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I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately, as one might do if fortunate enough to work from home. Heck, I’ve even put together some Spotify playlists myself during the last few weeks.

However, during idle listening, there’s been a few songs that stood out for being…different than the rest. A little haunted. A bit dark. And, yes, quite the deviation from all the rest.

So, here is a list of 5 songs (so far!) from just casual normal music streaming with horror elements or bizarre implications.

5) Ma Baker by Boney M (found on “Boogie Nights” playlist)

In disco, there are usually the following as topics of interest: dancing, crying, loving, not feeling like dancing, getting a heart broken, and dancing once you find love again. Usually it’s not about a killer gangster from Chicago.

Pictured: Apparently inspiration for disco

Ma Baker is about “the meanest cat in town” that, with the aid of her four sons, “really mowed them down” and “left a trail of crime across the U.S.A.”. The song was inspired by real-life criminal and public enemy Ma Barker, who actually committed crimes with her four sons, and was killed in a shootout with the FBI in 1935. Hence the line, “she knew how to die.”

While nothing is really offensive and is kind of comical to hear about a 30’s gangster in 70’s slang, it’s still not expected when I throw on a disco station to get down and boogie.

4) Child Molester by The Nuns

This one actually came as not quite a recommendation from a boss but kind of, in a much better way than I’m stating right now. A boss of mine is really into collecting vinyl (I have a mini-passion for it) and he was excited to be able to play records while working from home. I asked him what he played that day because I needed some new things to stream. The first one he mentioned was The Nuns. I was unfamiliar with them.

I am now familiar with them and find him a much more interesting person.

unsplash-logoNick Bolton
Uhg, great, just another meeting that could have been sent in an email…

That said…Child Molester. I couldn’t even find lyrics on this beast because no one wants to pay it attention and for good reason. It’s about, well…It’s in the perspective of the child molester, with all anger and rage of being left behind (possibly by a parental figure?) and was turned into this monster due to this rejection. It’s not exactly sympathetic, but it’s not exactly…not, either.

I’m not a punk rock aficionado, but the little I own don’t have anything to do with “walking around like a fiendish ghoul, picking up little 9-year-olds from elementary school” and have a lot more to do with drinking and beating ass.

3) In a Week by Hozier

Hozier is a musician that was kind of in the back of my mind for a while. I have “Take Me to Church” from when it first came out in 2014 and enjoy it from time to time, but never really dove into his other songs. So, when idly jumping around albums, his name came up and I started listening.

In a Week is deceptive. I listened to it a few times actually before really listening to it. It’s a gentle lilt of a song between Hozier and Karen Cowley, slow and sweet like molasses. Soft guitar and gentle voices carrying each other, like walking down a sunny path.

unsplash-logoMarko Blažević
Pictured: Everything’s all right

Until you hear the lyrics. Then you realize it’s a soft and gentle song about two corpses – becoming food for the foxes, laid claim by insects, the birds nearing them, scaring the cattle, and decaying together before being found a week later. It talks about their heartbeats slowing and their flesh growing cold, becoming food for the land and animals.

unsplash-logoEd Leszczynskl
Pictured: It is not all right

In a way, it’s still beautiful in a death-positive view. It’s not a suicidal type song like Don’t Fear the Reaper, it’s just a calm song about the process of death and the acceptance of that. There’s no malice or fear, just acceptance. Hauntingly open acceptance.

2) Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday (JAM: Jazz Appreciation Month Playlist)

I am well acquainted with this song, as I think you should be, too. It is one of the most powerful songs ever written and performed.

If you are unfamiliar, this song was written originally as a poem, published in 1937. The poem was inspired by a black-and-white photograph of the murders of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. Both had been beaten and lynched on August 7th, 1930 in Marion, Indiana in front of thousands of people.

unsplash-logoVeit Hammer
Pictured: Angel realizing some humans are awful

The poem was put to lyrics and was offered to Billie Holiday. She accepted after consideration and fought for the right to record it. And let’s think about that. She was singing this as a standard during the 30’s and 40’s (aka not a great time to sing about this). It’s a very powerful and straight-forward song against lynching and the treatment of Black people.

Again, to put into perspective, lynchings were most frequent from 1890 to the 1920s. From 1882 to 1968, nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress, and three passed the House. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 asked Congress to pass a federal law. Yet not one bill was approved by the Senate. Between the 1877 and 1950 over 4,000 African-Americans were lynched in the South, and that’s not even talking about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, where Black activists were routinely attacked and murdered. And to put it in more recent terms, the last reported lynching happened in 1981.

unsplash-logoAditya Chinchure

So, when Billie was singing about “blood on the roots” and Black bodies “swinging in the southern breeze” just like “fruit for the crows to pluck” and for “the sun to rot” on that day she recorded in 1939, this was a world she grew up in. It was the reality. She chose to confront it and face any consequence.  

