Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Evil Masterminds, Organists, and Halloween–Spooky Classical Music Sources


Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera, 1925

Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera, 1925

It’s getting toward Halloween here in the US and I got to thinking about spooky music.

Why is it that organ music is always considered mad scientist/evil mastermind music?

I mean, think about it: do these guys have time to be practicing their arpeggios and pedalwork?

Do they really want their hands tied up with massive nasty, gnarly chords?

Is it easy to come up with byzantine evil plans while playing the intricate counterpoint of a fugue?

Can we picture an evil mastermind wearing sensible organist shoes?

Photo via

Photo via

C’mon, really?

I guess we’re stuck with that image though.

So, ok, we’re going with it.  What are our options here to make folks think an evil genius lives at your house while you’re handing out candy at Halloween?

Everyone thinks of the Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor first.  Recordings of ALL of Bach’s organ music are available for free.  Or you can download a subset of more familiar pieces.  The pieces were recorded by Dr. James Kibbie on baroque organs in Germany (learn more about the project here).

Also, check out The 13 Scariest Pieces of Classical Music for Halloween (and the readers’ suggestions) for classics like Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre, and Liszt’s Totentanz, among others.

Looking for something different and original?  Try Frederik Magle’s music.  Delectably dark and hair-raising, from traditional Gothic organ to rock/classical fusion.  Here’s Origin.

Here Stockhausen presents his composition Gesang der Jünglige, which is just a little unnerving, and I imagine terrifying in the dark, played at low volume in some obscure corner.

Got 99 cents? Go to Amazon’s MP3 store for The Darkest Classical Piano Pieces, or the Little Box of Horror, or 100 Must-Have Horror Classics.  All may not be what you think of as terror-inducing but for 99 cents, one can’t quibble.

And finally, this less terrifying but fascinating mash-up of classical works by Guy Cavill, from The Frankenstein Suite, Movement 3, It’s Alive – The Frankenstein Breathes.  I like how the composers’ faces morph into one another in the video, all focused on the eyes.

Do you have any other suggestions for scary music?  What’s the most terrifying music you’ve heard?

7 thoughts on “Evil Masterminds, Organists, and Halloween–Spooky Classical Music Sources

  1. Wondering now about hurricane music. Patricia is supposed to be the most powerful ever on record. Captain Nemo in the Nautilus.


  2. The scariest music I ever heard was Crumb’s Black Angels, played here by Kronos: The first time I heard it I was naively leaning over the stereo turning up the volume — WHOA. I had trouble walking back up to the stereo to turn it off. I still can’t listen to this without my blood pressure rising. It is the sound of raw terror.

    In other news, the organ shoes are definitely part of that outfit.


  3. What fun- thanks, Chris! Those Kibbie recordings are very crisp and feel right in the style (he also knows a lot about tempos, fingering, phrasing and ornamentation in the style, which shows). Those choices of scary music are about right – and one could add “When the Night Wind Howls” from Ruddigore, of course. I personally find Magle’s music (and his performing persona) truly repulsive- really cheap Hollywood schlock, not too badly scored (though who knows whether he scores it himself). But there will always be a Virgil Fox or Carlo Curley in the organ world- strange people!




  4. Sweet Transvestite? Or maybe that’s not scary enough? Or classical enough?


    • Sorry, Louis, while it’s from the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s not classical. But if you really want to talk scary non-classical, I can point you in the direction of some mind-melting metal.


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