American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) performs the dance from 'Thriller', circa 1984. (Photo...
Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
20 Catchy Songs To Get You In The Mood For A Groovy & Spooky Halloween

Get ready to set the tone for the best time of the year.

Originally Published: 

Christmas music really gets all of the good press for holiday sounds. You have your “Jingle Bells,” your “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree,” all of those old standards that really bring you back to those festive vibes. But the reality is, Halloween music is where it’s at. First of all, Halloween music is more translatable for the rest of the year. You can listen to some traditionally spooky songs in February and they’ll sound just as good as they do in October. Also an argument could be made that Halloween music lends itself to more of a party atmosphere with friends rather than a cozy atmosphere with family.

These Halloween songs in particular are all pretty groovy, danceable jams that are popular with young trick-or-treaters and grown-up costume party-goers alike. Because it’s all about squeezing every bit of fun and nostalgia possible out of the season, right?

Halloween songs have actually not been around for very long, probably because Halloween as we know it hasn’t been around all that long either. While the concept of the spooky holiday originated around 2000 years ago as a Celtic tradition called Samhain, a celebration of the end of the harvest, the modern version of Halloween, with the trick-or-treating and costumes, came around in the late 1800s.

It would take several more decades before the world started to make some of that sweet, sweet Halloween music that sets the tone for the spooky season.

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Of course “Thriller” makes it on the Halloween playlist.

No Halloween dance mix is complete without “Thriller” by Michael Jackson from 1984. Everyone loves it. Almost everyone knows at least a bit of the choreography. And it just holds up.

“Season Of The Witch” by Donovan

Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch” is a perfect spooky anthem.

In 1966, Scottish singer Donovan came out with one of the grooviest Halloween anthems, “Season Of The Witch.” There have been several new versions since, and I can tell you that whichever one you pick for your party will be a hit.

“Psycho Killer” by The Talking Heads

“Psycho Killer” by The Talking Heads. Always great.

So here’s why “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads from 1977 is so great. It sounds happy and fun with all of that “fa, fa, fa, fa” stuff, but it’s about a psycho killer. And it’s very fun to dance to. All the makings of a perfect Halloween song.

“Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell ft. Michael Jackson

Rockwell wants to know if “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

Thank you Rockwell and Michael Jackson, for the quintessentially weird “Somebody’s Watching Me” from 1984. The electronic interludes, catchy chorus, and let’s face it, the video... it’s truly perfect.

“Disturbia” by Rihanna

“Disturbia” is another great choice.

I don’t have to tell you why 2009’s “Disturbia” from Rihanna is always perfect for Halloween, you already know.

“I Put A Spell On You” by Bette Midler

Bette Midlet’s “I Put A Spell On You” is so fantastic.

Bette Midler’s version of “I Put A Spell On You” from Hocus Pocus is not the original, but does it matter? Nobody sings like Winnifred Sanderson. And her sisters singing back-up, come on.

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica

“Enter Sandman” is a grunge classic.

The grunge scene of the ‘90s was the perfect background for hardcore Halloween music. Put on 1991’s “Enter Sandman” by Metallica at your next Halloween party and watch everyone start banging their heads on the dance floor.

“Monster” by Kanye West ft. Jay-Z

“Monster” is an amazing collaboration.

Kanye West’s “Monster” from 2010 featuring Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver is definitely best for the adult Halloween party. Loads of swears. But it’s also pretty amazing.

“Sweet But Psycho” by Ava Max

“Sweet But Psycho” is great.

Ava Max’ “Sweet But Psycho” from 2018 will definitely get everyone on the dance floor. Halloween or no Halloween.

“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.

“Ghostbusters” holds up.

You know who you’re gonna call, so just lean into the nostalgic fun of Ray Parker Jr.’s 1984 classic “Ghostbusters” and have a good time.

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder

“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder is still a hit for a reason.

