Features Oct 23, 2013 at 4:00 am

Songs That Scare the Shit Out of Us

Kelly O says, “Whenever the shit’s about to hit the fan in my life, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ is playing somewhere, at a creepy low volume, whether I can hear it or not.”


@Emily Nokes

I can understand your visceral reaction to John Cougar Mellencamp's music, his radio hits especially, but I think your characterizations of his music and it's message are incorrect.

I might point you towards the "Politics and activism" section of his wikipedia page.

The guy has written songs against Reagan, Bush and the Iraq war. His camp has rebuked both the McCain Campaign and NOM for both [mis]using and misunderstanding his songs.

I'll leave you with his publicist's statement, regarding John Cougar Mellencamp's 2008 performances for the Clinton and Obama campaigns but lack of endorsement for either in the primaries, "Neither candidate is as liberal as he would prefer, but he's happy to contribute what he can."
"Frankie Teardrop" by Suicide.
Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man
"Every breath you take" by the Police...
the ultimate stalker song...
Why isn't this article accompanied by a handy playlist?
Also: Hiroshima - This Mortal Coil
Ack. Why can't we delete comments?!

I Come and Stand at Every Door - This Mortal Coil
"Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin, especially when coupled with the video.

Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan. I mean, it's kind of creepy on its own, but ever since Zodiac a few years ago it makes the hair stand up on my neck.

then when the hurdy gurdy man
came singing songs of love
hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, gurdy he sang.

#9 FTW. #SCURRY!!!
This is easily my favorite Halloween music article I've read this year hands down. From the final heart-stabbing paragraph of Kelly O's real suffering entwined with the noxious ubiquity of "Don't Worry" (good Lord, universe, give the gal a break and erase that tune from existence!), to the claustrophobic trauma I share with Ms. Nokes for the Coug (such great lines in that assessment -- "The most sinister element of the Coug's music is the bright, strumming, hot-apple-pie way it's delivered") this is aces! Also, I would have mentioned "Country Death Song" but Lar already did, and tipped me to a hip-hop horror I have to hear! Kudos!
Dream Weaver (especially the scary intro noise) used to scare the shit out of me when I was a kid.
John Wayne Gacy Jr. by Sufjan Stevens

The weight she fell under by Parenthetical Girls

Main Theme to Nightbreed by Danny Elfman

Most anything by Set Fire To Flames on the headphones in the dark
oooh, and Archives of Pain by the Manic Street Preachers.

I bet you didn't know that I could treat you right
that underneath the armor
there's another girl
she's standing with a suitcase
ready to run

by Luscious Jackson
Cop by Swans.
Woman in Love by Barbra Streisand scared me as a child. Also anything by Pink Floyd.
lolllllll @ yr genesis story- love it!
I creep around because I need attention
Don't mess around with my affection


Ooooo...Crazy on ya
Crazy on you
Let me go crazy, crazy on you

The John Wayne Gacy song mentioned @14, yes, but I hadn't thought of it until I saw it written there. I came here to say Jethro Tull.
The The, "This is the Day". It's one of those happy-sounding sad songs that, in my case, was rendered so much worse by the fact that it happened to wind up in one of my iTunes playlists while I was stuck in an absolutely terrible job that culminated in a case of clinical depression and a total change of careers for me, and throughout it all Matt Johnson was crooning "This is the day ... your life is gonna change" in a tone that mocked me for even thinking that might be so.

Anyways. Yeah. Fuck that song.
But Megan, our generation will put it right!
Not a song per se, but the Paramount "Closet Killer" music by Dominic Frontiere used to scare the whiz out of me when it came on at the end of shows in 1970, and got into my nightmares as well. Still does.
Holy shit, this is one of my favorite comments threads ever -- so many of my favorite songs here! Yeah, @14, @17, and I always felt that way about the innocuous-sounding @22 too (though I still dig it). This is actually something really important to think about -- a song that arrives when your world is falling apart, maybe again and again, as Kelly O so accurately nails. I don't have one, but my mom would look pale and terrified a la a Lynchian "Blue Velvet" moment whenever Sinatra's "What's New?", from the 50s came on her oldies radio. Then Linda Ronstadt covered it in the 80s, and freaked her out completely all over again. I never found out why, and she wouldn't tell me.
"Silent Running" by Mike & the Mechanics terrified me as a child and still has the power to scare the shit out of me.
oooh, good one, @26. i associate that song with laying awake in my bed with the radio, too scared to sleep. not because of the song itself, really, it was just in heavy rotation at the time.

