With pumpkins dotting porch stoops and trees turning brilliant reds and yellows, autumn has officially arrived, which means Halloween, Atlas Obscura’s favorite holiday, is just around the corner. But choosing what to listen to during this ghoulish season can be tricky. Sure, there are some obvious answers, such as “Monster Mash” and “Thriller,” but then what? While Christmas overflows with seasonal tunes about Santa Claus and reindeer, Halloween music is more limited. Where are the songs about demons, ghosts, and ladies trapped in trees?
To help fill the gap, we asked readers on our Facebook page to share their best Halloween songs. We compiled the most spine-chilling responses below, from The Exorcist theme song to Tom Waits’s “Murder in the Red Barn.” If you’d like to join the discussion, watch for more opportunities to share on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!
Dracula’s Greatest Hits by Gene Moss and Fred Rice
“The very first album I ever bought with my own money was Dracula’s Greatest Hits. I was nine and I bought it at Wallach’s Music City (now long gone) in Hollywood. It contains such hits as ‘Drac the Knife,’ ‘I Want to Bite Your Hand,’ and ‘Monster Bossa Nova.’ Several decades and hundreds, if not thousands, of other albums later, it’s still one of my favorites.” —Jim Clark, Mazatlán, Mexico
“Tubular Bells” from The Exorcist and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Theme Song
“The dance instructors at the studio I attended as a child always made up fun routines for us around Halloween using music from horror movies and TV shows. I remember doing a ballet routine to ‘Tubular Bells’ from The Exorcist and a tap routine to the theme from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” —Jessica Jenson, South Dakota
“Carnival of Souls” by Combustible Edison
“It’s a haunting instrumental piece by a New England-based group that came out of the ’90s fad for all things ‘lounge’ themed. I have to listen to it every year while carving pumpkins.” —Kathy Weinstein, Utah
“Necromancin’ Dancin” by Bear Ghost and “It’s Terror Time Again” by Skycycle
“This song isn’t exactly a Halloween song, but it fits and it’s super catchy. Another banger is ‘It’s Terror Time Again’ by Skycycle. I loved it since I first heard it in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, which is also the best Scooby-Doo movie in my personal opinion.” —Sigrid Pik-Fisher, Pärnu, Estonia
“This Is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas
“If we’re talking explicitly Halloween-themed, gotta go with ‘This Is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s made to fill you with anticipation for the night. It beckons you in—it’s not music to party to; it’s music to pre-party to, with promises of exciting things just around the corner.
What I love about the lyrics is how the scary things announce themselves: ‘I am the one hiding under your bed,’ ‘I am the “who” when you call “Who’s there”’ and so on. They’re not so much introductions as vindications of your childhood dark fantasies and suspicions. You thought there was something scary under your bed or in the wind? Well, you were right, and I’m here to confirm it. For me, each ‘I’ plays like an affirmation of a certain spooky worldview.”—Adam Bertocci, New York
“Grim Grinning Ghosts (The Screaming Song)” from Disney’s The Haunted Mansion
“The original Disneyland Haunted Mansion soundtrack on infinite loop. I can’t get enough of ‘Grim Grinning Ghosts’ featuring Thurl Ravenscroft. I love to think about the singing graveyard busts on the ride while it’s playing!” —Willow Polson, California
“Halloween” by King Diamond
“Definitely this one. It reminds me of being nine years old and discovering King Diamond. His music and persona seem tame compared to many who came after him, but at the time he terrified and fascinated me—just like a lot of Halloween-related things.” —Adrian Chavez, Minnesota
“Murder in the Red Barn” by Tom Waits
“It’s the best song for dread-inducing seasonal imagery and gloomy vibes. It’s just not spooky season until I hear that while driving down a long, deserted rural road.” —Stacy Gilbert, Baltimore, Maryland