The opening notes of Stevie Wonder’s 1972 song “Superstition” will pull you in every time.

“Pet Sematary” by The Ramones

“Pet Semetary” by the Ramones has a clear message.

The message from the Ramones 1989 song “Pet Sematary” comes directly from the Stephen King novel. They don’t want to get buried in a pet sematary, they don’t want to live their lives again. That sounds fair to me.

“Witchy Woman” by The Eagles

“Witchy Woman” is a real mood.

I think every woman should get to do a slow walk into a Halloween party as The Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” from 1972 plays in the background just once in her life. I’m still waiting, but I bet it will make me feel just fantastic.

“Monster” by Lady GaGa

“Monster” by Lady GaGa is required Halloween listening.

Lady GaGa is herself a Halloween icon, so obviously her 2009 song “Monster” is required listening every Oct. 31.

“Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show

Let’s do the “Time Warp” again.

“Time Warp” from 1975’s Rocky Horror Picture Show by Nell Campbell, Patricia Quinn, and Richard O’Brien might actually be one of those songs that is best to listen to around Halloween specifically. It definitely has a specific vibe to it, and it’s obviously the reigning champion of Halloween party songs.

Also it’s just a jump to the left.

“The Becoming” by Nine Inch Nails

It is perhaps less than surprising that Nine Inch Nails has a spooky song in its impressive library. Their song “The Becoming,” from their 1994 album The Downward Spiral, is full of lyrics that yes, lean heavily towards scary rather than just spooky. He's covered with scabs/He is broken and sore/The me that you know/He doesn't come around much/That part of me/Isn't here anymore.

Then there’s the music, which sounds a whole lot like one of those scary sound machines people put up for trick-or-treaters with vague screams and such. But if you are looking for a song that is going to freak everyone out at your Halloween party, this one is probably it.

“Werewolf” by Cat Power

If your fall vibe is more PSL and apple picking and cozy bonfires, “Werewolf” by Cat Power is the song for you. The 2003 song is evocative of all of those things and more, and will oddly make you sort of feel sympathy for werewolves with its melancholy lyrics. Oh the werewolf, the werewolf comes stepping along/He don't even break the branches where he's gone/Once I saw him in the moonlight, when the bats were flying/I saw the werewolf, and the werewolf was crying.

If you need a song to listen to as you drive along backroads looking at pumpkins and fall leaves and thinking deep thoughts, this song is for you.

“Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child” is classic, groovy Halloween. From the opening guitar riff that makes you feel like you’re at Woodstock, the original not the 1999 version, to the very simply stated lyrics, it’s a song everyone knows. Perfect for a party playlist to get everyone into the spooky vibe at the beginning of the night. Cause I'm a Voodoo Child/Lord knows I'm a Voodoo Child baby. It is kind of all you need to know isn’t it? That and the instantly recognizable guitar riff.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is like a palate cleanser in between Halloween-lite songs like “Werewolf” and intense songs like “The Becoming.” It’s sort of danceable, sort of fun and upbeat but with constant mentions of this “reaper” no one is meant to be fearing even though the implication is quite the opposite. Also it’s kind of romantic with its mentions of Romeo and Juliet, who are also advised against fearing the reaper. So maybe it’s the song you need to get some Halloween loving going on.

“People Are Strange” by The Doors

The Doors’ song “People Are Strange” is vintage Halloween for several reasons. First of all, those lyrics. People are strange/When you’re a stranger/Faces look ugly/When you’re alone. Then there’s the beat which feels sort of ominous and foreboding. And finally, it was featured in the classic1987 Halloween movie The Lost Boys starring Kiefer Sutherland, both of the Coreys (Feldman and Haim), and Jason Patric. A perfect mood-setter for a dark and stormy Halloween night.

The spooky season is all about setting a certain vibe. Whether that vibe is cozy or terrifying or somewhere in between, you need music to get you there. People are strange that way.

This article was originally published on