elden’s wilhelm scream
April 20, 2012
My long national nightmare is over.
Okay, I’m being dramatic. Well, someone is being dramatic. Maybe it’s not me.
We’ve all heard of Elden’s scream, right? I mean, I’ve known Elden for over 20 years now. I KNOW his scream. I’ve heard his scream. Lots and lots of times. Usually when he falls off his bike, of course, but not always.
So, an article I read on Grantland recently piqued my interest, and I’ve done a bit of research, and now I know why Elden’s scream feels so archetypal.
Elden’s scream is the Wilhelm Scream.
For those of you who don’t want to click over, I’ll quote from the fount of all knowledge and every blessing, Wikipedia:
The Wilhelm scream is a film and television stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums.The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series, Disney cartoons and many other blockbuster films as well as television programs and video games.The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.
The sound is named for Private Wilhelm, a character in The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 western in which the character is shot with an arrow. This was believed to be the third movie to use the sound effect and its first use from the Warner Brothers stock sound library.
The sound effect originates from a series of sound effects recorded for the 1951 movie Distant Drums. In a scene from the film, soldiers are wading through a swamp in the Everglades, and one of them is bitten and dragged underwater by an alligator. The scream for that scene was recorded later in a single take, along with five other short pained screams, which were slated as “man getting bit by an alligator, and he screams.” The fifth scream was used for the soldier in the alligator scene—but the 4th, 5th, and 6th screams recorded in the session were also used earlier in the film—when three Indians are shot during a raid on a fort. Although takes 4 through 6 are the most recognizable, all of the screams are referred to as “Wilhelm”, by those in the sound community.
So, that’s a nice description of a fascinating piece of film esoterica. Which I love. I mean, really, I LOVE this stuff.
But back to Elden. I don’t have a recording of Elden’s scream (except in my head, where it’s on a constant loop in a corner of my brain). And maybe you haven’t heard it before either. But I can give you a short sweet example (I got tipped off to this in the Grantland article).
Did you hear the Wilhelm Scream in there?
Now imagine that, but louder, and interminable. Like a cat being tortured.
Now you hear what I hear.