The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What is the best Devil-like scary music for Halloween? | October 31, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Halloween.

Oh, so spooky.

Trick or Treat!!!!

What are the most scary pieces of classical music for Halloween that you can play for yourself – or perhaps in the background as you hand out your treats to Trick-or-Treaters?


In past years, I have chosen some favorites (Johann Sebastian Bach’s Organ Toccata and Fugue D Minor, Modeste Mussorgsky’s orchestral tone poem “Night on Bald Mountain” (at the bottom, in a popular YouTube video with almost 2 million hits), Maurice Ravel’s piano pieces “Le Gibet” (The Gallows) and “Scarbo” from “Gaspard de la Nuit,” Franz Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz” among others) and asked readers for their favorites.

Here are some links to the past:




This year, I found a website devoted to the very topic.

Imagine! A sonic House of Horrors!

How many different pieces are there listed as Halloween favorites?

Why 13 – of course!

See how many you would choose or guess are on the list?

Here is a link:,the-13-scariest-pieces-of-classical-music-for-halloween.aspx

Now be sure to leave a COMMENT with what you think is the best and scariest piece of classical music for Halloween!


The Ear wants to hear.


  1. […] Classical music: What is the best Devil … – 31.10.2013  · Classical music: What is the best Devil-like scary music for Halloween? | October 31, … The Well-Tempered Ear — October 31, 2014 @ 12:01 am. […]


    Pingback by Classical Music Associated With The Devil | Site Title — November 20, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

  2. I wrote a piece titled “Halloween Night” a while ago, and I think it is pretty scary, check it out below, it is written in classical music style:

    What do you think?


    Comment by Fabrizio Ferrari — October 20, 2016 @ 11:35 am

  3. De Natura Sonoris No. 2 by Kryzstof Penderecki. Music used in The Shining. Really scary stuff. Basically anything by him works great for halloween.


    Comment by Rhett Jaramillo — October 23, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  4. “Night on Bald Mountain” is also useful. Years ago I had upstairs neighbors who regularly emptied the Nitty Gritty at bar time for a party at their place. Several times I went up to ask them to turn the music down. That would last about until I got back downstairs. One Sunday morning they settled down about 6 AM. I gave them ½ hour to get to sleep, then I put “Night on Bald Mountain” on, cranked up the volume, and held a speaker against the air duct in the ceiling. They never bothered me with loud late parties again.


    Comment by Steve Rankin — November 1, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

  5. You’re forgetting Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre.

    Ann Campbell


    Comment by Ann Campbell — October 31, 2013 @ 11:04 am

    • Hi Ann,
      Yes I did leave it out..
      And I shouldn’t have.
      Excellent choice.
      You can hear the bones of the skeleton rattling and dancing.
      Along similar lines, how about the “Funeral March for a Marionette” by Charles Gounod — the famous theme for suspense meister Alfred Hitchcock’s show on TV?
      Thanks for reading and replying.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

  6. Lisitsa’s Totentanz is PHENOMENAL! It was a truly dazzling and phantasmagorical performance.She did it live on her last video DVD.

    Bartok as the Scary Guy, huh, It’s about time he got more recognition for Something. He is kind of the forgotten genius of the 20th Century, IMHO. Did you know he had a VERY rare musical gift, Perfect Time. That is why there are often timings at the bottoms of his scores. He knew, without a watch or metromone, how long they should take. Wild, huh?
    Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” is still my all-time scary-music choice. The Ravel pieces are too familiar to me to elicit much adrenaline!


    Comment by Michael BB — October 31, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  7. Very happy to see composer Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” suite included in the list. Herrmann not only wrote outstanding film scores, but also an opera (Wuthering Heights), a tone poem (Moby Dick Cantata) and assorted chamber pieces. He was also an early champion of Charles Ives. I am pleased to see some of his contributions to music are being acknowledged.


    Comment by Michael Muckian — October 31, 2013 @ 9:14 am

    • Hi Mike,
      Hermann is getting his due — and also his imitators!
      The highest form of flattery.
      But those slashing strings and jarring rhythms of the music for “Psycho” are perfectly suspenseful and scary — the sonic equal of Tony Perkins; little weirdnesses int he film.
      Thanks for reading and replying. I didn’t know about so much of Hermann’s other serious music –kind of like Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
      Keep listening.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      • UW-Milwaukee’s Fine Arts Quartet had Herrmann’s “Echoes for a String Quartet” figuring prominently in its playlist for various performances during the Peck School’s Year of the Arts. FAQ also recorded the work along with string quartets by Philip Glass, Ralph Evans and George Antheil (another film composer) for the Naxos label in 2008.


        Comment by Michael Muckian — October 31, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

  8. Two candidates would be Liszt– Totentanz (good recording by Valentina Lisitsa on You Tube), and parts of Messaiaen– Meditations sur le Mystere de la Sainte Trinite. As a genre, I think French organ music is often rather spooky — it can give you goose bumps.


    Comment by Ann Boyer — October 31, 2013 @ 8:57 am

    • Hi Ann,
      Another vote for the Totentanz, with its gloomy doomy Dies Irae theme, is welcome.
      But the Messiaen is really an inspired choice.
      And yes, a lot of French organ — a lot of ANY organ music — sounds spooky to me.
      Not for nothing was the Phantom of the Opera an organist and not a harpist.
      And a French organist at that.
      Enjoy tonight!!


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

  9. One composition I’ve always found genuinely scary is Bela Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” — particularly the first movement, although the second is creepy in a different way as well. The opening percussion statement, if done properly, should prompt some listeners to — uh — soil themselves, and the subsequent material is truly diabolical in its intensity and focus.


    Comment by Tim Adrianson — October 31, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    • Hi Tim,
      A great if unusual choice.
      See another comment by Michael BB about Bartok.
      As always, thanks for reading and writing.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 31, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,245 other subscribers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,427,467 hits
%d bloggers like this: