Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899 in Essex, England. He wasn’t a particularly creative child. In fact, he didn’t really seem to show any creative spark until after World War I, when he began submitting short stories for the in-house publication of the telegraph company that he worked for. Because of his writing skills, he was promoted to the advertising department, where the creative bug took hold. Hitch was soon writing ad copy and drawing advertising graphics, which he credits for allowing him his first opportunity in filmmaking.
In 1919, Hitchcock got a job at the London office of Paramount Pictures as a title card artist. However, the office was willing to let anyone try their hand at filmmaking jobs they had an interest in, so Hitchcock wound up co-writing, and serving as art director and production manager on several silent films. When Paramount left London in 1922, Hitchcock was hired by Gainsborough Pictures, where he was responsible for writing, producing, doing set design, and serving as assistant director.
Hitchcock would have various roles on many films until his big break as a director, 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. From there, it was off to the races for Hitchcock’s career, leading to timeless classics like The 39 Steps, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho, just to name a few. During this time, because he was working so much in the crime and murder mystery genres, Hitchcock became something of a brand associated with the macabre.
To that end, Hitchcock licensed his name to the long-running Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine, a digest publication specializing in crime and detective stories. From 1955 until 1965, he was the on-screen host of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, a television drama that featured murder mysteries and horror stories. And in 1962, as a tie-in to the television show, Hitchcock lent his talents to the album, Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People, released by Golden Records.
Golden Records was a children’s music label that was a branch of the book publishing company Simon & Schuster. The label primarily released nursery rhymes and classic kids songs in the same vein as their Little Golden Books for children that have been popular since the 1940s. But they often dabbled in kid-friendly licensed material like songs by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and the Jetsons.
Ghost Stories for Young People has been re-released a handful of times under a few different labels. Wonderland Records released it in 1974, 1979, 1982, and even had a Canadian release on cassette tape in 1988. It was released in 2001 on CD by Image Entertainment and the LP got another release, this time in Europe, as recently as 2013, by Marathon Media. Much like the ghosts in the stories that Hitchcock presents, this album simply will not go gently into that good night.
While the scary stories on this album do bear the mark of Hitchcock, they are assuredly made for kids. By today’s standards, one might call them “spoopy”. Side A features three stories – The Haunted and the Haunters, The Magician, and Johnny Takes a Dare. Side B has The Open Window, The Helpful Hitchhiker, and Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons.
If you’d like to listen to Ghost Stories for Young People, check out this episode of my podcast, When You Hear This Sound!