Ooooo-ooooooo! Cut up a sheet and do the ghost.
It turns out that it is hard to find a song about a ghost that isn’t a metaphor for an ex-lover, bad memories, that person you used to be. Wonderful as many of those songs are, they aren’t as SFF-inal as their more literal cousins which I’ve collected here for your listening enjoyment.
1. Tuff Ghost // The Unicorns
The Unicorns—on top of being one of my favorite bands—have almost an album’s worth of poppy, indie ghost songs. (Unfortunately, they don’t actually have any unicorn songs, not really. Go figure.) They’re not scary songs, but are very catchy despite a structure that departs from the classic verse chorus verse chorus. Tuff Ghost makes me think of my favorite fictional ghost ever. If you’ve read The Raven Boys Cycle you know who I mean.
“I don’t want to hurt you
Well you can’t, ‘cuz i’m already dead
The tuff ghost is invincible
No guts came out when he bled
Well i lift weights, but i don’t sweat.
I go for a swim, but i don’t get wet
I don’t care about anyone else
I’m a strong dead man, looking out for himself
I think you’re suffering, that’s why you’re so mean
You’re already dead
I can’t see right through you”
2. Ghost Mountain // The Unicorns
“There was heat from the fire, but I still froze when I saw the ghost.” In this song, a group of people go camping on ghost mountain and *surprise* encounter a ghost.
“It lunged for our throats, so we packed our things, made tracks.” But, surprise ending! During the song’s last 25 seconds you find out what’s really going on on Ghost Mountain. Heh.
3. Little Ghost // The White Stripes
Aww, a ghost-human love song. Another favorite of mine, this time from The White Stripes’ 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan.
“Little ghost, little ghost
One I’m scared of the most
Can you scare me up a little bit of love?
I’m the only one that sees you,
And I can’t do much to please you
And it’s not yet time to meet the lord above
“The first moment that I met her
I did not expect a specter
When I shook her hand I really shook a glove
She looked into me so sweetly
And we left the room discreetly
No one else could know the secret of our love”
4. In the Room Where You Sleep // Dead Man’s Bones
Enter electric organs, clap-filled, mildly psychedelic rock, and you have the first song on the list actually trying to be a little creepy. It only manages to succeed in a campy way, but at my ghost dance party, this is definitely going on the playlist.
“There’s something in the shadows
in the corner of your room.
A dark heart is beating
and waiting for you.
There is no open window, but the floors still creep.
In the room where you sleep.
In the room where you sleep
Where you sleep.
You better run. You better hide!”
5. Ghost Fields // Murder by Death
Quoth Paste Magazine: “The members of Murder by Death have aptly referred to their brand of gothic, old-West tunes as ‘dark whiskey devil music.'” So you’ve probably already guessed that I really like them and that this won’t be the last time you hear about them on Science Fiction Mix Tape.
Ghost Fields is from the band’s 2012 album Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon and if I had to put it in a genre, I would have to call it darkly orchestral country folk.
“A dark wind, come from the fey.
Blew under her skirt, and took her away.
And now that she’s gone, the land seems to change.
Lights on the hills, have never looked so strange.”
6. The Ghost of Tom Joad // Bruce Springsteen
About damn time that the Boss made his way onto Science Fiction Mix Tape. So many of his songs are well-executed short stories, though not many are particularly SF-inal. In The Ghost of Tom Joad you get both literary reference (Tom Joad! Grapes of Wrath!) and a Ghost and Bruce Springsteen’s voice. All wins, but maybe with more crying than dancing. From the 1995 album of the same name.
“The highway is alive tonight
But nobody’s kiddin’ nobody about where it goes
I’m sittin’ down here in the campfire light
Searchin’ for the ghost of Tom Joad
“He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box ‘neath the underpass
Got a one-way ticket to the promised land”
7. Old Ghosts // Jethro Tull
Much like Kelpie, a Jethro Tull song previously featured on Science Fiction Mix Tape, Old Ghosts contains a lot of flutes. If you can handle that sort of thing (I barely can, the Tull isn’t so much my thing), this is a good scary ghost story. Bit kitschy, but maybe that’s just the influence of the background music and his vocal style and those strange fake blast off noises that show up in the middle.
“Hair stands high on the cat’s back like
a ridge of threatening hills.
Sheepdogs howl, make tracks and growl —
their tails hanging low.
And young children falter in their games
at the altar of life’s hide-and-seek
between tall pillars, where Sunday-night killers
in grey raincoats peek.
“Misty colours unfold a backcloth cold —
fine tapestry of silk
I draw around me like a cloak
and soundless glide a-drifting
on eddies whirled in beech leaves furled —
brown and gold they fly
in the warm mesh of sunlight
sifting now from a cloudless sky.
“I’ll be coming again like an old dog in pain
Blown through the eye of the hurricane
Down to the stones where old ghosts play.”
8. Polly Vaugn // Irish Folk Song
Irish folk music is resplendent with supernatural ballads. Not just ghosts but fairies, monsters, and shapeshifting geese. Polly Vaughn is story of a man who kills his lover in a hunting accident. Idiot thought she was a swan, but she still comes back from the grave to defend him in court.
A few other Irish folk tunes that include ghosts: Molly Malone and The Unquiet Grave. But there are dozens. Maybe even hundreds.
9. Lady Margaret and Sweet William // Child Ballad
This ghost takes stalking to new levels by showing up at her former crush’s bed on his wedding night. Poor Sweet William; I don’t think he liked it much at all.
The Child Ballads are comprised of 305 English and Scottish folk songs, named for Francis James Child—the man who collected them. There’s a lot of supernatural fun to be had in them, and this won’t be the last you hear of them. Any serious music geeks might be interested to know that some of the lyrics from this song eventually found their way into the song Matty Groves, in which the ghost is instead a cuckolded husband with a sword and some serious blood lust at finding his wife in bed with a servant.
10. Hammer Horror // Kate Bush
I hear Kate Bush is pretty awesome. Despite enjoying a brief affair with her song Wuthering Heights (a book I called my favorite through much of high school), I simply cannot get into her voice or her brand of weird. What the fuck is going on in this video? What is this song even about? You tell me, I can’t stand to watch it for long enough to figure it out. The internet tells me this is a ghost song list must, so I’m going to go out on a limb and hope there are a few Kate Bush fans among you.
10. Ghost Rider // Rush
The first band most science fiction fans will tell you about if you tell them you’re looking for science fictional music is Rush. Ready Player One is full of Rush, Let’s All Go to the Science Fiction Disco is full of Rush. Maybe someday I will learn to like them. But no matter what I think about them, they belong on any good list of SFF ghost songs.
“Pack up all those phantoms
Shoulder that invisible load
Keep on riding North and West
Haunting that wilderness road
Like a ghost rider
“Carry all those phantoms
Through bitter wind and stormy skies
From the desert to the mountain
From the lowest low to the highest high
Like a ghost rider”
11. To the Ghosts Who Write History Books // The Low Anthem
This song appears to be written for the ghosts rather than about the ghosts, but I love it and hey, ghosts need a little lovin’ once in a while too. Didn’t you listen to Little Ghost? Whenever ghosts try to get a little loving everybody says their lover has gone mad.
“To them ghosts that write history books
To them ghosts that write songs
Everyone asks would you write one about me
“To them ghosts in the train yard
All them ghosts in my drink
Your money’s no good here just write one about me”
12. Dead Film Star // Team Ghost
And on that note, I rest my ghostly case.