It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas! You can keep your jingling bells, your ding-donging merrily, and your awkward family gatherings to exchange gifts that no one actually wants. We’re talking about Halloween, boys and ghouls, the night when every trick is a treat. And whether you celebrate by dressing up as your favorite horror character (or, for some reason, a scantily clad nurse) and going out on the town, or by staying home and watching scary movies (Netflix and kill), you’ll need some suitable music.
As such, there are countless tunes that have been written about that special night, and some bands have made entire careers out of it. (We’re looking at you Misfits!) But today, to put you in the mood for all things spooky, we will be looking at a handful that, while not actually about Halloween, are nonetheless downright creepy and guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine.
1. The Police “Every Breath You Take”
It’s difficult to ignore the creep factor of this 1983 Police mega-hit once you know its true meaning. Apparently the most played song in radio history, and frequently employed at weddings, it is far from being an ode to love and instead tells a tale of jealousy and obsession. As Sting told BBC Radio 2: “I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite.” Considered to be the band’s “signature tune” and by all accounts earning Sting something in the region of $2,000 a day in royalties, it is also the ultimate stalker’s anthem.
2. Necro “Dead Body Disposal”
Taken from the 2001 Gory Days album, this rap-metal/horrorcore track pretty much does what it says on the packet, being, as it is, instructions on how to dispose of a corpse. First it suggests that one strips naked so “you don’t get blood on ya new shirt”, before hacking up the body, placing it in trash bags and dispersing them in different areas, because “that shit’s hilarious.” As is the sample from Snatch. What isn’t funny is that in 2012 Necro was cited as the inspiration for the murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford in London, Ontario, which forced the rapper to issue a blindingly obvious statement that his songs are not supposed to be taken literally.
3. G.G.F.H. “Room 213”
Oakland oddballs G.G.F.H (Global Genocide Forget Heaven) made something of a career out of writing creepy tunes, including samples of exorcisms, and one song in which a mentally unstable person claims that the Cookie Monster is the devil. Perhaps their most creepy offering, however, is “Room 213,” the title being a reference to Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment, and the song employing excerpts from Dahmer’s trial, along with chilling samples from “O Euchari, in leta via” by Hildegard von Bingen, a German nun and composer who died in 1179. Probably not samples of the original, it’s safe to say, but nonetheless eerie as hell.
4. The Beatles “Revolution 9”
All things considered, the “creep factor” of the Beatles’ White Album is pretty high, what with the whole Manson Family Helter Skelter/Piggies thing and all. But “Revolution 9,” another “song” said to have inspired Manson, is just plain weird. An eight-and-a half minute “sound collage,” featuring looped vocal samples, backwards music, and bizarre sound effects, it is perhaps as close to the sound of madness as one would ever hope to come. When the track itself was played backwards — because that’s what perfectly sane people do with their records — it fueled conspiracy theories that Paul McCartney was dead after the phrase “turn me on dead man” was apparently deciphered. Although, to be fair, it doesn’t sound any worse backwards.
5. Steve Lawrence “Go Away Little Girl”
Maybe, as many of the comments on YouTube have suggested, this was written in a more innocent time, if such a time ever existed. But there’s no getting away from the fact that the lyrics are profoundly disturbing, “Go away little girl, I’m not supposed to be alone with you” being just one example of its wrongness. Sure, the protagonist is resisting temptation — just about — but, all the same. Ew! Despite this, the song reached number one in the U.S. charts by two different artists (Lawrence in 1962 and Donny Osmond in 1971) and has yet to be utilized in a horror movie…
6. Patience and Prudence “Tonight You Belong To Me”
…Which should perhaps be a good gauge for whether or not a supposedly innocent song has creepy undertones. Originally written in 1926, “Tonight You Belong To Me” was rerecorded by singing siblings Patience and Prudence in 1956, selling over a million copies, because, hey, what could be sweeter than a couple of unnervingly happy children — 11 and 14 respectively — uttering the lines, “My honey I know, with the dawn that you will be gone. But tonight you belong to me”? Not surprisingly, this rendition is now better known from two episodes of American Horror Story and The Last Supper episode of Bates Motel. Oh, and an episode of the psychological thriller You. Definitely creepy.
7. Slayer “Dead Skin Mask”
L.A. titans Slayer have penned all manner of disturbing ditties over the course of their career, not least the controversial “Angel Of Death,” which concerns itself with the horrific human experiments of Nazi physician Josef Mengele in Auschwitz during World War Two. But perhaps more spine-chilling — at least in a musical sense — is the slower “Dead Skin Mask” about murderer/grave robber Ed Gein, the title being a reference to the fact that Gein fashioned masks out of human skin. Listen carefully, and at the end of the song you’ll hear a voice saying, “I don’t want to play anymore, Mr. Gein. Let me out!”
8. AC/DC “Night Prowler”
The final track on their aptly-named Highway To Hell album, AC/DC’s “Night Prowler” was obviously intended to sound rather ominous, even if the intent was rather lost at the end with a bizarre “Shazbot. Nanu nanu” reference to the sitcom Mork & Mindy. The song took a far more ominous turn, however, when it was linked to serial killer Richard Ramirez, a fan of the band who had, according to police reports, left an AC/DC hat at the scene of one of his crimes. Faced with a wave of adverse publicity, including one headline declaring “AC/DC made me kill 16,” the band claimed that the song was in fact about a boy sneaking into his girlfriend’s bedroom at night. Like that makes it any better.
9. Siouxsie and the Banshees “Night Shift”
While the obvious choice from the Banshees classic Juju album of 1981 would be “Halloween,” we are, if you recall, steering away from tunes about that night in particular and delving instead into the generally sinister. And it doesn’t get much more sinister than this haunting number about Peter Sutcliffe, AKA the Yorkshire Ripper, who was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder a further seven, insisting that God had instructed him to kill prostitutes. Remarkably, Sutcliffe was interviewed nine times before he was arrested, although the investigation was hampered by hundreds of hoax callers, and letters from Wearside Jack, who claimed to be the Ripper. Sutcliffe is currently serving 20 consecutive life sentences, while “Night Shift” featured, appropriately enough, on the second series of Mindhunter.
10. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds “Red Right Hand”
Just because a song is kinda creepy doesn’t mean that it can’t also be darkly sexy and, quite frankly, a work of genius. Such is the case with this Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds classic from the Let Love In album of 1994. Sadly, a quick poke on the Internet suggests that it is now more familiar as the Peaky Blinders theme tune, with many a listener oblivious to its origins, and thanks to that series there have been numerous futile covers of the song (Arctic Monkeys? Seriously?). But still, this deliciously dusky dirge remains unsurpassed, as foreboding as it is fantastic.