KEXP Listeners Share: What's the Scariest Song You've Ever Heard?

Community Engagement
Janice Headley

We recently asked the KEXP Community, "What's the scariest song you've ever heard?" and boy, did you all deliver! We received hundreds upon hundreds of songs that give you the creeps: everything from horrorcore hip-hop to classical compositions, screeching death metal to folksy murder ballads. 

Not too surprisingly, Nick Cave received the most nominations, with eight of his solo songs and two Birthday Party songs getting shout outs. Scott Walker landed at second place with eight different songs giving you the creeps. Radiohead trailed closely behind with six different songs mentioned, and Tom Waits and Pink Floyd crept closely behind with five songs each. 

We've compiled your song suggestions into this 35-hour Spotify playlist that is perfect to soundtrack an evening carving pumpkins or handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. We've also collected the calls we received to our Halloween Hotline and aired them on this past Saturday's episode of Sound & Vision. You can listen to both of those below, as well as keep scrolling for even more submissions we received via social media! 

🚨WARNING: Please note, some of the songs below go beyond just "spooky" and contain disturbing and graphic content. Please continue at your own risk. 🚨

Napoleon XIV - "They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!"

"Imagine you're eight years old and you're in an elementary school in West Seattle you've never been to before. Your Mom took you there on a Saturday for an arts and craft thing. All the other kids have left, the activity's over, and for a brief window of time, it's just you. And then suddenly you hear this drum beat... and you're like, "wait, I know this this, it's 'They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haaa!'." I must've heard it a dozen times. It plays on the local kids station. But this time, alone in this unfamiliar space: the drums, the echo, the high-pitched voice. It's the scariest thing you've ever heard. It's like, they're coming to take you away. They don't, of course. Your mom comes back, you go home, but for the rest of your life, anytime that drum beat starts up, you freeze for a second. It's a silly novelty song, but yeah, that's the scary song I've ever heard." — Matthias // Seattle, WA

Slint - "Good Morning, Captain"

"It used to be in my running mix as a cooldown song, but it always made me SPRINT FOR HOME so, had to move it to the middle." — @taterpie

Black Sabbath - "Iron Man"

"I recall being SCARED TO DEATH as a teenager...home alone, just stepped into the shower, the radio was turned up loud and 'Iron Man' by Black Sabbath came on. The opening of that song...I thought I was going to DIE. (tee hee)" — Deane Sienega, KEXP Account Executive & Sponsorship Manager // Seattle, WA

Richard Buckner - "22"

"The instrumentation and subject matter are pretty scary; the surprise ending is terrifying." — @JohnODnll


Bobby Krlic - "Gassed"

"I actually host a Halloween show — pretty much, I try to line it up whenever my show lines up with Halloween. I call at Reeves' Heavy Metal Halloween because I play heavy metal for the first couple hours, but in the last hour before Pacific Notions, I always play horror movie soundtracks, tracks from my favorite horror movies, also my favorite sci-fi movies. And actually, I think the scariest songs come from that stuff, because there's some really heinous movie movies out there with some pretty incredible soundtracks, And the scariest one to me, is definitely Midsommar and the song is called "Gassed," and it's from a really terrifying part of the movie Midsommar, close to the start of the movie, and the actual track itself, if you listen to the original soundtrack, actually has Florence Pugh's character Dani crying and screaming at the start of the song and at the end of the song, and in the middle of it, has some really terrifying string section sort-of compositions. The ability of the violin to just really make your skin crawl is very powerful in it." — DJ Reeves, KEXP Sundays, 2-6 AM // Seattle, WA 

[ revisit Reeves' Heavy Metal Halloween in the KEXP Two-Week Streaming Archive here! ]

Nirvana - "Beans"

"When I was in high school, I picked up the Nirvana With the Lights Out box set. It had all these demos and rare recordings, many of which Kurt Cobain recorded at home. I was just getting obsessed with Nirvana, and it worried some of my family who told me repeatedly to "not idolize this troubled man" and I scoffed it off, you know, as a teenager would, but these words kept kinda ringing in the back of my head.

And then, late one night, I was listening to Disc One when a song came on called 'Beans.' A squeaky chipmunk-like voice came, menacingly saying, 'I don't like you / I'm gonna beat you up" while another chipmunk voice pleads for mercy. And then Kurt comes back in — still with his voice pitched up — playing a creepy acoustic guitar riff, squeaking about eating beans and sitting naked on the floor. It freaked me out. Gave me that type of fright that makes you check behind the shower curtain for an intruder. I never stopped listening to Nirvana, but 'Beans' still gives me the heebie-jeebies to this day." — Dusty Henry, KEXP Digital Content Manager // Seattle, WA

clipping. - "La Mala Ordina"

"I mean, anything off of their last two records is some level of scary (it's horrorcore, after all), but the lyrics on this song are straight up gnarly & intentionally shocking." — @SoundsLikeSofia

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - "Storm"

"I can take almost any song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but one of the scariest that hass stuck with me is the end of the song 'Storm' off the album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. 'Storm' has a 20 minute long song and it's actually pretty uplifting in the beginning. But by the time you reach the last movement. It becomes utterly hopeless. First, there's this eerie sample about watching out for passers-by at a gas station, and then you hear this creepy piano riff start to fade in. And it's all the creepier, because of this like distorted preaching or yelling that's happening behind it. The word I come back to on this song is 'desolation.' I strongly recommend avoiding this song if you are in the wrong head space for desolation." — Roddy Nikpour, Sound & Vision Producer // Phoenix, AZ

