Songs for Halloween Night That’ll Absolutely Haunt You
Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. Truly, everything about it. Whether I’m out at a costume party or hanging at home watching old scary movies like Alien or Dracula – come on, the classics are the best – I’m always ready to be good and scared on October 31st. And being the obsessive music listener that I am, I always make a little time to listen to some songs that really creep me out. I’m not talking novelty Halloween songs or tunes that happen to have a monster in the title. In fact, most of the song I’ll listen to really have nothing overtly to do with Halloween, other than the fact that if you really listen to them, they are downright scary. So for this week’s blog, I thought I’d list a few tunes that I’m going to play this weekend that will really give me the creeps. Because being scared is fun! At least on Halloween it is. Without further ado, here’s my haunting Halloween playlist:
- Donovan – “Hurdy Gurdy Man”
This song honestly gives me nightmares. This is for three reasons. The first is that the music is just super creepy with its crying guitar and pummeling drums. The second is my association of this song with the brutal killings in the David Fincher film Zodiac. This song is also horrifying in another sense – up to three members of Led Zeppelin have been said to have been session musicians on this track, but it’s been disputed whether or not this is true. It does seem to be the case that John Paul Jones played bass. But not knowing whether that’s really Jimmy Page and John Bonham there too gives me, as a seeker of all things musical knowledge, nightmares a-plenty. But rock history aside, play this one alone on Halloween by candlelight or in complete dark and you’re sure to get the willies.
- The Doors – “The End”
“The End” doesn’t deal with ghosts or goblins. Rather, it deals with a more psychological kind of terror. The song, of course, is directly inspired by the Oedipus Complex, which Morrison vocalizes towards the end of the track in one of the more menacing vocal deliveries of the classic rock era. Add to this the background of political turmoil during the later 1960s, with racial tensions at a peak and the Vietnam looming over America’s youth like the specter of impending death, when Morrison sings “Lost in a roman wilderness of pain / And all the children are insane” he touches on that little spark of insanity inside each and every one of us. And what can be scarier than that?
- Johnny Cash – “The Man Comes Around”
Moving on from “The End” we reach a song about “the end times”. Few things have struck more terror in the hearts of man than thinking about Armageddon, the end of days, and that’s precisely the theme of Johnny Cash’s haunting title track from his 2002 set. Like both “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “The End” it’s prominent placement in a film contributes to the song’s air of menace; in this instance, it’s the opening credits of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. But whether one’s fear is a zombie apocalypse or the return of the prince of darkness on Earth, I can’t think of a better soundtrack than this masterpiece, one of the final great original works of Johnny Cash’s legendary career.
- Peter Gabriel – “Darkness”
The Genesis front man turned brilliant solo artist Peter Gabriel has not put out new original music in awhile, but his last set of never-before-released material contains a creepy Halloween gem. “Darkness” is the leadoff track from Gabriel’s 2002 set Up and is a tribute to all those things that keep us up at night with fear and terror. The track begins with a loud, bone-crunching riff that reminds me of an insane carnival act – “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” if Mr. Kite were an axe-wielding horror film sociopath – and then gives way to Gabriel’s moody, almost whispered vocals. “I’m Scared of swimming in the sea / dark shapes moving under me / every fear I swallow makes me small” Gabriel utters. But the song has a happy ending, with the protagonist conquering his fears and even laughing at how silly they seemed before. The keyboard-based sonic painting remains eerily beautiful as this happens, but don’t get too comfortable…
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Red Right Hand”
On a gathering storm
Comes a tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat with
A red right hand
Um, why is his right hand red? We don’t think we want to know. The atmosphere is trance-like, the mood mellow, but lurking underneath the surface of this one is something sinister for sure. The song was originally released in 1994 on the album Let Love In and has been stirring up nightmares ever since. The phrase “red right hand” is actually a line from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost and refers to the hand of God, which is vengeful after the fall of man, one of the more terrifying stories from the Bible. Since being released the song has been featured in a number of cover versions, commercials, and films – perhaps it is best known for being a kind of anthem for the Scream film franchise. Well, I never found Scream to be particularly scary, but this piece? It will surely have me hiding under the covers come Halloween night.
– Brian R.
What’s your favorite creepy song to listen to on Halloween? Let me know in the comments!