Millennials rejoice, I have not omitted this time honored classic from your formative years. I don't think you can says the words "Who you gonna' call?" without someone in the room responding "Ghostbusters!" Halloween or not.
I usually stick to Ray Parkers' original version for my Halloween playlist due to the fact that I think most of the covers are actually cornier than the original (I hope someone out there is reading this and thinking, "challenge accepted!" right now).
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor"
It is somewhat mysterious how this first song became a staple among macabre music choices. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" graces the soundtracks of some very creepy movies beginning in the 1920's.
It could be societal to some extent, as western cultures tend to associate happy music with major keys, and sad or scary music with minor keys. I like any version played on a real pipe organ vs. electronic. The dimension of the sound adds that extra creep factor for me.
"Mamma Told Me Not to Come"
This next one might seem like an odd choice for a Halloween playlist. But what could be scarier than your inner voice reflecting on your mother's advice not to do something?!
I know; it still strikes fear in my heart (Dear mom, if you are reading this, I am, of course, perfect and always make the right choice.). Three Dog Night's hit, "Mamma Told Me Not to Come," has always creeped me out, because seriously, nothing is creepier than not listening to your mamma!
Originally written about the foolishness of fearing death, "Don't Fear the Reaper" has been used on many Halloween playlists to the opposite effect. The songs' message was supposed to be one of eternal love, which is at odds with its minor scale chord progression.
Alternate choice: The Goo Goo Dolls have a little known flashier cover of this song that you could use to switch things up on your playlist.
If you never thought of the Hall and Oates "Maneater" as a scary song before now, this may change your perspective:
Driving home from running errands one night, I heard my five year old son meekly asking from the back seat of the car if I would change the song. When I asked why, he explained, emotionally, that the song was really scaring him. Needless to say, he's not the only guy who feels terrified by this song.
Alternative choice: There is a nice cover version by Grace Mitchell from the soundtrack of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."
This list may seem common with 80's classics, but this makes a lot of sense especially if you lived through the 80's.
Released in 1985, Oingo Boingo's, "Dead Man's Party" briefly references a short story by E.F. Benson called "The Bus Conductor" about a hearse driver, which adds to its creep factor.
Alternative choice: There is a cool live version on Spotify from the Oingo Boingo farewell tour.
And finally, you couldn't make a proper list of Halloween music without including this last song. Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard L. Capizzi, "Monster Mash" has been a Halloween favorite since it was released in 1962.
There have been quite a few covers since the original version came out, but I still enjoy the original version of this song the most!