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Jun 27, 2016

Music can be scary, even terrifying. 

Certain combinations of notes induce nervousness and unease in the listener.  Musicians have known about these intervals for centuries. 

They can induce tension, character, and depth into a song, and have been used in music throughout the world since before music theory was even a thing. 

In modern music these intervals are the roots of jazz, blues, and rock and roll.  In the medieval European Christian church, however, religious leaders branded these intervals satanic – making them even more unsettling. 

But it’s not just tones that can make music horrifying.  There’s a long history of folk songs telling stories of real murders in graphic detail, and these murder ballads have been popular for centuries.  Music goes right to your emotions, which makes it a fabulous way to induce horror. 

In this episode I’ll talk about the “devil’s tone,” murder ballads, and other tricks of recorded music that induced horror hysteria over the years – some of it imagined, and some of it very real.


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“Diabolus in Musica”

Mystery Plays: The Last Judgment

 “Essentials of Music Theory” by Carl Edward Gardner

Professor John Deathridge, King Edward professor of music, King's College London

Giuseppe Tartini’s “The Devil’s Trill Sonata”

Richard Wagner


Murder Ballads

“Pretty Polly”

“The Twa Sisters”

“Tom Dooley”

 “Folsom Prison Blues”

 “Mack the Knife”

 “Stagger Lee”

Jazz -Devil’s Music

Screaming Jay Hawkins

“I Put a Spell on You”

“Yesterday and Today”


“Paul is Dead” Conspiracy

White Album

“Revolution 9”

“I’m So Tired”

“Helter Skelter” and Charles Manson

Aleister Crowley -“Magick, Book 4” (1913)

“Stairway to Heaven” Backmasking controversy

Black Sabbath (movie)

Black Sabbath (band)


Horror Movies

Heavy Metal






#Diabolus in Musica

#Mystery Plays

#The Last Judgment

 #Essentials of Music Theory by Carl Edward Gardner

#Professor John Deathridge, King Edward professor of music, King's College London

#Giuseppe Tartini’s

#The Devil’s Trill Sonata

#Richard Wagner


#Murder Ballads

#Pretty Polly

#The Twa Sisters

#Tom Dooley

 #Folsom Prison Blues

 #Mack the Knife

 #Stagger Lee

#Jazz -Devil’s Music

#Screaming Jay Hawkins

#I Put a Spell on You

#Yesterday and Today


#”Paul is Dead” Conspiracy

#White Album

#Revolution 9

#I’m So Tired

# “Helter Skelter” and Charles Manson

#Aleister Crowley -“Magick, Book 4” (1913)

# “Stairway to Heaven” Backmasking controversy

#Black Sabbath (movie)

#Black Sabbath (band)


#Horror Movies

#Heavy Metal