Musical Frights: The quest for the ideal Halloween playlist

I love making playlists. It’s one of the many ways in which iTunes revolutionized my music listening habits. I have playlists for my different friends when they come over, for various occasions, moods, etc. I also have some really wacky playlists, but I’ll leave that for another article. One of my favorite playlist is the Halloween playlist. Or should I say playlists. Scroll to the bottom of the article to jump straight to my Spotify playlist!

First up is the party playlist. It’s safe, a little corny, but will please most people, and gives you a great opportunity to trot out a bunch of one hit wonders and novelty songs!

Some suggestions for this playlist:

  • Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (I’m sure his royalty statements peak around Halloween)
  • The Monster Mash – Bobby Pickett
  • Frankenstein – Edgar Winter (I think that playing an instrumental track at a party is great idea!)
  • I Put a Spell on You – Screamin Jay Hawkins (or you can use the Creedence Clearwater Revival or Marilyn Manson versions. But Screaming Jay’s version is worth tracking down)
  • Witchy Woman – The Eagles
  • Godzilla – Blue Oyster Cult (Their Don’t Fear the Reaper might work too, and it has a horror pedigree: it was featured in the original Halloween movie)
  • Of Wolf and Man – Metallica
  • Black Widow – Alice Cooper (coupled with the Vincent Price intro, it’s a great Halloween track)
  • Thriller – Michael Jackson (another great party track, again with spoken word contribution by Mr Vincent Price)
  • Ghostbusters – Ray Parker Jr (Come on, you know you like it)
  • Dream Warriors – Dokken (OK, there’s nothing remotely scary about this, except for their 80’s hairdos. But this track was a highlight of the movie Nightmare on Elm Street 3. )
  • Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus. And if you don’t know who Bela Lugosi is, you probably shouldn’t be hosting a Halloween party anyway.
  • Dracula  – Iced Earth (OK, this one is not for everyone, but if your guests can appreciate power metal, this is a great track! In fact, the whole album it is from (Horror Show) is devoted to horror classics.
  • This is Halloween – Danny Elfman. The them from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas was also remade by Marilyn Manson if you want to ratchet up the creepy level.
  • Depending on your tastes, The Misfits or King Diamond also have many horror themed tracks.


Then there’s my favorite: the horror movie playlist! I play this one while answering the door for trick or treaters. It spooks the kids!

I have two versions. The first is a little more commercial. People usually recognize most of the tracks, and it’s not too creepy.

Some examples:

  • Jaws Theme – John Williams
  • Theme from Halloween – John Carpenter
  • Psycho – The Murder – Bernard Herrmann (whenever that comes on, it gets a big reaction)
  • Theme from A Nightmare on Elm Street – Charles Bernstein (a little more obscure, but deliciously creepy)
  • Theme from the Exorcist – Mike Oldfield  (This is really Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, but the movie only uses a small part of the 45 minute track. Better find a version on a horror movie compilation. I like this one: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/a-history-of-horror/id168403644 You’ll also find many of the tracks I mentioned on that album)
  • Fall of the House of Usher – Main Titles – Les Baxter (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/fall-house-usher-original/id421185985 I love these old school horror scores. They sound a little cheesy now, but it doesn’t matter, it’s a great mood for Halloween)
  • Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th – Harry Manfredini. (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/friday-13th-ultimate-compilation/id475821258 You can marvel at how it manages to rip off Jaws and Psycho  AT THE SAME TIME! This track also features the famous “ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma” sound from the series)
  • Sydney’s Lament – Scream – Marco Beltrami (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/scream-scream-2-music-from/id65171766)
  • Lost – Main Title – JJ Abrams (Sure, this show is not horror, but the eerie main titles work fine in this playlist)
  • The X-Files – Main Theme – Mark Snow (again, not horror but works so well)

And if you want to spice it up with a more hardcore horror sound:

And my last suggestion is a little self-serving, but if you’re looking for a haunted house ambiance, here’s some sound design I did last year for Halloween. Unfortunately I never got to use it because my then 5-year old son found it too scary. I’ll try again this year 🙂

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/26826220″ iframe=”true” /]

So, what are YOUR favorite Halloween tunes?

P.S. And don’t forget the soundtrack to Behaviour’s Naughty Bear! (From my recent blog post Naughty Bear: Panic in Paradise: My adventure as a record producer


Jean-Frederic Vachon
Follow me