“Once upon a midnight dreary,”—so go the opening words of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”—the boundaries between the natural and the supernatural world grow thinner.
The night of October 31—All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween—traditionally divided the end of the fall harvest and the beginning of the long, dark nights of winter. The souls of the departed visited their homes for a meal. Contact with fairies and spirits became more possible on this night. Lighted candles, or bonfires, helped lead souls to the afterlife. Individuals disguised themselves in costumes to protect themselves from the evil spirits afoot.
As the dark night of the souls and spirits, ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks, magic and mystery draws near, Folk Alley happily offers here a few haunting songs to help celebrate this annual night of revelry. And of course for even MORE spooky songs, listen to our SCREAM STREAM here.
Loreen McKennitt – “All Souls Night”
McKennitt’s ethereal vocals in this shimmering psychedelic folk ballad evoke the swirling waltz of souls around a blazing bonfire on this special night.
John Jorgenson Quintet – “Ghost Dance”
Jorgenson and his a band convey exquisitely the frenetic, joyous, wheeling and whirling of ghosts twirling tarantella-like around a bonfire in this driving Django Reinhardt-like tune.
Comus – “Diana”
In Greek mythology, Comus, the son of Dionysus, reigns as the god of revelry and chaos. The British band Comus embraces this spirit in this chilling song that is bound to haunt your dreams and scare any little trick-or-treaters from your door.
Steeleye Span – “Allison Gross”
A glittering, hypnotic ode to the “ugliest witch in the North Country.”
Tom Waits – “What’s He Building?”
Waits’ gruff, raspy voice alone is frightening enough, but when he narrates this tale of strange and unexplained goings-on in the house down the road, it’s downright harrowing.
Peter, Paul, and Mary – “Don’t Go Down to the Quarry”
Evil spirits and scary people lurk in the shadows, and in this live version of this song, the trio delivers a playful take on a traditional warning about not going alone into those dark places.
Gretchen Peters – “The Cruel Mother”
Peters’ crystalline vocals convey the torture of a haunted soul in this poignant murder ballad whose images remain etched in our hearts.
Rayna Gellert – “The Fatal Flower Garden”
Gellert’s spaciously unfolding take on this traditional folk song delivers the age-old message from adults to children: “don’t go to strangers, especially ones bearing attractive gifts.”
Bessie Jones – “O Death”
Death, fear of death, and the anticipation of life after death are central to All Hallows Eve, and Jones’s a cappella version of this traditional song evokes the emptiness, loneliness, fear, and hope that facing death brings.
Laura Nyro – “And When I Die”
Nyro’s ethereal vocals on this audition tape capture its poignant, yet celebratory, message, just right for the festive melancholy of Halloween.