Saturday, October 12, 2013

Top 10 Halloween Dance Crazes

 It’s that time of year again. Time to pull out your bags of god-awful candy corn and dress up like your favorite movie character if you are a guy (or in your favorite slutty outfit if you are a girl…sorry ladies, you want to fight the stereotype don’t give into it). It’s Halloween! Frequently around this time, people ask me, “Jeffrey, what are some good frightening dances I can do at my next Halloween party?” I like to tell people to listen to novelty songs, as there is an endless supply of horror dance crazes perfect for the Halloween season found in many of their lyrics. However, it is a huge time investment to go digging through the endless supply of songs created over the past century. Many of these songs have never even received a release since the creation of their initial record and rely on bit torrents and amateur format transfers to even see the digital light of day. That is why I have here a list of my favorite novelty songs that teach you how to bop like the abomination you are (or the abomination your parents mutter about under their breath when they think you aren’t listening).

1) Doin' The Zombie by Chubby Checker 

I don’t know where the legendary Chubs got the idea to make a Halloween Novelty record, but he did. And it is…a novelty. In the late September of 1997, Chubby Checker came out with his campy EP “Doin’ The Zombie”, which consists of four Halloween novelty songs. But let’s focus on the title song, which teaches a simple little number anyone can do at any dance party. The point of Checker’s dance, “The Zombie” is not finesse or grace; it is persistence and longevity. All you have to do to do The Zombie is to act like a slow shambling monster on a dance floor for as long as you possibly can (preferably until the sun comes up). In the opening lyrics, it is expressed that the dance is “not very tricky”. In fact, it is a dance for people “who like to party all night and get freaky”. The lyrics remain vague on the specific steps of the dance, but do spell out the essential points needed to accomplish the dance properly.

Shake your head Put your hands up high
Wiggle all your fingers like a bird tries to fly
 Kick off your shoes Keep your body loose
Moving in a strange and freaky way
You’ve got to look like a ghoul Stand real cool
And dance until the break of day

You also have to “jump to the rhythm” during the bridge of the song. But this step does not need to be repeated throughout. It is also the most amount of exertion you will make when performing the dance.

Since this song was written in the mid 90’s and running zombies were not around quite yet, it is safe to assume this dance number is inspired by the pop culture interpretation of a zombie at the time, which was a slow shambling undead corpse. Given the lax nature and open interpretation of the steps, it is clear the point of the dance is to mimic zombie shambling on the dance floor, so long as you remain loose and occasionally “jump” to the rhythm. What’s even better is the less energy you use, the more adequate of a job you are doing. That way, you won’t get burnt out as quickly as you would while dancing a Charlston or a Jitter Bug, which involve high energy movements and fast motion. With this spare energy, you can dance the night away.

2) (Everybody's Doin') The Ghastly Stomp by The Ghastly Ones

In 1996, these wacky Southern California Undertakers formed a band to rock your crypt with their Surfabilly/Rockabilly monster music. And boy, are they good at it. This is particularly evident in their song from the 2007 album “Unearthed” titled (Everybody's Doin') The Ghastly Stomp. The song is ambiguous about the specific steps of the dance. But since it is a variation of a “stomp” (I assume they mean a Bristol Stomp, not a Native American Stomp Dance) it is a fairly simple move that takes very little effort and is fun to do. However, what differentiates a Bristol Stomp from a Ghastly Stomp is the inclusion of a “hip wiggle” throughout.

 Here are the steps to the Bristol Stomp, accompanied by a clip of The Dovells, the inventors of the Bristol Stomp, as they perform the move on live TV (Is that Chubby Checker introducing them?  Man he gets around).

You begin the dance with your feet shoulders width apart. Start with the right foot by tapping your right heel twice on the dance floor in front of you.
Then return your right foot to position one.
Next, with the left foot, tap your left heel twice on the dance floor in front of you.
Then return your left foot to position one.
You bring your left foot back one step, and slide your right foot backward to meet your left.

Once that is accomplished, you repeat all these moves once from the top. This part of the dance is the break. You pick up your right foot and tap your heel in front of you twice.

Then, take a step back with that same foot and kick backward twice with your left leg.
Once that last kick is done, you step forward with the still raised left foot and return to the top of the dance.

 Now you’ve got the whole motion of the Bristol Stomp. To turn it into a Ghastly stomp, don’t forget to wiggle your hips throughout. There is also an additional move that must be accomplished to make a complete Ghastly Stomp, and that is when you make a powerful leap upward and slam both of your feet to the ground together.  This is the move the lead singer accomplishes at 1:34 into the video.  It’s a tough move, but easy to pick up on if practiced a bit.

3) The Halloween Dance by Reverend Horton Heat

This song is the “Cha Cha Slide” of Halloween dance numbers. The steps to The Halloween Dance are literally written into the song, as the dance is intended for a large group of people to follow the song’s instructions. The Halloween Dance was created by Reverend Horton Heat for the album Halloween Hootenanny, by Rob Zombie.

