The Wilhelm Scream

Last Thursday, we referenced something called the "Wilhelm Scream."  We're sorry to have made you wait through what must have been a painfully long weekend to discover what we were talking about - but how better to celebrate a return to the office than to learn about an iconic sound!

We call it iconic, but does it merit that distinction? In our humble opinion - absolutely! The 'scream' was first recorded in 1951 for a film called Distant Drums when an unnamed character was dragged into a swamp and eaten by an alligator.  Then, the scream was used again in 1953 for a now all-but-forgotten western called The Charge at Feather River. 

When one of the characters in the film gets shot with an arrow, he screams then falls off his horse. The character is known as Private Wilhelm, which is how it got to be known as the Wilhelm Scream. It became part of stock audio - used and re-used and re-re-used over the years. Then, it was kind of forgotten by the early 1970's.

Screaming Stormtrooper

Screaming Stormtrooper

A sound engineer named Ben Burtt resurrected the Wilhelm Scream for a little movie he was working on called Star Wars. George Lucas, creator of the film, liked Burtt, and hired him for other movies in the franchise, as he also did for a film he called Raiders of the Lost Ark. Now, the Scream is used as an in-joke, and insider's in-joke, and as a straightforward scream in lots of different movies and tv shows.

Didja know:
-   It's believed that the actor/novelty song musician Sheb Wooley, singer of the classic song "Purple People Eater" originally recorded the Wilhelm Scream?