Chicago - "Free Form Guitar"

"'Free Form Guitar' by Chicago came on the radio when I left it on overnight. woke up to that sound at 3am and it was terrifying!" — @spacenettle


Modest Mouse - "Heart Cooks Brain"

"I was extremely disturbed by 'Heart Cooks Brain' by Modest Mouse, sent me to a really dark bleak scary place each time my friends put in on in the car driving around my hometown of sunny Torrance, CA" — Kirby Gnerre, KEXP Advancement Coordinator // Seattle, WA 

The Beatles - "Revolution 9"

"I remember waking up in the middle of the night to this freaking song playing on shuffle on my new iTouch and absolutely freaking out! That was my first time hearing [it], and after that, I removed it from my library." — @justaspacekadet

The Legendary Pink Dots - "The Light in My Little Girl's Eyes"

"I first heard it as a 15-year-old baby goth on a friend's uncle's mixtape, and it was the creepiest, most disturbing song I'd ever heard. And I loved it, lol. Still do. Still horrifying." — @lachicaelastica

Prince - "Darling Nikki (in reverse)"

"In my friend Colleens' basement listening to my brand-new Purple Rain album. And then... the very end of the album sounds like a song being played backwards and we freaked out! "What is THAT?? Is the record player possessed???!!"" — Katie Atkins, KEXP HR Recruitment and Training Coordinator // Seattle, WA

16 Horsepower - "Heel on the Shovel"

"One of the scariest songs I've heard in a long time is called "Heel on the Shovel" by 16 Horsepower. It was written around the mid mid '90s. The first line is: 'I'm diggin' you a shallow grave / An to the sun your face.' It's haunting: the melody, the voice, the starkness of the music." — Sarah // Seattle

The Cure - "Subway Song"

"It was 3 a.m. and I was home alone, studying and listening to The Cure (w/ my headphones, very high volume). I'd never listened to 'Subway Song' before. That terrifying and unexpected scream at the end scared the hell out of me. Probably the most creepy feeling I ever had with a song." — @lucerootero

Bobby "Boris" Pickett - "Monster Mash"

"The sound effects in the Monster Mash scared me so much. When it would play on a mix cd I had, I would cover my ears and yell to block it out until my dad came to skip the track on my boombox. #ThanksDad" — Serafima Healy, KEXP Guest Services // Seattle, WA

The Toadies - "Possum Kingdom"

"Creeps me out every time b/c the lyrics are vague enough where the outcome is up to the listener’s imagination. That & the threat of sexual violence is a terrifying combo. Great song. But total murder ballad." — @SongBirdNYC

Kate Bush - "Waking the Witch"

"Was 16 years old and had never heard anything like it - I was both terrified and enamored. The vocals of the judge give me the chills till this day - absolutely haunting 😰" — @alyssabcc

Tom Waits - "Cemetary Polka"

"My dad played this when I was a kid and it gave me it now though." — @NickMarsh89

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Red Right Hand"

"For me, it’s Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand. That song & the mood it creates is so unsettling to me every time I hear it. It feels like you’re being stalked just listening to it. :pleading_face:" — Ann Allen, KEXP Lead DJ Assistant // Seattle, WA

Scott Walker - "Cue"

"This song puts you in a deep state of discomfort, constantly playing with your expectations, as Scott croons his way through a horror story with jumpscares. A frightful song from an already terrifying album" — @Snotsnit

Peter, Paul, & Mary - "Polly Von"

"my parents had this vinyl and my twin sister would turn off all the lights in the house and play this when we were alone in order to freak me out - which it did!!! 🦢" — @julirath

Fantômas - Suspended Animation soundtrack

"The entire Suspended Animation album by Fantômas is a horror movie. The calm parts make you forget what you're listening to: chants, lullabies, cartoon music, slow jazz, or just silence. Then come the jump scares: disturbing sound effects, inhumane screaming by Mike Patton, crazy riffs interrupted by more madness. Then it's all silent again, long enough for you to forget that there is even music playing. It is horrible music perfectly executed by some of the best musicians on the planet. Their project Delirium Cordia is similar but instead of an album with separate songs, it is just one single song that goes on for 1h and 15min. Halloween ambiance guaranteed, but too weird and disturbing for most people. Don't expect anybody to dance. 🧛" — @logikalkonfusion

The Golden Palominos - "Victim"

"I first heard it on John’s Morning Show. My now-husband makes a yearly Halloween mix (and has since 2004). I always catalogue songs to have him consider. To this day, this song it too scary to listen to but once a year. When I’ve shared it with others, inevitably at the end someone shivers and says they can’t listen to it again." — @bethanyotto5

Talking Heads - "Psycho Killer"

"I have a vivid memory of sitting in the living room next to the stereo, listening to “Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads on my dad’s giant headphones, probably 4 or 5 years old. It gave me goosebumps and sent chills down my spine. It wasn’t just the lyrics; the bass line, David Byrne’s wild 'ay-yi-yi-yi,' the whole thing absolutely terrified me. Now I love it!" — @alichiffon



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