Oh, Halloween - a time of free candy, cheap scares, and racy outfits. Here at Ultimate-Guitar we recognize that Halloween comes but once a year and we should all cherish the time we have with it wisely. That's why when we're not dressed up as The Joker and begging strangers for candy, we're going to be rocking out to our favorite scary tunes.
No horror movie would be complete without an equally spooky soundtrack so why should the scariest day of the year be any different? Here's what some of our contributors have to say about their favorite scary songs:
Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield & Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin
Amy Kelly, reviews / interviews / features writer
Back when I was a child, there was always one standard spooky song played every year at Halloween. I'm sure plenty of you out there can remember the huge event that it was every year when Michael Jackson's Thriller got a special slot in the MTV airplay. I know. It's hard to recall when they played videos, but stay with me. Even without the horror movie visuals of the video, Thriller delivered big time aurally when Vincent Price gave his final monologue. The Jackson classic still sends a few shivers, but because I've become a tad desensitized, it just isn't creepy enough.
I spent a good deal of time pondering which song disturbed me so deeply that I had either A) Hit the stop/pause button at about 10 to 15 seconds through, or B) Managed to listen to the complete song, only to be deeply, deeply disturbed at nighty-night time. I sifted through people's various online lists and message boards discussing what they felt was the creepiest, but I've got to admit I was a little disappointed with the choices. Boris The Spider? Really? It's a cool song, but dude.
So my obvious choice is the theme from The Exorcist, Tubular Bells. If you were raised Catholic, it's likely you were scarred in the same way and believe that demons are always ready to do their business with you. Tubular Bells is a spooky cinematic classic, but I also have to include a song that is a tad more contemporary. On YouTube I managed to find lots of songs that were basically Satanic chants, but I decided to opt for something that featured more than just demonic grunts or Latin phrases. So the winner is Aphex Twin's Come To Daddy. Creepy sound. Creepy lyrics. Creepy video. Jeez.
"Telstar" by The Tornadoes
Steven Rosen, interviews writer
The scariest songs for me was "Telstar" by the Tornadoes. This was an instrumental way back in 1962. I was really young and I heard this and it scared me - but I loved it. I heard it on the radio and couldn't get enough. It had this strange sounding instrument which I now know is called a clavioline - like a very early synth. I loved this song but it scared me to death. When I later started learning how to play guitar, I'd try and play the melody. When I did play the melody, it terrified me - but I was thrilled.
Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones
Joe Matera, interviews writer
The opening track from the group's 1968 album, Beggars Banquet Is A Luciferian Tale, that evokes a kind of creepiness that at times sends chills down your spine. And the chanting "do do's" in the outro, puts the listener smack bang in an orgy of voodoo calls and dark evocations. The definitive spookiest song in rock.
Mein Teil by Rammstein
Kristofer Dahl, video lessons contributor (author of Shred Masterclass series)
This song is about cooking and eating pieces of your own body with a good wine, particularly the genitalia. To me it doesn't get creepier than this! The song is based on a true story about Armin Meiwes.
I did the huge mistake of explaing the meaning of these German lyrics to my girlfriend - now I can't even hum the tune without getting angry looks from her!
"You are what you eat" ;)
A Mansion In Darkness by King Diamond
Petter Carnbro, reviews writer (author of This Month In Metal series)
I have never really thought of songs this way, because they don't scare me. "A Mansion In Darkness" from King's classic album "Abigail" does set a very, very creepy mood with the guitar harmony and the lyrics depicting the couple's arrival in the mansion (duh). Perhaps the best and creepiest part is the chorus when King sings "And the house began to breathe, it seemed to be alive". I was raised in a house by the sea and believe me, when the autumn storms roll in from the sea it is almost as if the house starts to breathe. And then that shadow on the wall appears to be moving...
