10 Songs That Are Unintentionally Terrifying
“Run for Your Life” – The Beatles
Clearly written before John Lennon’s “Bed Peace” era, this song comes from the perspective of either a scorned lover, or ragingly abusive ex-boyfriend: “Let this be a sermon, I mean everything I’ve said / Baby, I’m determined, and I’d rather see you dead.” We don’t know what this girl did to earn herself death threats from this psychopath, but whatever it is somebody should probably call the cops. (Lennon later admitted in a 1973 interview that it was his least favorite Beatles song.)
“Space Oddity” – David Bowie
As it stands, outer space is already a pretty scary concept to begin with. So naturally, David Bowie’s seminal hit “Space Oddity” is one of the most horrifying songs on the planet. Everything is going fine for Major Tom, our main character, as Ground Control guides him through his launch into space. But after the song’s bridge, all hell breaks loose: “Ground Control to Major Tom / Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong / Can you hear me, Major Tom?” Oh God, oh God, oh God!!! Where is he GOING!? Is he ever coming home!?! The song ends with the equally chilling visual from our lost in space buddy in which he’s floating around the blue earth, “and there’s nothing I can do…”
“Every Breath You Take” – The Police
No shocker that this 1983 stalker anthem has made the list. The dude in this song is worse than the boyfriend in “Run for Your Life.” When he says, “every move you make I’ll be watching you,” does he mean like, every move? Like, a bowel movement? Because that’d be a bit much. But be honest–haven’t we all been the brokenhearted person chronicled in this song, hanging out at places you know your ex will be and maybe taking it a bit too far? No? … Yeah, me either, I was just testing you…
“My Friend, My Friend” – Phish
For those unfamiliar with the prolific jam band, the lyrics to their songs range from poetic to poppy, usually landing somewhere in the middle right around bizarre. “My Friend, My Friend” is just that, with Shakespearian lyrics alluding to a dude whose got a knife and is not afraid to use it. “My friend, my friend he’s got a knife / A statement from his former life / When he was easy but alone / Beside him was an empty throne.” The song is also unsettling sonically, beginning with what sounds like a light romp through the forest, and then busting into a discord of guitar and piano chords, until the music eventually fades away and the song ends with a bunch of voices yelling “MYF!” Particularly scary if you’re not expecting it.
“Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players
This single was recorded in the ’70s by soul group the Ohio Players. It’s a happy little love song that compares being in a relationship to being on a roller coaster. Nothing scary about that, right? The chilling part of this song is the guitar breakdown about a minute and a half in, in which you can hear a high-pitched scream in the background. There are several urban legends surrounding this, the most popular being that the scream is coming from somebody actually being killed live in the studio, or that the sound of somebody being murdered somehow got recorded and looped into the tape. Another popular theory is that Ester Cordet–the woman who appears nude and covered in honey on the album cover–was very badly burned during the cover photo shoot which took place during the recording session. They say those are the sounds of her screams in the background, but she looks like she’s having a fine time.
“Just Dance” – Lady Gaga
This was Lady Gaga’s first hit: an anthem about letting go of all responsibility and worry, and just dancing. Seems like a good idea in theory, but if you actually listen to the lyrics, Ms. Gaga is encouraging horrifyingly unsafe behavior: “Where are my keys, I lost my phone. / What’s going on on the floor? I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore. / Keep it cool what’s the name of this club? / I can’t remember but it’s alright, I’m alright.” Are you alright? Because you don’t sound alright. In fact, it sounds like you may have been roofied, have no way of calling your friends, and are likely going to wake up in a bathtub filled with ice with a kidney missing. Pull your life together.
“Hotel California” – The Eagles
Arguably the most famous song in The Eagles’ repertoire, “Hotel California” is about somebody being allured by the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles, until they discover it’s a dark and tragic place that you can’t escape. The band–all from the Midwest–wrote it about how they viewed the “high life” out in California when their careers began. But many have interpreted the song to be an allusion to Satan worship or a mental institution, not surprising given the eerie lyrics: “Last thing I remember, I was Running for the door / I had to find the passage back to the place I was before / ‘Relax,’ said the night man, ‘We are programmed to receive. / You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!‘” Let’s hope he at least gets a free continental breakfast.
“Runaway Train” – Soul Asylum
This 1993, Grammy award-winning song is scary mostly because of the haunting music video that accompanies it. While the subject matter of the single is about runaway youths, all I remember from the music video was a bunch of babies being stolen out of strollers–granted, I was six years old when I watched it. Upon further investigation, it appears that some of the “real life” missing adolescents featured in the video were actually murder victims, including the Australian version which featured missing images of victims of Ivan Milat, The Backpacker Murderer. Creepy.
“Paint it Black” – Rolling Stones
Perhaps it’s the subject matter (Jagger has confirmed the song is about a girl’s funeral) or the use of the sitar, but the Stones’ “Paint it Black” is definitely one of their more unsettling tunes. “I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black / With flowers and my love both never to come back / I see people turn their heads and quickly look away / Like a newborn baby, it just happens every day.” The hit song takes on a new level of creepiness now, after the untimely passing of Jagger’s girlfriend L’wren Scott earlier this year.
“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” – Napoleon XIV
Man, talk about a rough breakup. The main character of this song goes so crazy after his girlfriend leaves him, that he actually thinks “men in their clean white coats” are going to take him away to the funny farm. “Remember when you ran away and I got on my knees and begged you not to leave because I’d go berzerk? / Well, you left me anyhow and the days got worse and worse and now you see I’ve gone completely out of my mind. / …They’re coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha/ To the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time.” I don’t know what’s scariest about this song: the music video, the creepy vocals, or the fact that it was meant to be funny.
(Scared yet? Click here to see our picks for the 8 scariest music videos of all time!)