before that i had only a little am radio to keep me company. 'heartache tonight' by the eagles and 'don't stop thinking about tomorrow' by fleetwood mac can still carry me right back to that terrified place in my child-mind.
Body Count - Momma's Gotta Die Tonight
@2 - AHHH seriously! That breathless weird singing and thumping.
Eli Anderson, Light in the Attic's Jon Treneff, Corey Brewer and I are DJing at Linda's on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and we're playing nothing but songs that are intended to send chills up your spine and gash you with a hatchet. OH THE AGONY.
Phil Collins 'Another Day in Paradise'. It's ostensibly about having compassion for the poor but I realized you can read the exact opposite into it: the words also work as a Social-Darwinist manifesto. Scared me shitless thinking pop music might actually be full of anti-humanist messages designed to support the Reagan agenda.
"This is the Law of the Plague" by Diamanda Galas
'Timothy' by the Buoys - still don't know how an ode to cannibalism became a pop hit.
"The Pope Held Upside Down" by Sickness of Snakes.
@4: You beat me to it. Agreed!

My vote for the absolute creepiest music (at least for a string section!) isn't technically a radio pop song, so maybe it wouldn't qualify for the Stranger Staff's Sounds of Horror blogger survey here.
But for those who have seen the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, and have heard Krystof Penderecki's unnerving full nine minutes of "Polymorphia for 48 Strings" (used toward the end of the film inside the snow-buried hedge maze), THAT gets my vote!
Redrum!.. Redrum!... Redrum!!

"I Scare Myself", Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. A tasty ghoul-ash of creepy, sexy, unsettling, and exciting.
This article is a load of steaming shit. It's the kind of "reoccurring [sic] nightmare" that seeps out of its crypt when the staff can't come up with anything coherent.
@33 - I always knew that I had a twin out there, cruelly separated from me at birth! Timothy is the worst song ever. It is so awful most people don't even know about it.
@37: Bullshit. It sounds more like you just can't come up with a song title or music (c'mon--you're a tenor saxophone player and / or singer?!) that ever scared the steaming shit out of you.
If you don't like this column, don't play.
"In the Pines", Knoxville Girl" and "Me and My Uncle." A sonic trifecta of crime. Nobody does creepy quite like the hillbillies can. "There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza -- a hole."
Hey, Kelly O, I had a dentist as a child named Dr Fear! He was a bastard. He'd gouge your gums with that metal pick and yell "Keep still!" when you flinched. Apparently, we couldn't afford the nice dentist--the only other toof doc in town. Dr. Fear is forever linked in my mind with the elevator version of The Girl from Ipanema, piped through his office.
"Silent Lucidity" by Queensryche scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid. Also anything by Yes, King Crimson...prog rock in general gives me the heebie-jeebies.

And "Comfortably Numb" is some seriously freaky shit, but that might be too obvious a choice.
Oh crap, how could I have forgotten "Hamburger Lady" by Throbbing Gristle?
I cant believe I read all 44 comments and NOT ONE person pointed out that "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is a freakin BOB MARLEY SONG!!! It is not
a bad song that has "fallen off playlists". OK,
maybe not KJR, but it's a mainstay on any reaggae (how do you spell that?) playlists. Its also one of the few songs I can listen to that really DOES make me happy! (sorry everyone's so dumb, Bob- RIP)
This may be the very first comments section I have ever enjoyed. Great songs! Although it was featured prominently in some Nickelodeon-style movie about a ghost, it still creeps me out...I Only Have Eyes For You - The Flamingos. In addition, Shankhill Butchers - The Decemberists.

Anybody remember a song from the 80s where a stalker is talking about following someone? It ends with: "And then I strike!"

Another question: anybody heard a song that is song by a whispering woman with mellow/creepy music that talks about a woman or witch walking through the forest and peeling off the skin from the bottom of her feet? Scary as hell even in the middle of the day in L.A.
@45 I'm afraid the reason no one pegged 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' as a Bob Marley song is because it isn't. Not in any way. It's a Bobby McFerrin song, based on something Meher Baba used to say. It's less 'all of us are dumb' and more 'you're laboring under an easily disprovable misconception.'

I can't speak to whatever 'reggae playlists' you're referring to, but I don't think there's anything reggae about the song beyond the faux-Jamaican accent McFerrin uses for comic effect.
Sorry Icelandic music fans out there, but Hyperballad (or anything by Bjork, for that matter) gives me the creeps. What is this mountain she keeps talking about on the song? Must be that eerie one covered in fog, in eternal darkness, leafless trees and howling coyotes. Yikes!
Tim Buckley's "Starsailor" works for me:
I'm a Stones Fan but Emotional Rescue always scared the bejesus outta me. I remember telling someone your going to need more than an emotional rescue if due catches you. Finally some agrees.

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