Susan by The Subhumans
Sam Agini, reviews writer (author of Unsigned Bands Of The Month series)
I have selected The Subhumans' Susan as my song for Halloween. It is neither conventionally scary nor Halloween-themed and I admit that this is the predominant reason behind my choosing it. A simple way out of really thinking about which scary song to choose would have been to choose a generic Misfits song, such as Halloween or even Last Caress. However, as the melancholic piano introduction to the normally feisty anarcho-punk band's masterpiece commences, one cannot help but begin to think. Thinking about life's hard issues often results in fear, and as I begin to consider Susan, I began to think.
Susan is a young woman who wants to be a secretary. Dick Lucas's descriptively harrowing lyrics ensure that the listener has no choice but to think. Susan ended up in a factory making matches. Susan soon "progresses" to taking anti-depressants, before getting married and having a bouncing baby boy, much to the glee of her parents. The scary part is yet to come.
Words like 'Mummy' don't mean nothing to Susan, because it's all she hears from 9 to 5. When having children becomes like a job, I believe that there is something fundamentally wrong in a person's life. Despite having been written in the early 1980s, Susan is still relevant today, what with the current economic and financial crisis being incurred by people all over the world today. This Halloween, I hope you remember what is truly frightening; in my opinion, this is dying in anonymity: Swinging Susan hanged herself  with the money from insurance, the family went on holiday; nothing left but rotting flowers on an unattended grave; the epitaph has faded badly, no one reads it anyway. So this Halloween, don't be scared by a costume; be scared of a harsh reality that could become more prevalent in the future.
Cannibal Song by Ministry
I always thought Cannibal Song from Ministry's The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste album had a very creepy, subterranean vibe to it. It's got this real down-tuned, looping Paul Barker bass line, and Al Jourgensen's vocals are sinister. Somehow he makes singing high notes absolutely disturbing. I always think of slime-covered walls and underground dungeons when I listen to that track. That whole album is great for songs that evoke distinct atmospheres. Between the big industrial crashers like Thieves and Breathe you've got these weird tracks like Cannibal Song and Faith Collapsing, which is structured around these paranoid samples from the film version of George Orwell's 1984. It's good. You know what you're getting when you seeing the skull x-ray on the album sleeve. Creepy good times.
Tales From The Crypt Theme Song by Danny Elfman
Susan Frances, reviews / interviews writer
Halloween, the one night in the year when the line between the living and the dead is believed to be blurred, has been effectively portrayed in a number of Halloween theme songs. The one song that really puts me in the Halloween mood is Danny Elfman's score for the title track to the 1990's TV series Tales From The Crypt. The tune starts off with a bass drum beat heated to a light boil, and slowly building up the momentum as slices of strings pierce through the swells like sharp knives that create a macabre ambience. Low registered horns come in producing an underbelly of lofty billows combing through the melodic passages and forming winding corridors and tomb-like echoes along the instrumentation. The score exudes a haunting mist engineered by floating sensations that move like swirling ghosts along the cycling strings, and the periodic cymbal strikes resonate with a ghoulish ringing. The music shows a hint of intensity similarly to the score played during the movie The Wizard Of Oz when the Wicked Witch of the West appears on her broomstick, and a pinch of comedy in the jaunty wobbles of the horns that are reminiscent of the music from the 1993 Disney flix Hocus Pocus. The score is entertaining without ever diluting its macabre coloring.
The North Cave
Duncan Geddes, reviews / interviews writer
It's gotta be "The North Cave" from the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. Whenever I hear that underlying bass hit, I check the vicinity for any evil motherfuckers with swords, though not before soiling myself. Who knew a cutesy little Japanese bloke could invoke such unfathomable evil?
Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus
Carlos Ramirez, reviews / interviews writer
I could have easily gone with a metal song of the black or death variety but that would have been too obvious. Being someone who always goes against the grain, I chose to go with a selection a lot of the younger Ultimate-Guitar readers might not be acquainted with yet. Bauhaus might not be the most recognizable band in this community but make no mistake, in certain circles the band's name carries weight. In the goth-rock world Bauhaus might as well be The Beatles. The British post-punk band formed in the late 70's and has gone on to influence heavy-hitters like The Cure, Jane's Addiction, and AFI.
