All dressed up in the Risky Business-inspired “costume” of a men’s Vineyard Vines button down and Converse (I’m looking at you, freshman year me), you make your weekend pilgrimage to a Mod party, whether you come bearing the coveted Facebook invite on your phone from the Mod across the street or a down coat to keep you warm in your long journey from Upper or even worse, Newton. Just a few raps on the door and you’ve been granted entrance to the promised land. As you wade into a sea of vampires, Donald Trump impersonators—arguably the scariest costume—and animals, the not-so-potent smell of Natty Lite instantly hits you and the temperature rises at least 15 degrees.
But what’s that sound? “Mo Bamba?” “Bodak Yellow?” “Stir Fry?” Probably.
The playlist makes the party at Boston College, and as a seasoned veteran on the Halloweekend scene, I can attest to the fact that BC students hardly try to curate playlists that make it a Halloween party. Halloween parties offer the prime opportunity to wander outside the typical lineup of Drake, Cardi B, and The Killers. Unless you are planning on playing “Shipping Up to Boston” 30 times, there’s no pot of Irish bops to keep a party feeling lucky on St. Patrick’s Day, and “Despacito” can only be played so many times before the tequila starts chipping away at your elementary Spanish skills on Cinco de Mayo. Halloween is a unique holiday in that there is no shortage of spooky anthems that can power you through the 10-day event it is in college.
Halloween has long been my favorite holiday: Growing up, my parents always decked the house in cobwebs and candelabras to make it look like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland for their annual Halloween party. My favorite movie franchise was Halloweentown in my preteen days, and part of me always hoped my grandma would pass the family spellbook onto me when I hit puberty—instead her gift to me was the sage advice to stay away from boys.
To keep the magic alive into adulthood, I have created my own tradition: For the past five years, I have carefully queued up a playlist of ghastly grooves to get me in the mood for pumpkin spice overdoses and scary movie-induced night terrors at the start of September.
Aptly titled “Weird Pumpkin Vibes,” the playlist is a conglomerate of rapturous rock riffs of old and creeping synth beats of new. Some of the songs are overtly scary in content: “Zombie” by The Cranberries, “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones (a song an unnamed roommate of mine said no one knows), and “Monster” by Kanye West.
Others boast screen creds on scary movies and scenes from American Horror Story: Stevie Nicks performed Fleetwood Mac’s iconic “Rhiannon” on American Horror Story: Coven—the third season of one of the few shows I religiously watch during their original airtime—and the longtime suspected witch returned to the hit horror series in an episode of American Horror Story: Apocalypse to perform “Gypsy” as Misty Day (Lily Rabe) rose from the dead. “American Girl” has been used in television and film alike to convey an ominous end: The Tom Petty song famously appears in The Silence of the Lambs when the twisted serial killer and tailor Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) catches his last victim, and the track plays in the background of the final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 1 as Offred (Elizabeth Moss) is taken by the despotic police force on charges of conspiracy.
The rest of the playlist is composed of songs with chilling riffs and an indescribable menacing tone, truly just a weird pumpkin vibe. The Eagles’ legendary “Hotel California” has long been shrouded in creepy lore: Some thought they saw a demon inside the cover of the vinyl casing when it first came out, while others find the lyrics haunting in their own way. Pretty much any song by Nirvana exudes eerie energy with it, maybe because of the legend surrounding the famous frontman Kurt Cobain’s ascent into the 27 club or maybe because grunge rock is inherently a little threatening.
I don’t expect to hear The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” or The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” blaring out of packed Mod walls this Halloween, but don’t lose hope for eerie anthems. A DJ took the stage at The Neighbourhood’s show at the House of Blues last month with an eclectic mix of tracks that ranged from Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” to Cardi B’s “I Like It.” Watching from the rafters with a bird’s eye view of the crowd, I saw a sea of bodies surge and scream the chorus of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in perfect unison, the height of the DJ’s opening mix. In the presence of goblins and ghouls, don’t be afraid to mix it up this Halloween.
Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Heights Editor