Scream Songs

Midnight Syndicate's dark orchestral compositions conjure haunted halls and crumbling crypts. Who knew creating the sound track to your nightmares could be a full-time job.

From Bing Crosby to New Kids on the Block, there’s no shortage of Christmas records.
But when it comes to Halloween, the only sound track we had for years was “The Monster Mash” and those cheap sound effects tapes of rattling chains and creaky steps that wouldn’t muster a convincing scare at an elementary-school party.

Midnight Syndicate has changed that during the past eight years, releasing five collections of dark orchestral compositions mixed with chilling sound effects. If you’ve experienced truly creepy music at a haunted house anywhere in the United States, you’ve probably already heard their work.

Image Courtesy of Dean Kleven and Chanel

The Chardon-based duo, who record their elaborate compositions using mostly synthesizers and keyboards in an old Victorian house in Willoughby, have sold nearly 500,000 CDs. Their music has been licensed by nearly every amusement park company, including Universal Studios-Orlando, Busch Gardens and Cedar Point. Their sinister sounds have also been used in broadcasts of “Monday Night Football” and “The Today Show.” Academy Award-winning hip-hop act Three 6 Mafia even sampled a snippet of Midnight Syndicate music in one of its songs.

“We had this idea of sound ­tracks for the imagination,” recalls Edward Douglas, explaining his and co-founder Gavin Goszka’s original vision. “It’s all about putting on a CD, closing your eyes and envisioning this movie playing in your head. … We realized there was a market for this. We just had to find a way to get it out there.”

Getting it out there first meant asking Halloween stores and shops that catered to role-playing-game enthusiasts to stock their CDs. Since record companies had no idea what genre the music was, let alone how to market it to a mass audience, it was up to Douglas and Goszka to set up a distribution chain themselves.

“We went to the haunted houses, we went to the costume stores and started building a network,” Doulgas says. “The first year we sold like 2,000 units here in Northeast Ohio.” They hand delivered CDs, met storeowners face to face and asked, “Hey, give this a listen.”

From there, Douglas and Goszka reached beyond Greater Cleveland, cold-calling costume shops, Halloween stores and independent music outlets across the nation.

At the same time, Douglas hoped to license the music to haunted attractions as a way to get the music heard and start building an audience for Midnight Syndicate.

“We knew the haunted houses were critical,” he says. “So, I went to the biggest haunted house that I knew of, which was Universal Studios-Orlando.” Douglas sent CDs to Universal. “And they loved it,” he says.

Universal Studios spread the word, which helped build Midnight Syndicate into the “the standard” of Halloween music for haunted houses — everyone from Broadview Heights’ Bloodview to major amusement-park companies.

Douglas and Goszka’s elaborate sonic landscapes have even taken them beyond the Halloween market in recent years, with a sound track produced in conjunction with Dungeon and Dragons for role-playing-game enthusiasts that trades the sounds of dark crypts and swirling mist for ancient temples and enchanted forests.

“The fact that the Dungeons and Dragons logo has such worldwide recognition, it really helped us shoot into Europe, which is big for us,” Douglas says. “Halloween is growing in Europe, but it’s not even in the ballpark as how big it is [in the United States].”

So, as Midnight Syndicate pushes for world domination of the sound of your darkest dreams, you’ll likely be hearing more of it, especially this month. Maybe even in the most unexpected places.

“We just got a call from Carnival Cruise Lines,” Douglas says. “They’re going to play our music through all their ships the whole month of October.”

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