I love Halloween. I love everything about it. I love carving pumpkins, vintage horror decorations, and putting together new costumes every year (or buying a Princess Leia costume only to find out there’s no attached hood, which is obviously preposterous). In a lot of ways, Halloween is more fun for me than Christmas. There aren’t really gifts to be bought, and there’s no extravagant meal unless you count two large pizzas, which most of the time I do. But it doesn’t demand travel, spending extended hours with distant family members, and spooky music isn’t played on an endless loop for a month and a half on every radio station known to God or man.
But admittedly, there aren’t a lot of strictly Halloween songs. The closest we get to a mainstream Halloween song is “Monster Mash,” which is obviously awesome, but everyone expects you to play it. As a deeply musical person, I seek to define other, just-as-good, Halloween tunes. So, without further ado (A-boo? I don’t know how to pun very well), here are five songs you might want to think about adding to your Halloween playlist, just under “Monster Mash.”
1. "Put a Lid on It" - Squirrel Nut Zippers
It was my mother who introduced this jazzy little number to me as a Halloween song when I was in high school. I asked her how this could ever be considered a frightening tune, which you might also wonder should you give it a listen. The music sounds a lot more like the ambiance at a Gatsby party than, well, a Gatsby funeral. But then my mother spoke the words that have creepily resonated with me for years.
“Put a lid on it. Like, put a lid on… a coffin.”
I’ve never been able to un-hear that. To this day, any time I hear this song, I feel Halloween all over.
2. "Grim Grinning Ghosts" from Disney's "Haunted Mansion"
I rode the Haunted Mansion at Disney World in Florida just once when I was ten years old, and since then, I’ve never been able to decide if the ride is actually creepy or not. There’s this part where you roll past a mirror, and they project a ghoul onto your screen as though it’s sitting next to you, which is kind of horrifying. But the weirdest part about the Haunted Mansion is definitely its theme song. This number begins with frightening organs and a gloomy voiceover, and midway through, it switches to an upbeat, almost catchy song about having a party with a bunch of ghosts. It’s almost fun… until the end, when a creepy voice says, “Hurry back… hurry back! Make sure to bring your death certificate.”
Think that’s creepy? It’s even creepier when you realize that the people singing this song are the same people who sing the songs in The Tiki Room.
Nonetheless, if it’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween, you can bet I’m thinking of this spooky little ditty.
3. "Shadows of the Night" - Pat Benatar
You know… shadows! Night! Halloween! Okay, it’s a loose connection at best, but it’s an excuse to listen to Pat Benatar on Halloween, and I’ll take just about any excuse I can to listen to this rock-and-roll queen.
4. "Little Ghost" - The White Stripes
It’s probably the sweetest song on this miniature playlist, but I think it’s a Halloween essential. Although the use of the ghost in this song is probably a metaphor for an unrequited or dispassionate love affair, I always get a good chuckle when I imagine Jack White dancing with an actual little ghost. Also, this song plays during the end credits of the 2012 film “ParaNorman,” and the sequence (and the whole movie) is pretty adorable.
5. "Boris the Spider" - The Who
Full disclosure: This song terrified me as a child. I couldn’t really place my finger on why, since I didn’t have intense arachnophobia and loved music that was older than my parents. Now that I’m an adult, however, I realize what’s so creepy about this selection. It’s that voice. The deep, throaty sound reserved for those three words: “Boris the Spider.” It’s terrible. Play it for any small child, and I’m sure the small child will remember you for years—as a villain.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Give the song a listen, but beware of the creepy.
“Monster Mash” is great, and if you don’t give it a listen at least once on October 31 this year, I don’t think your holiday will be complete. But if you’re looking for something you might not consider “average Halloween,” check out these songs, check out some others, and have fun out there.
Just don’t hog all the mini Twix bars. They’re for me.