For a lot of us, Halloween means candy, booze, and a surfeit of scary stuff. Whether you’re hitting the town or hosting your very own haunted Halloween bash, you’ll certainly need a few key tunes to set the tone for the festivities.
There are all kinds of appropriate Halloween songs, so you don’t have to listen to several hours of Monster Mash if that’s not your thing. From classic rock cuts to wild electronic affairs, the pumpkin-cuttin’ spirit can be found across nearly every genre out there. Lots of them are even pretty darn catchy.
Don’t worry if you’re not well-versed in spooky songs — we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a playlist featuring 30 of the best Halloween songs you can stream to help speed along the slow, steady creep up to the eeriest day of the year. If you like these selections, be sure to check out all the DT playlists on our official Digital Trends Spotify page.
Thriller by Michael Jackson, 1982
Where else could we possibly begin? Thriller is the holy grail of Halloween music, the alpha and omega, the first and (but, in this case, not actually) the last. The music video is one of the most epic of all time, with Jackson transforming into a wolf-thing, fleeing from — and then dancing with — a cadre of zombies before shooting the camera one final, yellow-eyed glance. The titular album currently sits atop the list of best-selling albums ever, by a wide margin. The great Vincent Price’s final laugh is perhaps the most sinister you’ll ever hear.
This is Halloween by The Citizens of Halloween, 1993
If Thriller is the ultimate Halloween song, The Nightmare Before Christmas has to be the ultimate Halloween movie. Tim Burton’s stop-motion masterpiece, helmed by Coraline director Henry Selick, is equal parts charming and creepy, with a colorful cast of characters populating Halloween Town where Pumpkin King Jack Skellington leads the annual festivities. This is Halloween, written and composed by Danny Elfman, is a big part of our introduction to these monstrous denizens, whose entire way of life is based upon the holiday. It’s not really a party tune, but we had to add it in.
Stranger Things by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein, 2016
Stranger Things seems to be everyone’s favorite show these days, and for good reason. Now in its second season, the series offers a unique blend of nostalgia with camp horror and coming-of-age elements, telling the story of a small town in Indiana where some decidedly supernatural events begin to occur. The theme music is extremely reminiscent of the synth-wave style popularized in the 1980s, the era in which the show is set.
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr., 1984
Another movie theme, this time eternally tied to Ghostbusters. The Ray Parker song was apparently inspired by a late-night commercial jingle and, in concert with the film itself, became an ’80s touchstone that instantly triggers nostalgia in all who hear it. Who you gonna call?!?
The release of Psycho Killer in 1977 eerily coincided with the capture of the Son of Sam killer in New York City. Some macabre lyrics — both in English and in French — contrast with an uptempo, new-wave bass line that immediately made the song a hit. According to the band, the original recording featured cello, which we think might have been much creepier and more, uh, Halloween-y. In any case, we probably don’t need to explain why Psycho Killer belongs on this list.
The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden, 1982
Iron Maiden asked Vincent Price (see the entry for Thriller) to perform the hair-raising spoken-word intro to The Number of the Beast, but had to instead go with English actor Barry Clayton when Price’s asking fee was too steep. Rest assured, though, it’s still quite unsettling, leading into the catchy guitar riff upon which the song is built. The chorus goes as follows: “666, the number of the beast/Hell and fire was spawned to be released.” If that’s not justification enough for its place here, we don’t know what is.
Dracula’s Wedding by Outkast featuring Kelis, 2003
While Hollywood might be inundated with vampire movies, there actually aren’t that many good vampire songs out there. Andre 3000’s Dracula’s Wedding, which lives on The Love Below — the latter half of Outkast’s acclaimed 2003 double album — is about a vampire who’s fallen in love with a human and doesn’t know how to handle it. With lyrics like, “I’ve never ran from no one, but I’m terrified of you/See my heartbeat is a slow one, but I’m terrified of you,” and an incredibly funky mixture of bass horns and guitar, it’s impossible not to love.
Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, 1962
Monster Mash automatically teleports us all back to Halloween celebrations in elementary school when this song would play on repeat as you tried to swindle your classmates out of whichever candy was your favorite (Kit Kats are the correct answer, by the way). Bobby Pickett wrote Monster Mash at age 24 as a send-up of dance-craze tunes like the Twist, but it became a hit on its own merits in the weeks leading up to Halloween in 1962. Leaving this off a Halloween-themed playlist is a huge party foul.
I Put A Spell On You by Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968
Jay Hawkins’ version, the original one, is actually more spooky (in fact, Hawkins leveraged the song by appearing on Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Review in a long cape and rising out of a coffin), but we’re partial to the CCR version. John Fogerty’s vocals lend the track a bluesy vibe, and the lyrics — while simple and repetitive — are almost dreamlike, likening love to witchcraft. Plus, it doesn’t sound like every other CCR song.
