The "Castle Thunder" Noise that Rocked a Thousand Movies

Illustration for article titled The Castle Thunder Noise that Rocked a Thousand Movies

On Friday we told you about the pervasive use of the Wilhelm Scream through movies, tv shows, and video games, but today we bring you something even closer to the hearts of science fiction history: Castle Thunder. It's been used to bring assembled body parts back to life, to send people back to the future, and to herald the ominous approach of spooky evil mad scientists who want to shrink you and your friends down to miniature size. Find out all about this multi-purpose noise below.

  • The sound was originally recorded in 1931 for Frankenstein, and it quickly became a staple for haunted houses, spooky castles, and impending bad weather on film soundtracks everywhere.
  • Originally recorded on optical film stock, most modern day version are 15th generation (or older) copies, meaning you can no longer hear the original crackles and pops that are apparent on the original.
  • The sound was featured in Star Wars, courtesy of Ben Burtt again, and can be heard during the trench run sequence on the Death Star.
  • The most famous science fiction use of the sound (besides Frankenstein) was probably when the Delorean was struck by lightning in Back to the Future. In fact, we're surprised they don't use that sound effect when anything gets struck by lightning. It's just so perfect. Maybe because I can't get it out of my head right now.
  • Other science fiction films that latched on the Castle Thunder were: Ghostbusters, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Big Trouble in Little China (okay, we know this is fantasy... but c'mon), Short Circuit, The Land Before Time, The Monster Squad, and of course Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.
  • The sound can be heard multiple times every day inside The Haunted Mansion as both Disneyland and Disney World, most famously in the stretching room when the host suggest a "way out." Cue the thunder and screams.
  • The sound effect was a favorite on Scooby Doo, and could be heard during the opening credits. However, they later "retired" the sound from the show in 1988 to make way for digitally recorded thunderclaps. The bastards.
  • However, it's still featured prominently in the opening to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, so there is still some cartoon love for the sound going on out there.
  • For my money, the best usage of the sound was in the opening sequence to Dr. Shrinker, which was part of the Krofft Supershow. One day I'll devote an entire triviagasm to this show, trust me.

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Hmm..wha'? sorry, it's FIRST type THEN submit isn't it?

(I believe the term is n00b)

I was wondering about the stock footage that often accompanies the Castle Thunder. You know, just a brief bit of a big trifurcated lightning boltI remember it was definitely used in the color opening sequences on Gilligan' Island and in Young Frankenstein. It shows up a lot. Does it have name like "Whilelm-" or "Castle-"? Just curious.