We all know that the best Halloween song is Tim Curry doing ‘Anything Can Happen on Halloween’ in The Worst Witch, right? But all that stuff is a bit, well, obvious. So in true picky spirit, we’ve hand selected ten songs to creep you out. Here is our alternative playlist designed not to deliver cheap shock horror, but to truly unsettle you. Give it a listen then go and tell us how wrong or right we are in the comments and on Twitter. We do love an argument after all. Have a truly creepy day.
10. The Cure – The Walk
‘I called you after midnight / Then ran until I burst / I passed the howling woman / And stood outside your door’
I’ve always liked to imagine that The Howling Woman is the pub at the centre of the goth universe, Robert Smith leaning against the bar with a pint of Guinness and black in hand. It would be remiss of me not to include The Cure who helped popularise a whole creepy aesthetic long before commercialised Halloween became a thing.
9. Ebony Bones – We Know All About U
‘We know all about u / yes we do / where you live / where you go / what you do / who you know’
Creepy can come in many different forms and this surveillance anthem is just one example.
8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
‘You’ll see him in your nightmares / You’ll see him in your dreams / He’ll appear out of nowhere but / He ain’t what he seems’
This doubles up on the creepy atmosphere through both the sound and the lyrics. From the first foreboding clang of metal tube to the organ stabs and Nick’s unique delivery. The lyrics are both gruesome and ominous, the character in the dusty black coat both deadly and enthralling.
7. Tom Waits – What’s He Building?
‘There’s poison underneath the sink, of course / But there’s also enough formaldehyde to choke a horse / What’s he building in there? / What the hell is he building in there?’
Arguably not even a song, but definitely creepy as fuck. The most is disturbing thing is how many unanswered questions this piece leaves the listener with. The nosy neighbour narrator is potentially even creepier than the unnamed subject.
6. Billie Eilish – bury a friend
‘Step on the glass, staple your tongue / Bury a friend, try to wake up / Cannibal class, killing the son / Bury a friend, I wanna end me’
Worthy of inclusion for the video alone. This song exemplifies what was so creative and exciting about Billie on her first album, defying any expectations we may have had about her as a popstar.
5. Portishead – Mysterons
‘Refuse to surrender / Strung out until ripped apart / Who dares / Who dares to condemn?’
I could have chosen several songs to demonstrate the theremin, the world’s spookiest sounding instrument. In the end it had to be Portishead for the added gloom. If you’re not familiar with the name theremin, you’ll definitely recognise the sound (it kicks in properly at about 3:19).
4. Metallica – Enter Sandman
‘Hush, little baby, don’t say a word / And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beast under your bed / In your closet, in your head’
Among your ubiquitous pumpkins, skeletons and witches, the sandman is a lesser encountered being. Simply sprinkling sand into sleepy eyes to bring about dreams, he seemed to have no malevolent purpose. That is until Metallica came along. The video seems to obsessed with endangering children.
3. Moulettes/Modernaire – Bloodshed in the Woodshed
‘Arsenic / Ice pick / Cyanide makes you sick / Gutted / Carotid / Noose ready knotted / Sharp scythes rusty knives / Bedroom full of beehives’
This song is essentially a list of murder methods. Originally recorded as electro outfit Modernaire (if anyone knows where I can still listen to this version, let me know), the vocalists went on to perform as the far folkier Moulettes. Both versions have their own, albeit alarming, merits.
2. Skunk Anansie – Charlie Big Potato
‘I awake / Try to scream / Spit the vile breath / Till my tongue bleeds’
Skin’s performing persona has always been pretty terrifying and the terror peaked with this beast from their third album. The same repeated riff with heavy guitars and strings slowly grinds you down, until the demonic harmonies of the chorus hit you hard.
1. Steeleye Span – King Henry
There are countless gruesome tales immortalised in folk songs but there was only room for one in this list. There is usually a bloody murder and someone usually gets hanged. ‘King Henry’ is a little different. This tale of a hungry and deceptive ghost is pretty grim, set against the plaintive vocal harmonies and rasping fiddle.
Words by James Spearing