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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.


Haunted Places Podcast



Running from October 2017 to December 2022, Haunted Places is a podcast about just that. The dark spots and corners of the world that are best avoided by most. But if you want to explore them, this podcast is a good start.

The podcast is hosted by Greg Paulson and written by Lauren Delille. And I’m sorry to say that the podcast did end in December. I hope that the talented team is doing new, terrifying things. 

The first episode I listened to was the very first one, The Cecil Hotel. This is a story that we already know quite a bit about, especially after watching the documentary on Netflix together

Somehow, this thirty-minute podcast episode managed to tell more tales of the Cecil Hotel than a three-episode mini-series. I’d never heard of Dorothy, who threw her newborn baby out of the window rather than let her lover know she’d given birth. 


These are verifiable facts. Dorothy Jean Purcell did throw her newborn infant son out of a window of the Cecil Hotel in 1944.

Here are some things said in this episode that are not verifiable facts. 

Elisa Lam was likely murdered. (No, she wasn’t.) 

Dorothy Purcell knew full well her son was dead before she threw him out of the window. (We can guess, but that’s all it is.)

Elisa Lam was part of a government conspiracy to cause a TB epidemic among the residents of LA’s Skid Row. (Clearly not a fact.)


While I’m not ready to toss a whole podcast based on some wildly inaccurate storytelling portrayed as facts, I do feel like I need to point it out. I’ll be taking everything from this podcast with a grain of salt, and I suggest you do the same. 

I next listened to the final episode, about the Carlile House. Before the episode began, there is a simple message that this would be the final episode. No further explanation is given, and I wasn’t able to find any reason why Haunted Places wasn’t continued. So far as I’ve heard, quality wasn’t the issue. 

I’d never heard of Carlile House, in New Zealand. The people who were forced to spend time in the house probably envy me in that regard. In its existence, it was an orphanage, a military barracks, and a trade school for boys. None of those are fun places to be. Some ghosts are going to remain. Especially when a vindictive, psychotic nun is involved.

This story has everything. Lots of racism, hateful ghosts, and sorrow-filled soldiers.

These two episodes are a good example of something I always look for in a supernatural or true crime podcast. I like to see a healthy collection of stories I know, and stories I’ve not heard before. 


Some stories, like Hotel Cecil, La Llorona, and the Amityville house, are consistently fascinating. These stories are told again, and I’m happy to hear them. There’s also a whole season about Salem Massachusetts, which I’m a sucker for.

Many of these tales, most in fact, are stories I have never heard before. I had never heard of the Princess Theatre in Melbourne Australia, or the actor ghosts who reside there. I’d never heard of Ruthin Castle or the Lady Grey and her axe. I’d never heard the story of Peg Leg Johnny at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Now I have, and I feel richer for knowing them. 

I truly enjoyed Haunted Places. While the ‘facts’ are questionable, the quality isn’t. The tales are disturbing, as all haunted house stories are. There is something about a haunted location that never gets old. Something about a place that has soaked up misery, anger, fear, and hate until it becomes itself a hateful thing. Some place that may seem lovely and safe from the outside, until you’re trapped within the walls. 

If you’re looking for a good spooky time, Haunted Places is well worth listening to. 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Nightlight Podcast



We’ve talked about a lot of horror anthology podcasts here. It’s a treasured genre for me. It reminds me of watching Tales From The Crypt and Are You Afraid of the Dark as a child. So when I find a good anthology podcast, I fall in love pretty hard. Especially when the writing is this good. 

Launched in June of 2018, Nightlight is an anthology podcast showcasing horror stories written by authors of color. It was created by Tonia Ranson, a speculative fiction author who loves scaring the hell out of people. And after listening to a few episodes, it quickly found a place in my podcast listening schedule. 

The first episode of Nightlight, called Letters From Home, was astounding. Written by Justina Ireland, it is the tale of an alternate history in which the dead started to rise during the American Civil War. It was a dark and gristly story of young black girls forced into training to take on the living dead. Sue, our main character, is strong and brave. When the dead find their way into her school, she leads her fellow students to the only hope of safety they might have. This is a fun, dark story filled with well-written action. It feels like something that might have happened, had the dead risen at Gettysburg.

By the way, this is a story in the same world as Ireland’s book, Dread Nation. So if you like Letters From Home, you’ll probably be eager to get your hands on the book. I know I was.


Another episode I found delightfully dark was He Refused To Name It, by Eugene Bacon. Our main character is shocked when the brother of his ex-girlfriend shows up to see him, holding a baby. A baby that is his, even though he hasn’t seen the girl, Em, in months. Sadly, she didn’t live through the labor.

Filled with a mixture of emotions, our main character thinks back to the painful way things had ended between him and Em. He is left alone with a baby in his cold little apartment. 

