Top 10 Spooky Tunes
Ink By: Daniel Doukais
It’s 2006. Barely in kindergarten, I can only watch as my dad hangs a plastic skeleton on the front door. I’m eager to meet our newest Halloween decoration—who I spent five whole seconds naming—but Mr. Bones is of much taller stature.
I boop his nose and the button glows red.
His hollow body scratches against the door as he starts to boogie, but I don’t even notice the terrible sound this makes. I am much more interested in our conversation, enchanted by what he has to say:
𝅘𝅥𝅮 If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…. 𝅘𝅥𝅮
(He also said something about worms, a creature for which I had an extreme fondness.)
Music has long been my favourite way to celebrate spooky season.
They may not blare over the speakers of every grocery store and shopping mall for five weeks nonstop, but songs like “Somebody’s Watching Me” and “Superstition” shine at scary school dances and boozey backyard bonfires.
So many songs are perfect for getting in the Halloween spirit. Yet if I ask you to name a Halloween song, there’s a high chance that song doesn’t even mention Halloween.
Think about it.
I know you’ve heard “Monster Mash,” which we both know as a Halloween classic. Is the word “Halloween” anywhere in those lyrics? No. Not even “Samhain.”
Halloween music doesn’t have to be about Halloween.
My mom had a weird obsession with Blue Öyster Cult, and her drunken rendition of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is permanently etched in my brain alongside Halloween. She’d start singing before the decorations were even up (but after she’d been to BC Liquor, of course.)
In recent years, I’ve seen spooky songs both new and old gain popularity as a result of Halloween TikTok trends—take “Oh Klahoma” (2017) and “Psycho Killer” (1977) for example.
It doesn’t even have to be spooky.
“I Want Candy” isn’t any of these things, but even Kidz Bop recognizes it as a Halloween hit.
Really, one need only look to trick or treaters—dressed in all different costumes—to see that Halloween has many faces. Halloween music resists definition, and that’s what makes it special.
That’s part of the reason why there are tons of tunes to choose from, and with artists like Ashnikko releasing entire records centered around Halloween, I have no doubt there will be tons more.
To me, Halloween has freedom at its core. Freedom to express yourself however you want. Freedom to experiment. To transform.
It’s about embracing the chaos and cacophony among all our alternate identities.
And so is this list.
The only mainstream song in this playlist.
It feels wrong to discuss “Thriller” in isolation from its iconic music video. So I won’t. Watching the video and being absolutely terrified yet still enjoying it is a universal childhood experience. Change my mind.
Although my brain can easily bring back the image of those beady yellow eyes, my primary association with this song is band class.
If it was anywhere near October, you were given the sheet music for “Thriller.” It didn’t matter what grade you were in—every year, it was just as thrilling. As a former flutist, there’s no sound more terrifying than a bunch of eighth graders attempting to hit those high F’s at the beginning of the school year after not practicing at all during the summer.
Twilight (from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Nintendo (Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota)
For gamer ghouls.
Maybe you didn’t ask for my alternative to the Twilight Zone theme, but I told you this playlist would be chaos.
I knew right away that Twilight Princess was my favourite game in the series. Over 16 years later, it still is. Yes, I went trick or treating as Zelda on more than one occasion. But my favourite character—and costume—has always been Midna.
(I even named my dog after her.)
This game is inherently spooky, and so is its soundtrack. I get how other players see Majora’s Mask as the darker of the two, but IMHO (in my horrifying opinion), the latter’s soundtrack just isn’t as disturbing. I spent so much of my childhood looking for those tears of light that “Twilight” is more so comforting, but “Light and Darkness” is genuinely terrifying.
Me dressed up as Midna when I was seven. Yes, I am standing on the kitchen table.
Pas Vu Pas Pris
Pure 2000s Nostalgia.
Wow! Look at me—I’m so cultured. How EVER did I come across this random French tune?
Well, one day, I was making nectar in my front yard. My feet were sore from mashing grapes all day, so I went back inside, called the nanny, and had a nap. When I woke up, I realized the nanny hadn’t been doing her job. I tried to talk to her, but you could say she was a bit of a hag. Since I was clearly going to have to do everything myself, I fired her. I had to take care of my baby, who she had left alone downstairs. I began my descent down my spiral staircase. That’s when it happened.
All of the sudden, I was a toad.
The nanny fled the scene, and by then my baby was starving. Before I knew it, CPS was taking my baby away. Due to my being a toad, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I could only say one thing:
Yeah, no. This will all make sense in a second. And if you know me, what I’m about to tell you might cause an involuntary facepalm.
It’s from The Sims.
(You thought I’d limit myself to one song from a video game soundtrack? Ha! Impossible.)
Specifically, it’s from the best expansion pack of all time—The Sims: Makin’ Magic.
The whole soundtrack is, for lack of better words, magical. But the reason I’ve singled out this song is because the title phrase fits the nanny so well. Pas vu, pas vris—not seen, not caught.
After the nanny toadified my Sim, I turned away from the screen and looked at my dad. He had absolutely no knowledge of the game, but this was an emergency. The look on my five-year-old face as I asked him for help must have been so sad, because—while this is obviously a core memory for me—even he remembers it. He reminds me of it whenever I mention Sims, and although it brings both of us a good laugh, he still feels bad that he couldn’t save my baby.
It’s okay, Dad. I forgive you.
Trick or Treat Dancefloor
Cherry Glazerr (2013)
For when spooky month makes you sad.
