We all know there’s no shortage of Halloween music out there. But while the novelty stuff is fun, sometimes it’s just more exciting to play music that is more tangibly terrifying. The following songs and albums have origins that might just prove to be… too spooky for you.
WARNING – Some descriptions and featured video images are graphic. Not for the faint of heart.
10: “Szomorú vasárnap” a.k.a. “Gloomy Sunday” a.k.a. “Hungarian Suicide Song”
This song carries with it an urban legend that it has been linked to several suicides, and was therefore banned from the radio for many years. At its most extreme, rumor dictates that those who listen to the song will, inevitably, die by their own hand…
The original song arose in depression-era Hungary and was first recorded in 1935. The lyrics of the song express the feeling following the loss of a loved one, and are notably melancholy in that they do, in fact, express a temptation to join that loved one in death. The song was soon translated to English as well; the most popular recording was performed by Billie Holiday. While it is true that the BBC did ban the song up until 2002, there appears to be no basis for any other widespread ban.
As for the claim regarding its link to suicides, there also appears to be no factual grounds for a suggestion to that effect. However, there’s no denying that the song is gloomy, or shall we say… spooky.
9: Throbbing Gristle – “Hamburger Lady”
*Warning* The image used in this video is graphic. Here it is.
For those who are not aware, Throbbing Gristle was a group from England who are widely credited with the creation of industrial music as a genre during the latter half of the 70’s. While it’s no secret that unsettling lyrics and imagery are as closely associated to the genre as gore is to death metal or “satanism” is to black metal, many recognize their use to be generally motivated by shock value. The listener experience typically is more akin to camp than genuine terror.
Well, the song “Hamburger Lady” off the group’s 1978 album D.O.A.: The Third and Final Report of Throbbing Gristle may just be an exception. The music itself is pretty unnerving, but the lyrics, derived from a letter composed by mail artist Al Ackerman, are what make the song truly uncomfortable to listen to. They describe a woman who has been severely burned from the waist up and is being kept alive with “tubes,” albeit in a state of agonizing pain. The plausible reality of this scenario along with the rather deadpan delivery of its description make for a song that’s sure to spook you to the bone.
8: Zero Kama – The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H.
And speaking of bones…
Zero Kama makes ambient tribal music, which can be creepy enough in its own merits, but they have a truly spooky recipe for their sounds. Apparently, all instruments used in the recording of The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. were made using genuine human bones. Is it true? Well, the general consensus seems to be… probably. Either way, the mere suggestion is creepy enough. I like to picture a bunch of femurs striking skulls and ribcages, or a spine somehow serving as a flute.
So why not gather some friends together for a nice dance around the fire? No great spirit-summoning ritual is complete without the rattling of dead human matter.
7: Five Starcle Men – Gomba Reject Ward Japan
This is an artifact of… something strange. Available for free on the Internet Archive, Gomba Reject Ward Japan is a compilation of the products of Five Starcle Men, a duo of twenty-somethings from California active between 1992 and 1998. While there is not a lot of information out there on the group, it’s clear, between the odd imagery associated with them and the eccentricity of the music itself, that something about them is “not quite right.”
There are a couple of consistent points in the story. First, the two young men were very interested in dextromethorphan (a.k.a. DXM, the active ingredient in cough syrup which produces dissociative and hallucinogenic effects), and this was a prime influence in their artistic universe. (For another example of DXM-inspired music, check out black metal group Velvet Cacoon.) Secondly, one of the members reportedly committed suicide.
Outside of this, there’s talk of aliens, fake mythology, shared hallucinations, and listening to their strange incantations (like the chant in “Pizza Hut Families Rule“) it’s hard to deny the seeming depiction of a very cult-like ideology. There is also a video on youtube offering a record of a “transmission show” made from clips of Five Starcle Men’s live performances which cements this creeping feeling…
6: Silencer – Death – Pierce Me
*Warning* The image used in this video is graphic. Here it is.
Now, there is no shortage of violence in the history of Scandinavian black metal, but there are some particularly wild rumors circulating the Internet regarding the vocalist and writer behind the Swedish band Silencer who goes by Nattramn. The identity of the man, first of all, was not initially well-established, and there are few images of him available (and no confirmed photos showing his face). After the band’s only full-length release in 2001, the mystery surrounding Nattramn eventually gave rise to some rather sensational stories.
First, certain promotional photos of Nattramn (such as this one, *warning* it’s kinda graphic ) had led some to believe that he had amputated his hands and replaced them with pigs’ feet. Then, word got out that he had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital after attacking a five-year-old girl with an ax. It turns out that the latter story was somewhat true, but it was his elder brother Patrik who, suffering a schizophrenic episode, had wounded two young girls at a playground. The ax had apparently struck one in the head, the other in the leg, but fortunately, both survived.
Regardless, there is certainly something spooky about the elusive and rather eccentric singer. Whether his screams in Silencer’s music are terrifying or just plain silly – well, that’s up to you.
5: The Conet Project – Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations
This album is four discs of… well, exactly what the title suggests. These “shortwave number stations” are assumed to be used for government espionage communications. Because the majority of the broadcasts are simply sequences of numbers spoken by a pre-recorded voice, though, their precise meanings are rather difficult to determine. As a result, the recordings available in the Conet Project’s compilation come off as rather… creepy.
