History of the Wilhelm Scream

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Who doesn’t love hearing the most famous sound effect when watching a movie.

The Wilhelm Scream has a rich & extended history, gaining prevalence after its appearance in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River. Voiced by actor Sheb Wooley, famous for his song The Purple People Eater, the Wilhelm scream gained cult status amongst sound designers after being utilised by legendary sound designer, Ben Burtt.

The unique scream was recorded for the 1951 film Distant Drum, in which a man gets bitten by an alligator. The file was fittingly labelled ‘man getting bit by alligator’ in Warner Brothers sound effects library. Whilst designing the soundscape for the original Star Wars trilogy, Ben Burtt stumbled upon this sound effects and altered its name to Wilhelm Scream.

Since achieving its infamous status, the Wilhelm Scream has featured in countless films & television series (with the exact number being unknown).

The Wilhelm scream is an important part of film history, with the prevalence of this sound effect being noted by sound editor Steve Lee as "a way of communicating between ourselves (sound editors) and saying hello to each other." 

The original Wilhelm Scream - accept no substitutes!

Dive into the details with this in-depth podcast by 20 Thousand Hertz - www.20k.org/episodes/wilhelmscream