Bela Lugosi's Dead was the combo's debut single and probably their most known song. There's something about Daniel Ash's minimal yet menacing guitar riffs that absolutely gets under your skin. The dissonance in his chord choices really punches through lending the arrangements an aura of murkiness. Peter Murphy's monotone, almost chant-like vocal performance comes off cold and utterly dejected. As deadpan as Murphy delivered this stuff, it still oozed with character. Imagine Vincent Price fronting a smacked-out punk band who listened to more Black Sabbath than The Clash and you'd be getting close. Bela Lugosi's Dead is an anthem for the kids in black eyeliner and trench coats but don't hold that against it. No, this song deserves a spot on this haunted list.
Black Sabbath (basement tape) by Black Sabbath
Josh Urban, columns writer (author of The Crusade series)
My Mom bought me The Ozzman Cometh cd some years ago, before I could drive.She picked me up from some event I was at, and we started listening to it. Driving home, we got stuck in weird traffic at 1 am.So there we were, basically parked on the highway, it's the middle of the night, and we were listening to the song for the first time. Ozzy sings "Turn around quick, and start to run! Find out I'm the chosen one! Oh nooooooo!"and Bill Ward does this creepy drum fill that sounds like feet running after Ozzy.We both were petrified!What a terrific - and terrifying song.
The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
Kole, columns writer / video lessons contributor (author of the Songwriting 101 series)
Happy Halloween everyone! So, you want to know my favorite scary song? Well
It was hard to narrow down my favorite choices because I listen to a lot of film music, which can be quite dark & scary depending on the movie it was composed for. However, each time I listened to a film score that was trying to be scary, it always reminded me of Igor Stravinsky's groundbreaking piece: The Rite Of Spring!
There are a lot of reasons why I love and still study The Rite Of Spring, but one of the main reasons why, is its perpetual eeriness. There is a whole list of compositional techniques that contribute to this perpetual feeling of eeriness, but I could write a whole book on all of them and I really don't want to bore you. So instead, I will ask for you to only listen for 3 big things. The first is Stravinsky's use of trills, tremolos, and other effects as actual motifs which repeat and develop throughout the piece. The second is his use of dynamics. He goes from pianissimo to fortissimo at random intervals throughout the piece and it can really catch you off guard! Last but not least, I would ask for you to listen to the intervals between each part. Unlike in most music, it's not always stacked in thirds to make basic triads. Instead, Stravinsky makes great use of polychords and dissonant intervals between parts (minor 2nd, tritone, etc.) to accentuate the Scariness!
Again, I could list a million other things to listen for in The Rite Of Spring, but these 3 are big contributors to it's overall sound. Hope you enjoy and have a great Halloween!
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Metallica
David Lowe-Bianco, news writer
From the opening ring of a bell, to Cliff Burton's downright eerie bass line, to the slow, pounding death-metal riffs that drive the song, For Whom The Bell Tolls sounds like it would fit in quite nicely in just about any horror movie. I'll be honest; I still get chills every time this song comes on. This is partially due to how spooky the arrangement is, but also partially because it's just flat out a really badass song. This is easily one of my favorite tracks off of one of my favorite albums ever, Ride The Lightning. No Halloween Playlist would be complete without it.
