Top Ten Pieces of Classical Music to Listen to on a Dark and Stormy Night

Nothing sets the mood for a horror story like a spine-tingling score, and you might be surprised how many orchestral works provide a perfectly creepy atmosphere. What would Psycho be without the screeching violins? Let’s count down some of the best pieces of classical music to listen to on a dark and stormy night…

Number 10: “Funeral March of a Marionette” – Charles Gounod

Remember Alfred Hitchcock Presents? It was a ‘50s anthology TV show, and the title sequence used this piece, which forever afterward became associated with Hitchcock. Good evening… Get the mp3

Number 9: “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath” from Symphonie Fantastique – Hector Berlioz

The symphony is about an artist who’s taken a lot of opium and experiences some pretty weird stuff. Berlioz describes this movement of the symphony as “a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts.” I had a hard time deciding between this and the movement which comes right before it, called “March to the Scaffold,” which is also worth checking out. Get the mp3

Number 8: “Marche Slave” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

This dark march depicts the oppression of the Serbs by the Turks, starting with a Serbian folk song that is played at the somber tempo of a funeral march. The gloomy atmosphere eventually crescendoes to an impassioned cry of despair. Get the mp3

Number 7: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Paul Dukas

This symphonic poem was based on Goethe’s poem about a sorcerer’s apprentice who has a bit of an altercation with an enchanted broom. You may know the premise because you’ve probably seen the Fantasia version with Mickey Mouse. And if you haven’t, click the link and enjoy. Get the mp3

Number 6: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta Movement 3, Adagio – Béla Bartók

This creepy piece of music may sound familiar if you’ve ever seen The Shining (possibly the best horror movie ever made), which has a very strange and unsettling score. Now when I hear this eerie piece, I can’t help but think of little Danny wandering those winding hallways that are inhabited by creepy twin girls. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta/III. Adagio (Instrumental)

Number 5: Toccata and Fugue in D minor – Johann Sebastian Bach

Everyone’s heard this intense organ piece. It might make you think of some weird dude hunched over his piano in the dark. He’s probably a vampire expressing his eternal love through the poetry of music or something like that. Or he might be a ghost, making it look like the organ is playing itself. Is he the phantom of the opera? Get the mp3

Number 4: In the Hall of the Mountain King – Edvard Grieg

When Peer Gynt enters the hall of the Mountain King, he finds “a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins.” It seems they think he bewitched the king’s daughter, and they call out to slay him. The lyrics get creative when they start asking, “May I hack him on the fingers?” and “Shall he roast on a spit or be browned in a stewpan?” Mmm. I wonder what’s for dinner. Get the mp3

Number 3: Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saëns

Legend says that at midnight on Halloween, Death plays his fiddle for the dead to come out of their graves and dance. The poem that goes with the music shows us cavorting skeletons and says, “You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.” Listen for the xylophone if you want to hear those rattling bones. Get the mp3

Number 2: Night on Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky

This is another piece about the witches’ sabbath of legend, and also another one that was featured in Fantasia. The creepy cartoon you can find at the link involves wild demonic spirits, the fiery pits of hell, and even Satan himself atop his treacherous mountain. Get the mp3

Number 1: “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana – Carl Orff

You’ve heard this music in everything from horror soundtracks to beer commercials. It is the very definition of the word “epic,” and it’s based on a bunch of poems written by some 12th century monks (mostly about sex and drinking, go figure). “O Fortuna” is only a fraction of the whole piece and is about fate and chance as the Wheel of Fortune spins us through life (the medieval concept, not the game show). Without Vanna White, the wheel itself is malevolent and monstrous. Fate’s a real bitch. Get the mp3

If this list served only to whet your appetite for more, continue to the follow-up post: Ten More Pieces of Creepy Classical Music.

Categories: Entertainment


  1. This is a great post! I actually had no idea that the song from ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ presents wasn’t originally made for the show.

    • Yes, it’s quite a fun little piece that I had the pleasure of playing in my orchestra for our Halloween concert last October. Though I may be biased towards my choices because I’ve played 7 out of the 10 on this list!

  2. Thanks for the great suggestions – itunes, here I come

  3. Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz,” (Dance of Death)

  4. Thanks for sharing this! 😉

  5. nice work on a great list but 2 I would be hard pressed not to mention would be albinoni – adagio in g minor and mahler – pinao quartet movement in a minor

  6. Reblogged this on Renae Rude – The Paranormalist and commented:
    For this week’s M&M Music Monday, I’m reblogging a piece written by the talented Joanna Parypinski.

  7. Conservatory graduate here. Bravo! 🙂

  8. I was just running through what films these music compositions have been in. Berlioz’s main theme is in The Shining and earlier The Screaming Skull. Bach’s Toccatta and Fugue in D minor was the opening of an Amicus Film, I think Tales from the Crypt. Night on Bald Mountain was used in Fantasia in the creepiest sequence of devil’s and ghosts. If I can think of more I’ll let you know 😉 Great post!

    • Thanks for the list. These pieces are perfect for horror movie soundtracks, always evoking a specific tone, like the weirdness of Berlioz or the creepy circus music in Night on Bald Mountain.

  9. Brilliant list, well done.

  10. Hey there, nice list – don’t forget to include Prokofiev’s “Night” from the Scythian Suite next time. Maybe too conventionally creepy (?) but still a goodie in my book. Also check out Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky!

  11. Reblogged this on Grandtrines and commented:
    Best for Halloween. (We have “Christmas in July”; can we have Halloween in August?)

  12. George Crumb – Black Angels

  13. As a writer of horror and psychological thrillers – and one who writes to a background of music – I greatly enjoyed this blog. Have shared it onto my Facebook page.

  14. Great post! This helped greatly when putting together my Halloween playlist!

  15. Hi,I check your blogs named “Top Ten Pieces of Classical Music to Listen to on a Dark and Stormy Night | Joanna Parypinski” on a regular basis.Your story-telling style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about powerful love spells.

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