Theophanes Avery is a New England based author, blogger, sculptor, and lover of life.
Rumor has it that you're throwing the biggest Halloween party on this side of the cemetery, but you're a little bit confused about what to put on your playlist aside from the immortal "Monster Mash" (which plays 24/7 this time of year). Good news! I'm here to give you a few suggestions. These songs will go from well known to weird and obscure. It's a list with a little something for everyone. Happy Halloween!
Fun and Weird Songs to Play at Halloween
- "Oogey Boogie's Song" by Ken Page and Ed Ivory
- "Que Sera Sera" by Pink Martini
- "Sarah's Theme" by James Horner and Sarah Jessica Parker
- "Haunted Phonograph" by ThouShaltNot
- "Delicious Cabaret" by This Way to the Egres
- "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads
- "Boris the Spider" by The Who
- "I Put a Spell on You" by Credence Clearwater Revival
- "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon
- "Friends in Crawl Spaces" by Opie and Anthony
- "Angels in Cages" by Caravan of Thieves
- "If I told You Once" by Circus Contraption
- "Bad Man" by Adrian H and the Wounds
- "Put Your Lights On" by Santana Featuring Everlast
- "Dance While the Sky Crashes Down" by Jason Webley
- "The Trouble with Saints" by Niel Gaiman
- "Time Warp" by Christina Milian, Reeve Carney, Annaleigh Ashford, and Tim Curry
- "Formidable Marinade" by Amanda Palmer, Lance Horne, and Mikelangelo
- "I am Sam Hall" by Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys
- "Hell" by The Squirrel Nut Zippers
- "The Ghost of Stephen Foster" by Squirrel Nut Zippers
- "Little Ghost" by White Stripes
- "In Hell I'll be Good Company" by The Dead South
- "Libera Me" by Gabriel Fauré
1. "Oogey Boogie's Song"
Artist: Ken Page, Ed Ivory
Album: The Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Soundtrack
Release Year: 1993
Let's start out by dipping our feet into the water with something familiar and fun—"Oogey Boogie's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. This has to be one of my favorite Halloween tunes. It is the one song that I can point to and say, "Even if you don't understand a word of English, you'll still be able to feel the sarcasm dripping off this one!" Sung by the ever elusive Ken Page, it gives fairly graphic details about what Santa Claus is in for after being kidnapped by the boogeyman.
If you're looking for more covers of songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, then make sure you check out Marilyn Manson's version of "This Is Halloween" or Korn's rendition of "Kidnap the Sandy Claws."
2. "Que Sera Sera"
Artist: Pink Martini
Release Year: 1997
My second pick is another familiar song—but with a twist! Most people think of "Que Sera Sera" as the happy sounding Doris Day rendition... but not me. I actually prefer Pink Martini's slow, and somewhat unnerving, version. It's both lulling and unsettling! It's perfect for setting a creepy vibe.
3. "Sarah's Theme"
Artist: James Horner and Sarah Jessica Parker
Album: Soundtrack to Hocus Pocus
Release Year: 1993
Another fun little creep show is "Sarah's Theme," which you may already know from the soundtrack to Hocus Pocus. It also has that old-fashioned dream-like quality (while hinting at something a little sinister). Rumored to be based on a poem, it's still up to interpretation.
4. "Haunted Phonograph"
Album: Projekt Presents: A Dark Cabaret 2
Release Year: 2011
I found this little-known gem on a CD of dark cabaret music and fell head over heels for it. It is adorable. Set to swing/ragtime sounding musical backdrop, it tells the story of a man who loses the love of his life... to a haunted phonograph. The buildup in this song to the final twist ending is just beautiful. Watch out or you may find yourself playing this one year round!
5. "Delicious Cabaret"
Artist: This Way to the Egress
Album: This Delicious Cabaret
Release Year: 2011
Since we're already enjoying dark cabaret, why not listen to this rambling murder soaked adventure? The band's name, This Way to the Egress, is also a lovely euphemism for death. With unbridled enthusiasm, we get to listen to the narrator hail chaos and violence to random strangers. It's a bit of an homage to serial killing—but that's what makes it so fun!
6. "Psycho Killer"
Artist: Talking Heads
Album: The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Release Year: 1982
Why not follow one song about joyful homicide with another that's a little more well-known? It's hard to go wrong with "Psycho Killer," by the Talking Heads. Here we get to blink suspiciously and give germaphobes the one-over. It's no wonder this one has worked its way into so many horror film soundtracks.
7. "Boris the Spider"
Artist: The Who
Album: A Quick One
Release Year: 1966
Halloween isn't just about celebrating the macabre it's also about facing your fears, which makes "Boris the Spider" the perfect choice. It's weird, it's silly, and it's well-known enough to crack at least one smile.
8. "I Put a Spell on You"
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Album: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Release Year: 1968
Here's a song so beloved that it's been sung for decades by a mind-bogglingly diverse set of musicians (including Nina Simone and Marilyn Mansion). And the great thing about this is that it seems every rendition has it's own unique charm. I've included the Creedence Clearwater version below.
9. "Werewolves of London"
Artist: Warren Zevon
Album: Excitable Boy
Release Year: 1978
Hey, so we have yet to tip our hat to werewolves... which seems a bit unfair. I mean just because they smell of wet dog doesn't mean we should shun them... Actually this song is pretty classic for Halloween lists for the obvious reason. In fact, there are a lot of Warren Zevon songs that could make the list. Seriously, a lot! And, as crazy as this sounds, I used to think the song was cute, until a few months ago when someone made me listen carefully to the lyrics. What is this, I thought! Now, I love it even more.