Furthermore, the presence of other unexplainable elements, such as the awkward loop of what sounds like a music box melody in the opening selection titled “Swedish Rhapsody,” adds to the mystery of the recordings. In fact, that particular recording was deemed “creepy” enough to be used in an infamous deep-web horror game known as “Sad Satan.” Interestingly, the collection has collected something of a cult following over the years, as well, which even includes several musicians. For example, the Wilco album title Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a reference to the track “Phonetic Alphabet – NATO.”
The noise and distortion that comes with receiving radio transmissions contributes greatly to the overall “spookiness,” and the terror of the unknown is always bound to seize our imaginations.
4: Stalaggh – Projekt Misanthropia
“We do not like being called any form of ‘artist’. Art is creative, we are destructive.”
According to the band, whose members have been very careful to remain anonymous, the band name “:STALAGGH:” is a reference to German POW camps (stalag), with the final GH standing for “global holocaust.” So what is spooky about Stalaggh’s music? Well, the members claim that all of their “vocals” are the screams of “mental patients” with a variety of mental illnesses including “schizophrenia, psychosis, borderline, multiple personality syndrome etc.”
Now, how do they manage to record this noise? Apparently, one of the band’s members works at a mental institution in Holland. Mentioning this proverbial foot-in-the-door does make the whole concept seem rather exploitative, but they also claim that they get express written permission from each of the patients involved and fully explain their intentions for recording them. In fact, they state that many patients have found the experience therapeutic.
For the production of :PROJEKT MISANTHROPIA: (the most well-known of Stalaggh’s works), there were three separate recording sessions. The first took place in an abandoned (and soon to be demolished) factory, where the members of the group and the seven “patients” involved in the project mustered their “feelings of hatred and fear” and “went completely berserk and smashed everything inside to pieces.” The second session took place in an old cathedral, where the participants were encouraged to scream at the top of their lungs whilst the recording of the first session blared in the background. In the third session, the members provided the instrumental elements, which are primarily black metal inspired and completely improvised.
In the end, the three together, presented in a lo-fi mess, is something that is… such-in-such in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. There’s no denying it wouldn’t be a bad idea to crank it up in a haunted house, though.
3: Suicide – “Frankie Teardrop”
Suicide’s 1977 self-titled album was a somewhat unusual release in its time, combining hypnotic minimal electronics with Elvis-Presley-esque rockabilly/rock-and-roll vocals. The album’s atmosphere overall comes off as pretty creepy, but there is little debate that “Frankie Teardrop” takes the cake. In fact, this song crosses into the realm of downright terrifying.
The ten-minute track communicates a narrative that, according to vocalist Alan Vega, was inspired by a newspaper article about a factory worker who murdered his wife and child and then himself after losing his job. The lyrics of the song itself were improvised by Vega, and excellently capture the terror, desperation, and madness of the story. The song also provides a moment that is not particularly common in music: a jump scare, invoked by sudden terrifying screams. Trust me, this is a real state-of-the-art spine-chiller.
2: Mayhem – Dawn of the Black Hearts
*Warning* The image used in this video is very graphic. Here it is.
Now, the two most notorious “incidents” in black metal history both involved members of the band Mayhem. The most publicized of these was the murder of lead guitarist Euronymous by former bass player Varg Vikernes (the man who was also behind Burzum) in 1993. Two years previous, the vocalist who called himself Dead committed suicide.
Dead was obsessed with making every effort to becoming a corpse for his live performances. According to his bandmates, he buried his clothes for extended periods of time to make them look and smell like the grave, wore corpse paint (he may have been the first black metal performer to do so), and would cut himself on stage. His self-destructive behavior escalated off-stage, and one day when he was left alone he slit his wrists and throat, then shot himself with a shotgun. His body and a suicide note beginning with “Excuse the blood” was found by Euronymous.
What was most disturbing, though, was Euronymous’s reaction to Dead’s death. Before calling the police, he had taken photos of the grisly scene, one of which was featured on cover of the live bootleg album Dawn of the Black Hearts. He has denied rumors claiming he made a stew from pieces of Dead’s brain, but it has been confirmed that he created necklaces from pieces of his dead bandmate’s skull, some of which were given to other performers he deemed “worthy.” It takes a certain kind of “evil” to treat a friend’s death in such an exploitative manner, and knowing that makes the music on Dawn of the Black Hearts all that much more… spooky.
1: Lisa Germano – “A Psychopath”
Lisa Germano’s third album Geek the Girl is often cited as her “breakthrough album,” and this song had no small part in attracting attention to it. The album itself is rather spooky as a whole, described by Germano as a “a horror story about the silly places we all go to find our sexual identity.” It certainly lives up to that concept, and touches some pretty dark places. For instance, another song on the album titled “Cry Wolf” frankly addresses the experience of date rape.
What makes the song “A Psychopath” particularly stand out is its use of an authentic 911 call by a woman whose home is invaded. The audio was used to communicate a particular sense of fear felt by women who are stalked by a man. In an interview Germano indicates that the song was written out of her own anxiety regarding a man who was convinced he was her girlfriend. She felt that it was particularly appropriate in showing that this fear, while often dismissed as paranoia, does have its basis in reality, since the woman in the recording was, in fact, raped before police arrived.
Well, have you been spooked? You can say whatever you like about it in the comments, after taking a moment to pick up a bonus surprise. On this page you will find the listing of a rather mysterious recording titled “The Draculas – …of Amityville Morgue” that I guarantee will stir up that craving for blood your Halloween is sure to necessitate. The download link is available by clicking the album cover image, or if you are truly so much a zombie that this is a chore for you, I can also direct you directly to the download page. Stay spooky, and have a horrible Halloween.