Howlin’ For You by The Black Keys, 2011
Since its release in 2010, Howlin’ For You has been featured in countless commercials, video games (though not necessarily scary ones), and TV series, thanks in part to its instantly recognizable drum-and-guitar loop. Eerie vocals — spoken, not sung — provide a unique backdrop for a simplistic song that could be mistaken for a love ballad if not viewed through the proper lens. Through that proper lens, though, it’s very clearly a song about werewolves hunting their prey.
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult, 1976
Let’s avoid the too-obvious “More Cowbell” reference and just move on here. Don’t Fear The Reaper launched Blue Öyster Cult to superstardom in the mid-1970s, becoming an iconic rock ballad in the process. The song is ostensibly about overcoming one’s fear of death and appreciating life, with lead singer Buck Dharma prattling on about Romeo and Juliet’s eternal love. That’s just what the Reaper would say, though! Also, the song’s B-side was titled Tattoo Vampire.
Suspiria by Goblin, 1977
The title track to the classic Dario Argento horror movie, Suspiria reinforced Goblin’s legend status in the film industry. The 6-plus-minute instrumental track is oozing with creepy charisma, featuring tons of cool sound effects and ghostly breathing atop gentle guitar sequencing. Eventually, the track evolves into a more uptempo affair, but the creepy whispering and the devilish chimes remain, marking one of Goblin’s signature tracks.
Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones, 1968
Inspired partially by the work of renowned French poet Charles Baudelaire, Sympathy For The Devil is a unique song, with Mick Jagger portraying a charismatic, conniving version of the devil himself. Samba drums offer a somewhat primitive backdrop for crooned backup vocals, almost like a Paul Simon song (but with creepy overtones). The track’s lyrics recall terrible times in human history, including the Crusades and the Kennedy assassinations, reminding us that human beings can be the most devilish of all.
Werewolf Bar Mitzvah by Jeff Richmond, 2007
If you’ve never seen 30 Rock … well, that probably won’t have much bearing on your enjoyment of Halloween, but still, you should watch it. It’s great. Werewolf Bar Mitzvah was a novelty track recorded by Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) with the hook, “Boys becoming men. Men becoming wolves.” The accompanying video (here’s the best version we could find) is an obvious Thriller send-up with Jordan in red leather and full werewolf makeup.
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, 1978
Are you ready for the second half of your werewolf double feature? Werewolves of London combines the comedic songwriting talents of Warren Zevon with the instrumental prowess of Fleetwood Mac members Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) and session guitarist Waddy Wachtel, whose solo splits such incredible lines as “Little old lady got mutilated last night” and “He’s the hairy-handed man who ran amok in Kent.” Jazzy piano chords belie the sinister nature of the song, which is really quite brutal.
Bloody Mary by Lady Gaga, 2011
The title of this song actually refers more to Mary Magdalene than it does the infamous demon who shows up if you turn off the lights and repeat her name in the mirror. Still, it opens with the voice of Gaga — no stranger to horror — echoing eerily over some hellish synths, crooning phrases like, “When you’re gone, I’ll tell them that my religion is you” and “He can’t rewrite the agro of my furied heart.” Though the song goes in and out of typical Gaga dance fare, it’s an interesting concept, and one that would fit well at any Halloween bash.
Haunt You by Flux Pavilion, 2010
Despite being one of Flux Pavilion’s tamer compositions (and, uh, not featuring much in the way of lyrics), Haunt You deserves mention solely for its evocative vocal loop, juxtaposed against a driving bassline and shrill, siren-like synths. Skip to 2:45 and the song takes on a new dimension entirely, slowing down to include a well-placed piano sequence before building back up again. Sometimes, less is more.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Marilyn Manson, 1995
Marilyn Manson (who, incidentally, also covered I Put A Spell On You) shot to stardom in the mid-1990s partially thanks to this extremely freaky version of The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams, which was accompanied by an unsettling music video that was voted the scariest ever in 2010. The lyrics of the original song are already weird (“Some of them want to use you/Some of them want to get used by you/Some of them want to abuse you/Some of them want to be abused”) and the effect is magnified in Manson’s hellish voice.
A Nightmare on My Street by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, 1988
This funky track from Will Smith — two years before his Fresh Prince persona made its television debut — interpolates the theme music from A Nightmare on Elm Street while Smith levies some serious heat against the film’s infamous antagonist (“He’s burnt up like a weenie and his name is Fred!”). The song’s extended second verse features Smith narrating an encounter with Krueger with comedic undertones; New Line Cinema actually sued the duo over the music video, which ended up being destroyed.
Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, 1970
Apparently, this song was inspired by a paranormal experience that bassist Geezer Butler had in 1969, while the band was still named Earth. Butler claimed that, after reading a book on satanism, he saw a hooded black figure at the end of his bed and noticed the book missing the next morning. The opening line (“What is this that stands before me?/Figure in black which points at me”) reflect this story, and the song is a seminal moment for the birth of heavy metal on the whole. It’s not Sabbath’s most exciting tune or the best party jam, but listen all the way through and you’ll hear why it makes our list.
Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, 1958
Purple People Eater — now immortalized within Halloween culture like Monster Mash — tells the story of a weird, horned monster who comes to Earth in hopes of joining a rock ‘n’ roll band and, uh, eating people? The song later inspired a 1988 children’s movie and a nickname for the Minnesota Vikings’ stingy defensive line. Really, we don’t know what else to say about this one. It’s weird.
The Addams Family: Main Theme by Vic Mizzy and His Orchestra, 1964
For those unfamiliar, The Addams Family is an eccentric fictional family invented by cartoonist Charles Addams and depicted in several forms over the years, including different television programs and feature-length films. Perhaps the most famous version, a 1960s series on ABC, featured John Astin and Carolyn Jones as Gomez and Morticia Addams, respectively. The theme song has remained recognizable through copious use at sporting events and other live entertainment. “They’re creepy and they’re kooky/Mysterious and spooky/They’re altogether ooky/The Addams Family.”
Monster by Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver, 2010
Monster might not even be the eeriest song on Kanye’s 2010 masterwork My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Lost In The World and Devil in a New Dress both deserve mention here), but Nicki Minaj’s verse alone earns it a spot. Over a rumbling, guttural beat, Nicki snarls,”First things first, I’ll eat your brains/Then I’ma star rockin’ gold teeth and fangs” in what still stands as her most vicious performance. Simply put, this song is money.
Frankenstein by The Edgar Winter Group, 1973
Alright, we will admit that there’s nothing particularly Halloweenish about Frankenstein beyond the name. That said, it’s an iconic rock anthem featuring Edgar Winter himself rocking a series of sweet synthesizer solos across a funky, guitar-driven instrumental track. The song is so named because the final recording was pieced together from several sections, using a razor blade and splicing tape. It’s also on an album named They Only Come Out At Night, so there’s that.
Superstition by Stevie Wonder, 1972
We don’t really need to explain this one, do we? Devils? Bad luck? Broken mirrors? Not to mention it’s incredibly catchy. Moving on.
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillex, 2010
This is one of the songs that inspired people to try out dubstep — and electronic music on the whole — even without really incorporating any pop music elements. The dichotomy between Skrillex’s sprites (bright, melodic, and featuring softly chopped vocals) and his monsters (angry, growling machines peppered with screams of “Oh my god!”) is vast, and the transitions between are abrupt. Somehow, the song manages to stay relatively coherent, representing Halloween equally for the tutu-wearing fairies and the mask-clad psychopaths.
Am I A Psycho by Tech N9ne, featuring B.o.B. and Hospin, 2011
Am I A Psycho is a horror movie in song form, featuring three impressive lyricists doing their best serial killer impressions over a plucky piano riff. “Mom? Dad? I’m no longer the boy you’re used to seeing/I’ve changed a lot, plus I’ve grown to hate every human being/My mood swings have now turned my dreams into gruesome scenes,” spits Hopsin at breakneck speed. Plus, the music video is great.
Skulls by Misfits, 1982
Misfits inspired the horror punk scene more than perhaps any other band, and their entire debut album Walk Among Us is filled with creepy cuts (All Hell Breaks Loose, Braineaters) built perfectly for placement on any Halloween playlist. It’s no wonder parents were concerned about their children listening to punk rock at the time, given the demonic subject matter. Still, Skulls is fun, and its fast pace makes for a great party tune.
Black Juju by Alice Cooper, 1971
Shock rock godfather Alice Cooper is known for his elaborate live performances, which have included such elements as guillotines, fake blood, and snakes, all in pursuit of excitement. Black Juju, though — off Cooper’s third studio album, Love it to Death — is a nine-minute epic that starts off sounding like the official soundtrack for human sacrifice before settling into a Doors-esque groove punctuated by clicking drumsticks and morbid utterances like, “Bodies need rest.”
Murder Ink by Dr. Dre featuring Hittman & Ms. Roq, 2001
The theme for John Carpenter’s legendary horror flick Halloween (which, by the way, is getting a new sequel with Jamie Lee Curtis) has been repurposed for dozens of tracks, but Dr. Dre’s version is the most badass. Combining the famous plinking piano with police sirens, Dre crafts a perfectly macabre environment for Hittman and Ms. Roq to drop verses about planning, casing, and committing murders. If only Eminem was here, too.
Hells Bells by AC/DC, 1980
Ominous bells. Shredding guitar. Brian Johnson’s agonizing screams. This is just about the perfect Halloween song. The band’s Highway to Hell would also be an appropriate choice here.
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