If you’ve never listened to Halloween Internet radio before, this post will hopefully be a good overview. I have been an Internet radio enthusiast for a very long time with eight consecutive Halloweens (as of this writing) of searching out and listening to these sorts of stations.
And I want to be clear that I have no interest in the “stations” of Pandora, Spotify, etc.. Those aren’t stations – they’re song playlists. No matter how good the selections are, it’s a completely different experience than finding that one little weird station that has no listeners but some probably obsessive person has (hopefully) meticulously crafted to perfection. There are tens of thousands of streaming stations out there and the following is all about actual stations, created by humans. Like traditional terrestrial radio but streaming to you via a URL you plug into an Internet radio player. If you’ve never used one, TuneIn is a user-friendly, cross-platform place to start.
Before I begin, let me first define what I mean by Halloween songs. I’ll start by coining a term…
Title keyword songs.
Pretty much ALL Halloween stations play songs that seem to only be in the playlist because they searched for certain keywords and those words appear in the song title yet any meaningful thematic connection to Halloween or horror is practically non-existent. So you get many plays of songs like Superstition, Little Devil, Devil Inside, Beast of Burden, and Zombie. See what I mean? Songs by Stevie Wonder, Neil Sedaka, INXS, The Rolling Stones, The Cranberries, etc. don’t exactly create a Halloween atmosphere, which is, of course, what I put these stations on for.
Sure, there’s also songs like The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Werewolves of London, Don’t Fear the Reaper, and Witchy Woman that fit lyrically, more or less, but so many of those songs are so well known they still just don’t feel like Halloween songs.
Unfortunately, all the above is what MOST Halloween stations call Halloween music and you’ll hear it more than anything.
You should also know – and I find most people don’t – that there has been a movement in recent years that has given us some Modern Halloween Music – such as the dark fantasy neoclassical music of Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana as well as the Halloween Carols of Kristen Lawrence.
I also want to clarify that when I mention Halloween oldies, I’m mainly referring to those 50s and 60s novelty records with a horror sort of theme that have been with us forever on Halloween party compilations like Monster Mash, The Blob, Purple People Eater, I Want My Baby Back, Monster’s Holiday, Grim Grinning Ghosts, etc. – you surely know at least a few of them. If you were (or are) a Dr. Demento listener, you’ll also know some of the more obscure songs from that era as well – Dead, Dinner at Drac’s, My Son the Vampire, Zombie Jamboree, and all those.
And finally, there is a whole decades-long middle era between the oldies and the modern that I just expect to be a staple of any Halloween station so I’m not going to mention this content in my notes below. This mostly consists of the more recognizable horror movie themes and selections from the soundtracks of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Little Shop of Horrors, Beetlejuice and the like. As well as appropriate tracks from Gothic and Goth-favorite (or just plain dark) bands like Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, Oingo Boingo, White Zombie. A few stations actually occasionally play psychobilly music. And of course, you’ll get sick of hearing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the Ghostbusters theme, and the handful of scattered novelties like A Nightmare on My Street.
There’s a neverending supply of types of music (and not music) from all of recording history that could end up on a Halloween station but those are the three most heard categories you’ll encounter on these stations. The truly unique stations play more than just those three categories.
With all that said, let’s start with my two favorites…
I list this first because it’s nearly perfect in its universality and needs no lengthy description or details. If you need a one-size-fits-all, go-to Halloween radio station, this is it. (Especially if you only want music.) Old songs, new songs, horror movie music, etc.. Though, it also suffers from too many title keyword songs described above.
If you’d rather have soundscapes, they have their atmosphere station and I can vouch that it’s usually really good. Need it to be kid friendly? They have a kids station. Oldies only? They have one of those, too. And they’ve a station that plays nothing but horror movie score pieces.
All of their stations are of professional grade when it comes to sound quality. I can’t think of another station I can say that about. Even at 128k, most stations just don’t sound great.
We kick off every Halloween season with their main station and it gets more play on our stereo during October than any other. So, yeah, it gets an A.
(They seem to be slowly increasing the number of commercials each year, though.)
Now on to my other favorite…
This is more of an ambience/atmosphere station. I mainly listen to it in headphones. For me, it’s perfect for when I don’t just want music.
Rather than try to describe it, I’ll just list what I hear on it…
… Easily half this station’s content is haunted house soundtracks and other horror soundscapes, some playful, some a bit too truly horrifying for my idea of Halloween. The rest is the most diverse collection I’ve yet to hear on any other station…
… Halloween oldies
… Modern Halloween music
… Songs from kids’ Halloween albums, past and present
… Spoken word stories from Poe and the like, many read by Vincent Price
… Speaking of Vincent Price, my Halloween isn’t Halloween without the stuff he did for Caedmon and this station plays all of it
… Movie radio spots from the 40s to the 80s
… Music from horror movies, modern and classic.
… And lots of oddities and curiosities in general.
… And no commercials!
In short, he collects awesome Halloween audio stuff so I don’t have to. His station therefore gets a solid A. I’ve listened to it three or four Halloweens in a row and will every Halloween as long as he keeps the stream going.
(note – he streams some kind of god-awful electronic dance music year-round and switches to Halloween stuff on October 1st.)
For the rest, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ve been listening to Halloween Internet radio since 2008 and there are many stations. Many come and go, some I see every year. I’m going to focus only on the stations I recognize as available every year. And I’m not gonna do a huge, detailed write up. I’ll spend a day with one station playing – it may or may not get much of my attention during my workday, but as I hear significant things, I’ll jot a note with a plus for positive things, a minus for negative things, and both for stuff I have mixed feelings about. Then I’ll just paste those notes here. As usual, these ‘In my headphones’ posts are mainly for my own reference but posted online in case anyone else can benefit from the info.
Hopefully, I’ll listen to a bunch of these, make a bunch of notes, and post this in time for the first week of October.
And my plan is to update this list from time to time as I find relevant stations.
+horror movie trailers
-too much heavy metal
+Vincent Price Caedmon
+-lots of orchestral stuff
+-more spoken word, radio dramas, and soundscapes than music
+Those just plain odd 1962 readings of Poe by Richard Taylor that I love
+-narrated stories – some kinda too long, but still atmospheric
-title keyword songs
+music from horror movies
–the volume tends to vary between tracks
+-lots of (often long) tv/movie clips but not always obviously Halloween/Horror-related
++plenty of weird little odds and ends
—this station seems to just alternate between Midnight Syndicate and title keyword songs – the one then the other – with occasional old novelty song and a few tracks from horror movie scores
+oddly enough, I actually find the PSAs they play are usually enjoyable
Scared to Death Haunted House Ride Radio
I only recall seeing this one the last couple years. And they don’t have a website that I can find.
+fewer title keyword songs than most stations
+music from horror movies (kind of a lot, actually)
–the volume can vary drastically between tracks to the point that it pretty much ruins what is otherwise a really great station
+-several White/Rob Zombie songs
+a pretty unique playlist – I’ve heard several things I haven’t heard on other stations
+more Voltaire than most stations
… I absolutely love this station but the drastic volume changes make it a station I can’t just leave playing