Discussing childhood memories of “Haunted Houses” would not be complete for millions of adults today without reflecting on the hours spent listening to the 1964 Disney classic “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.” The LP was an instant hit and went on to sell millions of copies and certified Gold by the RIAA. The ten-track first side of the album contains stories of misfortune and doom for a character-centered around various phobias and fears. The second side of the album has groups of sound effects like “Thunder, Lightning, and Rain,” “A Collection of Creaks,” and “Fuses and Explosions.”
While many fans walking into the MGM Grand on Halloween, 2014 were confused after seeing the Phishbill as they were not old enough to remember the album, it instantly brought back a flood of memories for others. And even with that - there was still a lot of confusion. The big question was how would Phish interpret and “play” the short 20-minute album and transform it into a full set of music?
“High on a hilltop, near your home, there stands a dilapidated old mansion. Some say the place is haunted, but you don’t believe in such myths. One dark and stormy night a light appears in the topmost window of the old house! You decide to investigate . . . and you never return…”
The band was no stranger to creating a new album of original material having just performed Wingsuit the prior year at Boardwalk Hall and would go on to perform their famous Kasvot Växt set on All Hallows’ Eve 2018.
The dark and eerie “Haunted House” track itself set the stage wonderfully for the ensuing album of new music with dark metal riffs, wicked synthesizers, a frenetic tempo, and a psychotic, pulsing rhythm; as well as sounds of shrieking cats, ominous wailing, and other assorted sound-effect errata. It was clear relatively quickly that Phish was in its collective element where they thrive the best; being creative and pushing the boundaries of what they’ve done before. Phish’s famous saying, “Our intent is all for your delight” could not have been more apt with the extraordinary details that went into the set. Everything did indeed delight the fans - the band being revealed from the haunted house, the extraordinary lighting from Chris Kuroda, the imaginative costuming and all the other details worked well together. It would not be hard to argue that this set was one of Phish's finest Halloween performances in their storied career.
A few of the songs from Chilling, Thrilling worked their way into many setlists; most notably “Martian Monster,” “Your Pet Cat” and “The Dogs.” Yet nearly five years after its debut, “Haunted House” remains, along with a couple of other songs, unplayed again. Time will tell if Phish takes us back high onto the hilltop to the dilapidated mansion again.
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