It should go without saying that the baby isn’t exactly the harmless creature he might have expected. But the ending is just shocking. 

In listening to the latest story, titled Aunt Sadie’s Surprise, it’s clear that the quality of the content hasn’t diminished at all. It’s called Aunt Sadie’s Surprise, written by Michelle Mellon. 

Many families have a matriarch. An elderly lady who runs things without question. This family queen often has a special recipe that everybody loves. And the main character’s Aunt Sadie is no exception to this. She makes a dessert called Aunt Sadie’s Surprise. Every time she makes it, she uses a different ingredient. Sometimes it’s bacon. Sometimes it’s extra large chocolate chunks. Sometimes it’s a dark and horrifying substance good people don’t dare mention. 

Our main character wants very much to know the secret of Aunt Sadie’s Surprise. She’d also love to know the mystery of an ornate dollhouse in Sadie’s upstairs bedroom. When she finally gets what she wanted, it destroys her life. 


I loved how warm and lovely this story felt. It was like stepping into your hometown and being welcomed with open arms. Open, bloody arms. 

In addition to loving the horror stories themselves, I adore the interviews with the author episodes. The story behind the story is often just as entertaining. And as a writer myself, I love these discussions of art, and the birth of a sinister tale. I do suggest listening to these interviews if you can. 

Every episode is beautifully acted. There is a dark and haunting soundtrack, and just enough sound effects to make a listener feel uneasy. I have yet to listen to a single episode that didn’t crawl right under my skin. 

Nightlight has new episodes every week, with the latest launching on March 16th. If you’re looking for an eerie tale told well, then you need to check it out. 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Unwell, a Midwestern Gothic Mystery, Season four



We have reached now the penultimate season of Unwell, a Midwestern Gothic Mystery. This is the bad news. Any good story ends too soon, as far as I’m concerned. The good news is that the first two episodes of season five are already available, so we can start on that journey together. 

That being said, this season was incredible. It was dark and frightening and asks more questions than we have time to answer. And for the first time, we come face to face with a question I’ve been wondering since the very first episode of Unwell.

What if this town doesn’t care for everyone who lives within it?

We begin this season right where we left off. Lily, Dot, Wes, Abbie and Marisol are trapped in the boardinghouse by a pack of wolves. There are more at the town hall. And yes, they do seem ready to bite someone’s face off.


Soon enough though, the wolves become a mild inconvenience more than anything. Yes, they might be vicious. They might be threatening. But eventually, everyone sort of gets used to them. And there are far more frightening elements of the town to be worried about.

For instance, Silas has moved in. The barriers that protected Mt Absalom from him are gone. So he’s around, getting coffee and opening a bar.

Lily takes this all in stride. She seems to see Silas as a trickster entity more than anything. He’s going to cause some trouble but is overall harmless. Even when a child goes missing, she doesn’t see this as a big deal. All in good fun, after all. Silas wouldn’t hurt anybody.

But let’s remember what exactly Silas did in the last episode of season one. 

This is a concerning trend not only in Lily but in the town in general. Silas is much like the wolves. They might seem friendly. Some poor souls might be foolish enough to think they can be controlled. But they are still forces of nature. They are still going to do what they do, regardless of the outcome for others. Not out of malice. Only because it is what they are meant to do. 

The town is also like the wolves in that way. And I think we’re only now coming to realize that. 


I’m glad to see the two opposing sides coming together this season. For the most part, that is. Chester seems more and more willing to work with Dot and the boardinghouse, especially as he grows more and more concerned about whatever Hazel has planned. We don’t know what Hazel wants to do about Silas, but we know that everyone else thinks it’s a bad idea.

Everyone agrees that Silas needs to get out of the town, though. He’s causing all sorts of trouble, disrupting the balance that everyone relies on. But he doesn’t want to go. And he’s more than ready to put up a fight. 

During the last few seasons, we have been given the impression that the town takes care of its people. Normally when someone says that, they mean that the people of the town look out for each other. And that is most certainly true. The people of Mt Absalom are wonderfully supportive of each other. It’s like a huge extended family, and I love it. But in this season, we find out that there’s more to it than that. The town itself looks after its people. When children go missing, they’re more often than not deposited in a safe place. The town sends them home. It also seems to hold onto people who might be of use, even after they die. 

However, there are two sides to every coin. If a town can protect lost children, it can do more. And it can determine that someone within it is a threat. 

One of our main characters makes themselves a threat this season. And the town does what it does best. It protects itself. 


I can’t wait to get into the last season. I’m sad we have to wait for the episodes to come out every other week. But still, it could have been worse. We could have found it just after the season ended. I hope you’ll be listening along with me as we witness the final season of Unwell.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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