It’s my senior year of high school, and I’m still not over him. October is hard for me, but it feels fake to lament the death of a heterosexual relationship using girl in red’s “we fell in love in october.” Maybe it’s weirder that I find comfort in Cherry Glazerr, who I only know of because he was obsessed with just one of their songs nearly two years ago. I didn’t even start listening to Cherry Glazerr’s other songs until after he broke up with me. But for some reason, I feel like this music is here for me. I decide that Cherry Glazerr is mine now, and it gives me some sense of reclamation—some sense of self when I am too depressed to celebrate my favourite season with all the kooky songs I normally would.
It will take me another 18 months to stop loving him, but I’ll get there.
And when I do, I’ll realize that this isn’t even Cherry Glazerr’s best spooky song.
Now, I smile as “Pizza Monster” fades out.
(Too cheesy? Sorry.)
Chill lofi beats for the indie ghouls.
Halloween can be cute, too. I will say, however, that I am glad I’ve graduated from using the phrase “spoopy” as a means of articulating this.
2 SPOOKY 4 U
Rated E for everyone.
I know this is totally a kids song, but I didn’t discover it until I was 14. Although my friends were jarred by the transition from My Chemical Romance’s “Dead!” to this little ditty, I saw absolutely no problem with it.
I still don’t.
However, I had another kiddie song in my collection. I recognized that “Too Spooky For Me,” on the other hand, is clearly intended for an even younger audience.
In order to maintain friendships, I played the latter less. When I did, though, I thought it was hilarious. I saw it as my own Halloween Rick roll.
It’s not necessarily a staple now, but once I have a few spooky ciders in me, I can’t promise I won’t pull this trick.
Me as a baby.
Calling All the Monsters
China Anne McClain
For gen-z’s Disney adults.
In my defense, at least this one’s a tween song. Kind of.
“Calling All the Monsters” came out when I was in fifth grade. By this point, I had mostly moved on from Webkinz—but only because I decided that Animal Jam was cooler. (I even had a premium account for a few months). National Geographic decorated their virtual world each October, and whenever I got sick of the spooky Animal Jam soundtrack, China Anne McClain came in clutch.
Come on. It’s a bop.
It’s Almost Halloween
Panic! At The Disco
It is July 31, 2014. I have spent enough time on Tumblr now, and this year I am prepared. The Skeleton War begins tomorrow. I must blast this fanfare as soon as I wake up.
On August 1, my custom alarm tone makes it official: It’s Almost Halloween.
I jump out of bed and gather my supplies: tissues, elastics, and a sharpie. I march to the living room, phone still blasting this fanfare. I begin assembling my army of tissue paper ghosts.
I am 13. I don’t know what Panic! At The Disco’s frontman Brendon Urie has done yet, and I won’t for another several years and two concerts later. All I know is that he’s in an emo band the girl I’m crushing on likes. I haven’t even realized that I’m crushing on her yet, but later that year she will become my first love.
Eventually, my parents notice that I’ve had this song on repeat for the past 30 minutes. They think I am so quirky.
Panic! has made so many of my favourite spooky songs: “Nearly Witches,” “Let’s Kill Tonight,” and even a cover of “This Is Halloween.” Now that I’ve come to accept that Brendon Urie might actually be an awful person, I try to turn to Fall Out Boy’s cover of “Ghostbusters” to fill the hole in my heart.
It doesn’t work, but at least there’s always My Chemical Romance—Gerard Way’s “Baby You’re a Haunted House” has been out for a few years now, and it feels like home.
The one with the ~deadly~ drops.
This song goes so hard that even my roommate (whose music taste is much different than mine) approves. It goes so hard that I listen to it all year round.
I have so many memories with this song. It’s crazy to think that I might not have added this song to my collection if my friend hadn’t invited me to a Troye Sivan concert in 2018.
Kim Petras was the opener. She had released TURN OFF THE LIGHT, VOL. 1 that October, and there she was, still performing all her spookiest songs over a week after Halloween at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Later that night, I listened to them again and again as my friend drove us through Vancouver’s terrifying night traffic. I would’ve listened to that album the whole way home if my friend hadn’t revoked my aux privileges after 45 minutes as the scary music was stressing her out.
Almost a year later, I was on my way to a spooky rave.
My friends were already there, so I was free to blast whatever music I wanted as I drove towards the Nanaimo airport. Of course, “<demons>” was perfect. I had it on repeat the entire time I was on the highway.
When I hit the dirt road, I switched to the full (new and improved) TURN OFF THE LIGHT album. This allowed something very funny to happen.
After 30 minutes of failing to find this bush rave by myself, I realized I was lost—just as “Wrong Turn” came on.
Spooky Scary Skeletons (Undead Tombstone Remix)
The Living Tombstone (Original by Andrew Gold)
Absolutely unmatched on every level.
At 15, I am equal parts angry and angsty. I sit at the kitchen table and plug my huge headphones into my iPhone 5S. It is sometime between July and November.
I tap on whatever third-party streaming app I was using at the time and frantically type “spooky scary dubstep remix” in the search bar. It takes me a second to find this specific version—the remix on Spotify isn’t exactly the same (despite having the same name).
I turn my volume all the way up for the first time ever and press play.
I think I am so hardcore.
If I could only pick one spooky song to listen to, this would be it.
(It’s half the reason I pay for YouTube Premium.)
Tianna is a queer student in her final year at VIU. She’s taken so many different electives that everyone forgets Creative writing is her major, and she’s also minoring in SWAG. Between her studies, day (night) job, internship at Caitlin Press, and work with The Nav, Portal, and Sad Girl Review, it’s safe to say she’s pretty deep in her girlboss era.