10. "Friends in Crawl Spaces"
Well, since we're already playing songs that will make people wonder about your sanity, why not listen to this country spoof of "Friends in High Places" that's all about serial killer John Wayne Gacey (aptly titled "Friends in Crawl Spaces")? I am not usually into country, but you have to admit that this song includes some masterful pun work.
11. "Angels in Cages"
Artist: Caravan of Thieves
Release Year: 2008
As they say, "In for a penny, in for a pound!" Here's another band that lends themselves beautifully to Halloween. This band sings all sorts of lovely off-kilter things in their sweet old-timey way... It's weird, it's comical, it's a little off, but it's perfect! Nothing not to love here.
12. "If I told You Once"
Artist: Circus Contraption
Album: The Half-Wit's Descent
Release Year: 2008
This is another one of those unnerving little love ballads that tells a story about what happens when "you fall in a love with a man who is broken beyond all repair." It's jarringly cheerful sounding as it gloats about driving someone to suicide.
13. "Bad Man"
Artist: Adrian H and the Wounds
Album: Dog Solitude
Release Year: 2011
Now for a song that even gives me the heebie jeebies. At least all the other creepy songs with eerie lyrics sounded happy. Not this one! This one has a way of getting under your skin. And, in all honesty, my first reaction after hearing it is always, "I need to go shower this off my soul." It's got everything, vibrantly disturbing lyrics, a spine tinglingly creepy tune, a singer that sounds like the living dead, and virtually no one's ever heard of it—so it makes for an alarming surprise!
14. "Put Your Lights On"
Artist: Santana Featuring Everlast
Release Year: 1999
Usually I am a little leery of modern mash ups, especially with legends like Santana. But, what can I say, this particular blending both creeps me the hell out and makes me smile. It speaks to our fear of the unknown, which is definitely in the spirit of Halloween.
15. "Dance While the Sky Crashes Down"
Artist: Jason Webley
Album: Against the Night
Release Year: 1999
This is one of my more lovable choices. It's playfully morbid.... teasing us with our own mortality to a sprightly tune and sung in a timeless (and slightly gravelly) voice. This is also one of only two songs on my list that I have seen performed live (it was amazing)! I will always have a soft spot for this one. It should be on every playlist in need of something cynical, weary, and sarcastic.
16. "The Trouble with Saints"
Wait, what? Neil Gaimen? The dude that writes all those whimsy books and graphic novels? What is he doing on this list? Well, he's here to provide a fun little ditty with a lot of historical references and a walloping dose of oddness. (He earns bonus points for also having a British accent!) Why I love listening to this deranged Joan of Arc story, I don't know, but I do. Maybe it'll have the same effect on you?
17. "Time Warp"
Artist: Christina Milian, Reeve Carney, Annaleigh Ashford, Tim Curry
Album: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again
Release Year: 2016
I know this one tops a lot of Halloween lists, but it's for a good reason. It's fun! It's fun in a marvelously confused 1975 sort of way. You can dance to it, dress up for it, or just caterwaul along with the lyrics. There's whimsy, strangeness, humor, gender-bending, and innuendo throughout the song. What's not to love? This is a tune that is never going to die.
18. "Formidable Marinade"
Artist: Mikelangelo, Amanda Palmer, and Lance Horne
Album: Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under
Release Year: 2011
I have a confession. I used this enthusiastic anthem to sexual perversion and madness to horrify a few people. (I still do from time to time.) It's so catchy that you just want to jump up and sing along. (Well, that is, before you listen to it closely.) This is probably the only song on my list that appears to be sung by a lion tamer. (Well, he might not actually be a lion tamer, but he sure dresses the part!)
19. "I Am Sam Hall"
Artist: Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys
Before the mass media, a popular way to distribute the news was through song and stories told around the campfire. This is where "I am Sam Hall" was born, an enthusiastic tabloid-esque story about a mad murderer. It's been covered by a lot of artists over the years, but this version, by Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys, is by far my favorite.
Artist: Squirrel Nut Zippers
Release Year: 1996
The song "Hell" saw a brief bit of fame in the '90s, at the time most people thought it was called "In the Afterlife," and almost no one seemed to realize the chorus spells out damnation. I can't blame them. It is so bouncy and cute, why would you listen any closer?
21. "The Ghost of Stephen Foster"
Artist: The Squirrel Nut Zippers
Album: Perennial Favorites
Release Year: 1998
The Squirrel Nut Zippers also sung this lesser-known retro classic, "The Ghost of Stephen Foster." It makes no sense whatsoever, but the song's accompanying by cartoon dance macabre is somehow perfect.
22. "Little Ghost"
Artist: White Stripes
Album: Get Behind Me Satan
Release Year: 2005
This child-friendly ghost tale is one of my favorites. You might recognize it from the animated kiddie flick ParaNorman.
23. "In Hell I'll be Good Company"
Artist: The Dead South
Album: Good Company
Release Year: 2014
This one perplexes me. It's not something I would normally listen to, but I can't really help it. There's something hypnotic about the tune, the little dance, and the weird depressing lyrics. It has some kind of morbid bluegrassy goodness that's just hard to explain. Take a listen for yourself!
24. "Libera Me"
Artist: Gabriel Fauré
Album: Soundtrack to Interview with a Vampire
Now, I will leave you with something calming and slow. This one sounds like zombie choir boys sneaking up on you in a dark alley. It's "Libera Me"—a song best known for setting the ambiance in Interview with a Vampire. It's as beautiful as it is chilling.
Well, there you have it, 25 great Halloween tunes from a range of genres and subjects, all lovable in their own way. If you're still looking for more great Halloween songs, check out some classics, such as "Don't Fear the Reaper," "People are Strange," "Sympathy for the Devil," "She's Not There," and Lou Reed's "Venus in Furs." Have more songs you like? Feel free to list your favorites in the comments below!