Halloween songs: Scary music playlist, spooky tunes

by | Oct 14, 2009

If you’re looking to add some Halloween songs to your personal music library, here are a few suggestions. You can download these songs via Amazon.com and enjoy it at an upcoming costume party or hayride, use these scary songs as background music for your haunted house or trick-or-treat display, or to enjoy while you’re pumpkin-carving or lost in a corn maze. Please take care, however, to remove your earbuds when bobbing for apples.

“Tubular Bells” (theme from The Exorcist) by Mike Oldfield — A right-sized (4:17) version of Oldfield’s 1973 opus, made famous as the theme from one of the scariest movies ever made. For me, this melody is forever linked with those foreboding autumn leaves blowing through the streets of Georgetown — an eerie and ominous October Angelus.

“Experiment In Terror” by Henry Mancini — One of these days, I want to see this 1962 Blake Edwards film starring Glenn Ford and Lee Remick.

Instead, I’m familiar with “Experiment in Terror” as the theme song from Creature Features, the early-1970s WGN-TV Saturday night movie show which screened mostly Universal Monsters films like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy. No actual recordings of the Creature Features opening are known to exist, but the sequence is recreated faithfully above.

“Falling” (theme from Twin Peaks) by Julee Cruise — A very similar bass sound is used in the Angelo Badalamenti theme for David Lynch’s hair-raising ABC-TV series Twin Peaks. Lynch’s lyrics are not heard under the opening credits, but Julee Cruise did perform”Falling” in the pilot, and her sweet, ethereal vocals add another layer of goosebumps to the haunting refrain.

“Funeral March of a Marionette” (Charles Gounod), performed by Mary Gifford — There are countless recordings of this famous theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but I especially like this one, featuring the Steere and Turner Organ of the Greenstone United Methodist Church in Chicago’s historic Pullman District. There’s a subtle creepiness to the sound of the solo organ and the ambiance of the church which really enhances this requiem for a puppet.

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (J.S. Bach) — Of course, the organ can be bloodcurdling as well. Here is one of the most well-known organ works of all time, performed by Klemens Schnorr, and included on the comprehensive (but very affordable) album The Classical Halloween Collection: Classical Music of Doom, Dread and All Things Wicked!

“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett — A Halloween favorite since its release in October 1962, “Monster Mash” shows just how far a basic four-chord progression and a Boris Karloff impression can take you. Trivia: Leon Russell (“Tight Rope”) is one of “The Crypt-Kickers” backing Pickett on the original recording.

“Dancing With Mr D” by The Rolling Stones — Here’s an even more macabre dance party: A graveyard do-si-do with the Grim Reaper himself, opening the Stones’ 1973 Goats Head Soup album. 36 years later, Keith Richards is still going strong.

“My Father’s House” by Bruce Springsteen — Springsteen’s whole Nebraska album is one of my all-time October favorites. It distills a bleakness that perfectly suits the autumn chill and a landscape that’s losing its foliage. While the title track is about a killing spree and “State Trooper” is a terrifying ride, the nightmare of “My Father’s House” tops them both with its intimate and matter-of-fact desolation.

Last year, in lieu of hosting a trick-or-treat that had grown out of control, Springsteen released a special Halloween song and video: “A Night with the Jersey Devil.” For all of its Howlin’ Wolf-style menace, it was nowhere near as frightening as Nebraska

Got a few harrowing hits of your own to recommend? Please add them in a comment below.

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