Am I saying that it shouldn’t be on the Jazz playlist? No, it absolutely should. But from going from lighthearted songs about sunny sides of streets and pennies from heaven to something so full of raw emotion and so haunting, it’s jarring. Meaningfully so.

1) Ruby (don’t take your love to town) by Kenny Rogers (R.I.P.)

Okay, what the actual f—. I started listening to some Kenny Rogers streams because 1) RIP and 2) my grandpa was a big fan and I vaguely remember it in the background of my childhood. So, I thought it would be a good time of remembering – of recollection and reflection of “grandpa” and the general campy “Southern-ness” that I’ve always associated with Kenny Rogers.

And then I heard Ruby.

It only gets worse as it goes along, too, kind of like the joke-story that starts out, “I’m sorry about your dog.” Except darker.

The song opens to a man watching his domestic partner getting herself gorgeous, and it’s not for a make-up tutorial. She’s going to town and our narrator asks her not to go out and sleep around with anyone. Oof, okay, they’ve hit a rough patch in the relationship.

unsplash-logoJose Martinez
“I swear I’m just going out to get bread. Relax!”

The next verse we learn he’s a veteran of “that crazy Asian war” and that he’s no longer “the man [he] used to be”, but he still wants her to stay home and be with him. Ouch, okay, so he is suffering from PTSD and she’s pulling away, that’s hard.

It was the next few lines that got me.

It’s hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed” Oh…oh God…that’s…

unsplash-logoAndrew Ly
But how will you take pretentious vacation photos now?!

But it won’t be long, I’ve heard them say, until I’m not around” Holy crap! Ruby! Will you just sit your ass down and play checkers with him or something?!

But no, the narrator tells us, “she’s leaving now ‘cause I just heard the slamming of the door/the way I know I heard its slams one hundred times before”. So, this isn’t the first rodeo of adultery between the couple and it’s no wonder why he’s so depressed.

Man, poor guy, maybe he could-

“And if I could move, I’d get my gun and put her in the ground”

unsplash-logoSebastian Pociecha
Pictured: Not great…just not great

Oh….wow. Well, that escalated quickly.

And it basically just ends there.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this song. It’s weird when it’s sandwiched in his most popular love songs, like this, too, is a love song. And weirder that it was penned by the guy that wrote things like, “Stomp Them Grapes” and “Loco Weed”.

And the ending seems like an inevitability between the two – he has a gun, he only has a limited time left, he’s got nothing to lose…it all spells a very dark end for what I thought would be a fun romp down memory lane.

I don’t care how beautiful your glamor shot is! It’s a weird song, dude.

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.


Dr. Death Season One



If you’re having surgery anytime soon, you might want to give this episode a pass. It might make you rethink that decision.

Hosted by Laura Beil, the voice of True Crime, Dr. Death tells the tale of neurosurgeon Chris Duntsch. And it’s a bloody tale to tell.

This is the true story of a man so infatuated with himself that he murdered and maimed almost every patient unfortunate enough to come under his shaky scalpel. A doctor so terrible at surgery that a fellow doctor thought he was an imposter.

Dr. Chris Duntsch

We begin with a description of two surgeries at a Dallas hospital. Surgeries that, to put it mildly, didn’t go to plan. As a warning, there are vivid descriptions of horrific medical mess-ups, right from the start. Duntsch manages to lose a screw in a patient’s muscle. He severs the nerves of another patient, putting them in a wheelchair for the rest of their life.

The descriptions of the botched surgeries are horrifying. As are the descriptions of Duntsch himself. His drug addictions and lack of self-control are horrifying to imagine in a person whose job it is to open people up and work on them. But what’s even more terrifying is the response of the medical community around him. Because most of the hospitals and higher-ups in Texas just didn’t want to get involved.

As Duntsch crippled or killed person after person, no one who should have stepped in did. It wasn’t until a fellow doctor, Dr. Henderson, was called in to clean up one of his messes that anyone acted. Dr. Henderson is the hero of Dr. Death. He was the first to report Duntsch to the Texas Medical Board. And when they didn’t act fast enough to get Duntsch out of operating rooms, Henderson got the police involved.

(Want to hear about another psychotic killer podcast? Check out my review of Transmissions from Jonestown.)

