Legend has it the members of Black Sabbath decided to form the band and make terrifying music because of one simple, inescapable fact: People love to be scared. It's why we ride roller coasters or shell out tons of money to watch the Saw movies (no thanks) or grab onto our friends and scurry through the haunted houses that pop up this time of year.
In honor of the season, we want to know your picks for the most terrifying — and we mean truly unsettling — songs of all time. Tell us about them in the comments section. We'll make a playlist with some of our favorites to post this Friday, on All Hallows' Eve (read that last part like Vincent Price).
Here are my top five picks:
1. Sufjan Stevens: "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
Any morbid curiosity I feel for true crime stories comes to a screeching halt with John Wayne Gacy, Jr., a convicted (and long-ago executed) serial killer whose depraved acts were so unfathomably horrifying I find it hard to even hear his name. But that didn't stop Sufjan Stevens from writing a perfectly lovely song about Gacy for Stevens' Illinois album: "He took off all their clothes for them / He put a cloth on their lips / Quiet hands, quiet kiss / On the mouth." Gawd!
2. The Chordettes: "Mr. Sandman"
Video: Watch "Mr. Sandman"I might have overlooked this seemingly innocuous song if it hadn't figured so prominently in Halloween II (which I regretfully saw when I was 12). But to be fair, my skin crawls at the idea of some strange mythical creature lurking in your room and sprinkling sand over your face while you sleep. And something in the bubbly harmonies feels sinister, like the dreams Mr. Sandman promises will really be nightmares.
3. Suicide: "Frankie Teardrop"
Video: Watch "Frankie Teardrop"I've found that having a child of my own has made it much, much harder to stomach, let alone enjoy, anything involving violence against children. (The Shining isn't anywhere near as funny as it used to be). But Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop" has always curdled my blood. If you've already heard it, you probably never want to hear it again. And if you haven't heard it, well ... listen at your own risk. (Love the band Suicide, though. Way ahead of its time).
4. Throbbing Gristle: "Hamburger Lady"
Video: Watch "Hamburger Lady"I dare you — seriously, I dare you — to turn all the lights off late tonight, sit in a dark room, alone, with headphones, and listen to this song about a suffering burn victim. See how far you can get before you fling off your earbuds and run to turn on a light. You'll definitely want to scrub the mind afterward with a good hour or so on this site. I know I did.
5. Diamanda Galás: "Wild Woman With Steak Knives"
Video: "Wild Woman With Steak Knives"Ten minutes of screeching, screaming madness. This cut appears on the avant-garde composer and singer's 1982 debut album The Litanies Of Satan. And that's exactly what it sounds like: An insane, horror-filled rant by The Prince Of Darkness himself.