Tyler by Toadies
Chris McDonald, reviews / interviews writer
Drawling, strained vocals coupled with absolutely chilling lyrics establish Tyler as one of the creepiest songs ever recorded. While it is arguably my favorite Toadies song, Tyler also serves as the most morbid, allegedly recalling the story of a serial rapist that plagued the town of Tyler, TX for some time. Catchy riffs aside, the lyrics are come from the point of view of the rapist himself, chronicling his thoughts as he stalks his next victim. The song chronicles the full range events, from watching the victim-to-be from afar to actually breaking into her house and stealing a beer to calm his excited nerves. The song reaches a climax just before the stalker enters her room. Via now-shouting, strained vocals, the final lyrics leave the listener with a clear, haunting image: I stumble in the hallway, outside the bedroom door / I hear her call out to me, I hear the fear in her voice / She pulls the covers tighter, I press against the door / I will be with her tonight! Though the actual rapist that serves as the subject of the song was eventually caught and imprisoned, Tyler has preserved the chilling events and will continue to frighten listeners for years to come.
I Don't Feel Like Dancing by Scissor Sisters
Adam Webb, reviews writer
I personally find the Scissor Sisters' song "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" one of the scariest tunes I've ever heard. For starters a normal guy should not be able to sing that high. I mean there are rumors as to how male singers (let alone really dedicated ones) reach high octaves by, lets say, pinching a couple of their male organs. But to reach the heights with which this guy sings at, I'm pretty sure you'd have to move out of the "pinching" category and into the "self-mutilating" category. Either that or this guy did not have a happy childhood. I dread to think of what happened to him as a child such that his voice is now as it is. It scares the bloody-excrement out of me. The only thing that could make it even more terrifying is if they made a video in which they attempted a revival of the '70's Glitter Rock. Oh wait
Yeah I'd definitely take watching "The Exorcist" in a dark dungeon surrounded by screaming pedophiles over listening to that song
"Iron Man" by Black Sabbath
Argie Plakas, interviews writer
My scariest song is Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". When I was little, my older cousin, who was a Black Sabbath fanatic, would play it all the time and make scary faces when the creepy intro would start: I Am Iron Man! And then I would run and cry because I thought the Iron Man was some scary monster coming to get me!
Fitter Happier by Radiohead
Nikhil Deshpande, reviews / columns writer
Fitter Happier is the definition of creepy, and many Radiohead fans will tell you that this is one of the few songs they dislike, mainly for this reason. The song begins with a voice, either a robot trying to exemplify human emotions or a human conformed to society; either way, it's freaky. Radiohead also incorporates (as they always so brilliantly do) odd sounds and dissonant chords that just leave the listener feeling uneasy. The piano has a very lonely, ominous quality to it. Every time I hear it, it freaks the hell out of me. Take a listen, see what you think.
The Bird and the Worm by The Used
Brandon Weiss, interviews writer
One of my favorite scary songs is The Bird And The Worm by The Used. This song scares me for a number of reasons. First of all, The Used's singer, Burt's inner creep shines pretty brightly. His lyrics about crawling in fear from someone like a worm from a bird are vivid. His spine-chilling cackle at the end of the song is also frightening. There's also a sinister strings part in this song that adds to the eerie aura. However, what puts this song over the edge for me as one of the creepiest rock songs that I know is the production. John Feldman's production on this tune is outrageous. Listen closely for creaking doors, a music box, and even a horse sample that instantly brings images of Ichabod Crane (from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) to mind. The Used hit the nail on the head with this one.
Come to Daddy by Aphex Twin
Evan Greenblo, interviews writer
Influential electronic act Aphex Twin most certainly knows how to manipulate just about every sound ever heard to the human ear. Since the 90's he has spat out many noteworthy tracks, but in my opinion, his most memorable is the one and only Come To Daddy. The song may not be the best in the man's catalogue, but it most certainly is the creepiest. From the fast tempo, sample use, to a voice calling out for your soul ("I want your soul, I will eat your soul, come to daddy"), it's the perfect potion to make your little brother or sister cry. However, if the song didn't do its job, I have faith the complimentary video will - because it did its job on me when I was young! You'll witness a mini-horror flick featuring an old lady with a vicious dog, a head in a TV, awkward looking little people, and more. Without a doubt, one of the scarier songs I can recall from my childhood.
There you have it folks. If you've got a song you'd like to add to the list, feel free to mention it in the comments below. Have a rockin' Halloween!