It’s horrifying to hear about a man who had so little regard for other people that he would ignore his own ineptitude and keep right on hurting them. It’s worse to realize how little protection people have against doctors who just don’t care who they hurt. And this season of Dr. Death makes this clear.

I was terrified by this podcast. Beil interviewed survivors, family members, nurses, and doctors who worked alongside Duntsch. She dug into this situation and told the bloody story with such passion that I was left shaking. And I can’t recommend it enough.

Unless, of course, you have any upcoming doctor appointments. Then, it might be a bit much.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Transmissions From Jonestown



Haunted houses, vampires and the paranormal are all well and good. But you know what’s really scary? Listening to actual people argue whether or not they should commit mass suicide. 

That’s the kind of chilling thing you can expect when listening to the podcast Transmissions from Jonestown.

Created by Shannon Howard and premiering in November of 2017, Transmissions from Jonestown starts by telling us the detailed story of The People’s Temple and its well-known tragic ending. 

Photo of Jim Jones.

We hear actual recordings of conversations from the lead-up to the day of the mass suicide. These include unhinged rants from Jones himself, singing from the congregation, and testimonials from those about to die.

I’m going to warn you now that some of these tapes include children screaming and crying. Given the timing, these are children who were just forced to drink poison. This is the sound of these children dying.

Before this, I had no idea that was on tape. Now, I have no Godly idea why it’s on tape. Honestly, that was a little much for even me.

Hearing the tale in this way, intermingled with conversations from those who did not live through it, was scary enough. But as I said, that’s only part of the story.

What gets ignored when we talk about Jonestown is the lasting impact it had. Not just on the loved ones of those lost. Not just on the survivors. But on our society at large. 

The second half of Transmissions from Jonestown dives into those impacts. But it also talks about some of the theories people have about Jonestown. Some of these theories are just bonkers. Everyone from the CIA to Russia is to blame for the deaths. It was all an experiment that led to the aids epidemic. Jim Jones got away, it was a body double that was found dead at Jonestown.

(Want to hear check out another podcast review? Check it out here.)

I’m happy to say that any theory that isn’t based on verifiable facts is presented as such. So the listener gets to hear these theories for what they are. Shannon is clear that she wants us to think for ourselves and make our own judgments.

I loved this podcast. Every episode was chilling and riveting. If you’re a fan of cult theories and historical horrors, this is a podcast you shouldn’t pass up. Though it does lose a whole Cthulhu for including the sounds of little kids dying. That wasn’t necessary.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Old Gods of Appalachia Podcast



Old Gods of Appalachia is a podcast you need to be listening to right now. It’s a recent find for me, though it’s been around since Halloween, 2019. The latest episode came out on September 8th, so it’s still going strong.

The first thing that drew me into this podcast was the actor’s voice. This would be Mr. Steve Shell. It’s like butter, laced with sweet poison. Some people consider an Appalachian accent to be a mark of ignorance. As someone who has a bit of the accent myself, that can’t be further from the truth. Hearing these tales, poetic and horrific, told with this deep accent is a delight. 

Though, that does bring me to the tales. And they are so, so creepy.

The Appalachian region contains a mixture of superstition, poverty, political aggression, and environmental worry that sprouts scary stories like mushrooms in damp leaves. And those are the kinds of stories you’re getting here. Stories of people lost in mines who come back to seek revenge. Stories of towns swallowed up by the green forest. Stories that make you wonder whether Earth is keen on us living here.

Old Gods of Appalachia cover

I listened to the first few episodes that told the tale of Barlo, Kentucky. In it, a young girl flees for her life when her uncle comes back from the mine. Or, at least something wearing her uncle’s skin comes back. Then, throughout the tale, something much bigger comes back to claim the whole town.

Old Gods of Appalachia refers to itself as an eldritch horror fiction, set in an alternate Appalachia. But some of these tales sure feel like they might have been waiting for me to stumble into them outside my grandma’s backyard. 

Those of us from the area, or adjacent, will feel at home in these stories. We’ll see magic and monsters that feel familiar. But not in a warm, comforting way. It’s the familiar way your hair raises on your arm when you walk past certain places in the forest. The way you feel when that one neighbor is on the same path as you on your nightly walk. It’s a dark, foreboding kind of familiar. 

Those of you who aren’t part of that sort of community will be introduced to a chilling world that you’ll almost believe is real. 

You’ll almost be right. 

(Want to check out another chilling podcast I reviewed? Click here.)

I cannot suggest this podcast enough. It’s easily the best new podcast I’ve listened to this year. Just don’t plan to sleep after you do, without leaving an offering. 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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