- Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Official Version) – Bauhaus
If you’re patient enough to wait through the nine minutes of clicking, guitar warbling, and haunting atmosphere of this song, this Bauhaus classic is worth the wait. Considered one of the most genre-defining goth bands, Bauhaus is best introduced by diving right into one of their most memorable tunes. With awesome, unnerving guitar and grieving vocals, this song is an essential for any halloween night. Not everyone will throw it back to Bauhaus at your halloween party, but those who don’t aren’t truly ghoulish spirits anyways.
- Blood Bitch – Cocteau Twins
Known for their impossible-to-understand lyrics and their dreamy, whimsical late-80s-early-90s hits like “Heaven or Las Vegas,” many are unaware of Cocteau Twins’ early 80s albums which had dark, gothic themes. One of the spookiest of their early songs, if not only because of its title, is “Blood Bitch,” which opens up with some startling bass guitar, chanting vocals, and a warbling, distorted tone. Yes, Elizabeth Fraser is speaking English, she’s just Scottish. This song is nearly impossible to dance to, unless you’re possessed by a demon, so hopefully you’ve done your fair share of summoning.
- A Forest – The Cure
One of the most memorable The Cure songs, a genre-defining classic, “A Forest” is one of those songs that lures you in and enchants you. This song somehow turns the feeling of being lost and paranoid into a danceable and catchy tune that’s invigorating yet chilling. At the first verse you’ll be looking around you wondering if the dense fog in between the trees contains something that might kill you, but by the end you’ll be headbanging while singing “again and again and again and again and again!”
- Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
We’re far from finished with songs that begin with funky bass intros, but at least this song is fun. We’re all guilty of not knowing how to sing the French lines in this song, of course. Even though “Psycho Killer” is not the best example of the absolute insanity of David Byrne, it does reflect the self-questioning and confusing nature of a typical Talking Heads song. While the song is not the most frightful in tone, the concept of a silly man in a large suit mentally breaking down is somewhat fearful.
- Every Breath You Take – The Police
For some reason, this song existed as a typical 80s slow song, which goes to show how an entire generation of people do not listen to lyrics, or maybe just how stalkerish mannerisms are concerningly romanticized. Either way, an old British man who goes by Sting vowing to take note of not only every breath you take, but also every word you say, every step you take, and every game you play is extremely unsettling, an uncomfortable experience paired with a nice piano riff that pairs well with whatever mood lights a suburban high school in 1983 can afford.
- Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
Nothing says Halloween spirit like “goin’ to a party where no one’s still alive,” with a good amount of retro brass and synthesizer. Considering some of the other songs on the playlist, a song that actually keeps people on the dance floor is probably a good addition. Even the name “Oingo Boingo” carries this inherent goofy energy that invites one to kick back and just have a good time. A good song that lets all know they are welcome at your Halloween party, as long as they leave their bodies and souls at the door.
- The Haunting Presence – Giles Corey
Just in case your party involved too much spooky fun and not enough existential lamentation, make sure and add some Giles Corey to the mix. The mixing on this song is absolutely gruesome and gory, and it includes some classic lyrics such as “[Incomprehensible yelling].” A project named after a victim of the Salem Witch Trials, this album uses experimental layering of unnerving sounds to master, well, a haunting presence. If you want something like a horror movie in musical form, this song is where it’s at. Because nothing’s more frightening than someone who clearly doesn’t know how to play the piano.
- Nocturnal Me – Echo & The Bunnymen
Just spooky enough to keep your guests on edge, just stylish enough to keep them from leaving after Giles Corey, Echo & The Bunnymen weave together chanting lyrics and wistful strings that sound straight out of a movie panning over a haunted castle on a rainy day. “Nocturnal Me” is less about being afraid of the dark and more about how sexy it is to love being in the dark, as long as you can do poetic things with it such as rhyme “eternally” with “internally.”
- Spiderwebs – No Doubt
This one might be a stretch, but ska punk is essential to a spooky spirit (have you seen the Scooby Doo episode where the ska band fights the punk band?) and even though spiderwebs are only used metaphorically here and not literally, everything (including Halloween) is inherently lame without a little bit of Gwen Stefani. And at least the music video is quite eerie, there’s got to be at least one horror movie out there about being strangled by a telephone cord, although that might not scare anyone after the 90s.
- Spellbound – Siouxsie and the Banshees
If no one else can get you in a spooky spirit, Siouxie has to do the trick. If it wasn’t for her, Robert Smith would have never worn eyeliner, and then where would the world be? This song is absolutely entrancing, what with its brisk, whirlwind-like guitar, rattling tambourine, and sorceress-like vocal tones. With an unforgettable opening guitar riff, the song beckons you in and once you hear the way Siouxie says “entranced” you cannot escape its beat.