It’s October, and that means that our preparation for Halloween must begin. There’s only a measly couple of weeks left before everyone’s favorite maelstrom of grain alcohol, cheap candy, and soaring toilet paper rolls that will never live out their destiny of cleaning a human ass. It’s time to troll Amazon Prime for cheap clothes made by even cheaper labor, that we’ll lie to ourselves about being able to wear more than once until they fester in the back of a closet.

Halloween, more than many other holidays, is an atmospheric one. Sure, malls and stores will soon be drenched in a peppermint wave of Christmas spirit, but that’s surface level stuff. Something about the chaos and depression that’s wound up in October makes Halloween a holiday that penetrates the brain to the core. A key part of that atmosphere, whether it’s at a friend’s party, a haunted house, or a heavily decorated porch, is audio. I’m talking about spooky sound effects, people. Tell me one other holiday that spikes SFX sales like Samhain. Of course, not all these sounds are created equal.

Here’s the official, definitive ranking of the top 15 spooky Halloween sound effects.

Spooky Wind

The sound of wind whistling through leafless trees is essential, no doubt, but it feels like more of a building block than a sound all its own. It’s hard to respect it as a stand-alone track, instead serving a valuable, but pedestrian purpose of enhancing other effects. If these other effects are guitars, spooky wind is the pedalboard: essential, but useless on its own.

Disembodied Footsteps

Another sound that’s a delightful addition to any scary soundscape, but underwhelming alone is the sound of distant footsteps. Change it to CHILDREN’S footsteps, or footsteps that possibly belong to a haunted doll, and we’re starting to cook with a little grease, but it still can’t hold a melted, flickering candle to the other heavy hitters on this list.

Old Song In Other Room

A classic creepy go-to, but far too situational. First of all, you have to find a song that hits the perfect balance of not being an actual banger, but not being genuinely bad. You can’t just put any track onto a wheedling gramophone and expect it to set the tone. Now don’t get me wrong, if an old music box pops itself open in a house I’m in, I’m out of there before some old widow pops out of the wall, but it’s just a little too amorphous, and arguably not really a “sound effect”, per se.

Scream (Male)

Now look, a scream on halloween is basically as essential as you can get. There’s a reason the word was taken as the title of a seminal scary movie series. The problem is that a male scream just somehow doesn’t hold the same horror gravitas as a female scream. Something about a male scream just takes me back to a guy falling off a cliff in Indiana Jones more than a haunting. Less “I’ve just seen a ghost” and more “a rat just ran across my foot.”

Bats Flapping

Those beautiful creepy rodents of the sky. Everyone’s favorite flying rats were already high on the food chain based on their pointy little wings and teeth, but when they were folded into vampire lore they took an unimpeachable seat amongst the October throne. The best thing about it is that since the possibility of bats in most Halloween locations is at least slightly possible, they’re likely to inspire at least a small duck and hair-swat if deployed effectively. Don’t mess with the classics.

Distant Clang

Pipes spend so much of the year, by design, unnoticed. But when Halloween season rolls around, they get their time in the spotlight. A leak here, a clang there, it’s simple, beautiful, and slightly worrying, the trifecta of a great sound effect. Who hasn’t checked the hallway after a particularly noisy episode from another room’s radiator? Top-notch stuff.

Rattling Chains

More Halloween royalty, exceptional for its versatility. Unless you’re at a bike rack, chains contain within their base existence a suggestion of the forbidden. A little rattling and immediately you’re concerned with something spilling out where it shouldn’t be. It perfectly triggers your imagination to any number of things that someone might have locked up that are in the process of an escape before an inevitable rampage. Zombies? Ghosts? Werewolves? One thing’s for sure: people aren’t chaining up rooms because there’s an adorable french bulldog in there.

Crows

The peanut butter to the bats’ jelly, crows (and ravens, or really any corvid) are built for Halloween. Not only are they already in a Hallows Eve friendly colorway, they are scary just by virtue of being large birds. All birds are scary, whether we’d like to admit it or not. They’ve got knives on their face and feet and they’re QUICK. Even pigeons are pretty terrifying when ten of them are coming for your half-finished churro.

Wolf Howl

When the outline of a wolf against the full moon might as well be one of Halloween’s brand identities, of course I’m going to rate the accompanying sound highly. Animal lover or not, a wolf in the area isn’t exactly sending anyone off to distribute belly rubs. Not to mention there’s always the chance it’s not just a regular wolf, but a WEREWOLF. Werewolves of course, being a combination of a wolf and the greatest monster of all… a bigger wolf.

Thunder

Humans have existed on this earth ever since a couple of monkeys figured out how to walk upright and be ashamed of their genitalia. And from day one, thunder has scared the absolute s**t out of us. I don’t care how cool you are, an unexpected thunder crack is making you flinch. A particularly close one would have the god damn Terminator laughing nervously and saying “that was a big one” in an Austrian accent. Throw that in a Halloween stew and you’ve got a top tier sound effect.

Creaky Door

Perhaps not as genuinely scary or dominant as other effects on this list, the classic creaky door earns a spot in the top five out of how quintessential to the entire idea of spookiness it is. A good creaky door squeak can wrap you in Halloween spirit in one second flat, like a weighted blanket made of fall leaves and discarded Mr. Goodbars.

Witch Cackle

When something gets pasted on windowpanes in as heavy numbers as a witch silhouette, you know you’re looking at Halloween royalty. I mean, this is seminal stuff. I’d pay out fifty bucks to any of my friends that could make it through a weekend of Halloween parties without seeing at least one pointy hat. The only reason it’s not number one is that there’s a lot of BAD witch laugh sound effects out there.

Moaning

Not the kind coming out of your college roommate’s side of the dorm room, though that’s not a pleasant experience either. Unless it is coming from you or someone you are currently engaged in coitus with, the moan is just one of the most horrible noises a human can make. There’s no interaction a moan can’t make creepy, and for that reason, a constant buffeting of them into your eardrums will make any situation a scary one, and quick.

Scream (Female)

Way up above the male scream is the infinitely more piercing and terrifying female scream. The fact that even imagining it right now probably made you wince is all the reason I need to put this at number two.

Evil Laugh

Is there anything better than a good, old fashioned, evil laugh? The female scream may have left the male one in the dust, but the male laugh of a malcontent edges out the witch cackle just for the sheer balance it strikes between scary and velvety smooth. I mean, the Phantom of the Opera is one of the great pieces of theater ever, and that’s basically Evil Laugh: the Musical. In old Hollywood, a good evil laugh could launch a whole career. Just ask the ghost of Vincent Price.

Disagree with the ranking? Any spooky sonic bits that got snubbed? Let us know in the comments… if you DARE! Or should I say… if you… SCARE!

Top Image: Pixabay/Pexels

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