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Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect of a man’s yelp which has been used in hundreds of films and television shows since 1951. The scream is named after the fictional character Private Wilhelm from the 1953 western film The Charge at Feather River.
In 1951, the Wilhelm scream was first used as a sound effect in the Florida western film Distant Drums, in which a soldier lets out a loud cry while being dragged underwater by an alligator (shown below, left). In 1953, the scream was used in the film The Charge at Feather River, featuring the character Private Wilhelm who lets out the scream when he is struck by an arrow (shown below, right).
In the 1970s, sound designer Ben Burtt nicknamed the sound “Wilhelm scream” when he noticed the effect was used in numerous films. The scream was most likely voiced by actor Sheb Wooley, who Burtt discovered on a Warner Brothers call sheet for Distant Drums.
On June 17th, 2006, YouTuber chrisofduke uploaded a compilation of notable Wilhelm scream clips, gaining over 7.05 million views and 9,500 comments over the next nine years (shown below). On November 8th, 2006, YouTuber HwdLostAndFound uploaded a video in which HollywoodLostAndFound.net creator Steve Lee explains the history of the sound effect (shown below, right).
On July 1st, 2007, YouTuber snappygallbladder’s channel uploaded another Wilhelm scream compilation, which received more than 1.6 million views and 3,000 comments in the next eight years (shown below, left). On September 6th, YouTuber UnfilteredNoise uploaded a video titled “Scenes that should have the Wilhelm Scream,” featuring edited clips from various films with the Wilhelm scream dubbed over the original footage (shown below, right).
On November 12th, 2008, the single serving site WilhelmScream.net was launched, featuring a single button which produces the sound effect when clicked. On April 20th, 2011, the CINExcellence YouTube channel posted a montage of Wilhelm scream clips from various films, accumulating upwards of 1.2 million views and 2,300 comments over four years (shown below, left). On February 24th, 2013, YouTuber followthefoot uploaded a video titled “The New Wilhelm Scream,” which featured samples of yelling goats edited over screams from various films (shown below, right).
On March 28th, 2014, Redditor WhatTheFhtagn posted a reaction GIF of actor Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park titled “Whenever they use the Wilhelm Scream in a movie” to the /r/reactiongifs subreddit, where it gained over 3,200 votes (93% upvoted) prior to being archived (shown below). On November 25th, the facts and trivia site Mental Floss published an article about the history of the Wilhelm scream. As of February 2015, the Internet Movie Database lists over 300 titles under the “wilhelm scream” tag.
Voldemort’s Wilhelm Scream
In the trailer for the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the antagonist Voldemort lets out several screams that sound identical as if the sound effect were reused, leading some to refer to it as “Voldemort’s Wilhelm Scream”. On June 27th, 2011, YouTuber Movies, Music & More! uploaded a video in which Voldemort’s scream from the various Harry Potter films are replaced with the Wilhelm scream (shown below).