In case you wish to practice the dance at home, here are the lyrics that spell out the steps.

You put your hands up around your neck
You run in a circle back and forth like heck
You hold your arms out like you’re in a trance
Now you’re doing the Halloween Dance

 You do the stab with the psycho knife
You push a shopping cart like a Stepford Wife
You stoop like the hunchback of Notre Dam
Now you’re doing a Halloween Dance

You hold a cape up around your face
You slash your teeth like you need a taste
You shake your booty like you’re changing your pants
Now you’re doing the Halloween Dance

4) Voodoo walk by Sonny Richard's Panic

Now we are really digging into the obscurity barrel. Sonny Richard was a musician from the 50’s and 60’s who never really hit it big, but came out with a few pop gems that are still around today (if you dig deep enough). This song remains his most well known. Co-written by “Cindy and Misty” (who apparently wrote the majority of the song) The Voodoo Walk doesn’t have many instructions. But the song does describe the different ways various famous monsters engage in the dance during a dark night where “the moon is high”.  For example, “The werewolf does the voodoo walk, instead of monster mash you stalk. The mummy does it with a thud, when the vampire does it he drinks your blood”

However, the chorus’ lyrics spell out a fairly simplistic series of steps that if performed are meant to accompany the song. Here they are.

Do a little walk, give a funny quiver
Walk on back and give a little shiver
Fly back in, then begin to stalk
Just like the shadow that’s the voodoo walk
All the ghouls do it, it will go through your head
Do the voodoo walk, the dance of the dead

As long as the main instructions are followed, there is a great amount of room for improv. However, if I may be so bold, I have elaborated a tad on the specifics of the steps to make this dance easy and not so interpretive; perfect for those who wish to see instructions that are a little more black and white.

When executing the “little walk”, take three steps forward, exaggerating the natural swing of your hips during each step.
“Giving a funny quiver” is nothing more than shimmying your shoulders back and fourth.
For the “walk on back” step, take three steps backward. Don’t forget to exaggerate your hip swing again.
For giving “a little shiver”, you shimmy your shoulders again in an identical fashion to the “Give a funny quiver” shimmy.
To “Fly back in”, you take one large step to the left with your left foot and slide your right foot to meet it, all the wile, keeping your hands and arms outward to your sides.
Once that has been accomplished you “then begin to stalk”, which consists of three baby steps in place, all the while your arms are tucked in and fingers curled like claws. Swing your arms left, right, left in unison to the steps of your feet.
During the lyrics “just like the shadow that’s the voodoo walk”, make a motion with your left arm as though you were wearing a long black cape and slowly covering the bottom half of your face with it, tucking your mouth between the crevice under your elbow. Think of Dracula covering his face with his cape. That is the motion you want to make.  If the light is not too dim on the dance floor, it is a nice touch to shoot a sinister gaze all around the room while engaging this step.
Next, during the lyric “all the ghouls do it, it will flow through your head”, you shoot both arms up in the air, fingers extended outward. Then make the shape of a gun with your left hand and put it to your temple.
Finally, during the last line of the chorus, “come do the voodoo walk, the dance of the dead” you return your arms to your sides and take three steps forward, exaggerating the natural swing of your hips during each step.
Then perform a final shimmy of your shoulders to complete the dance.

 That’s it. Just one more thing; don’t forget that the Voodoo walk is in fact The licensed official “Dance of the Dead” and carries a lot of clout in the monster world. When performed correctly, you are bound to get a terrifying round of applause from your audience, as well as a possible couple of extra “love bites” from your new adoring fans.  Or at least from the mosquitoes hanging around the graveyard night with you and your monster buddies...weirdo...

5) The lurch by Ted Cassidy

In the 60’s the Adams Family was all the rage. And like every show, there was a “Fonz” character written for general audiences to gravitate to the most. In this show, this character was the Frankenstein Monster lookalike Lurch. The hulking butler was so popular at the time that someone up high decided to make a whole variety act around him for the show Shindig! with a song and dance number titled “The Lurch”. The sketch begins with a pack of children approach the 6 foot tall behemoth in hopes of him teaching them how to “Lurch”, a new dance craze which is apparently the talk of the town.

The dance steps are similar to “the Pony”, “the Roach” and “the Charleston” but incorporate an added “Lurching” twist of the torso and a swing of the arms. As you do this dance, remember the illusion you want to create is that your arms are flaccid and loosely attached to your shoulders. As you dance, it will look like the movement of your feet and torso control the motion of your “limp”, swinging arms.

You start with a big step to your left with your left foot.
You then follow with your right arm and leg simultaneously to the left, crossing your right leg behind the left leg and making a “swinging” motion with your right arm. As you make the swinging motion, really put your shoulder into it. You want your arms to be very loose and lanky throughout the dance.
Next, you make another step to the left with your left foot, and bring your right foot to meet it, tapping it on the ground once. Keep all your weight on the left foot, for when you finish your right foot tap, you take a big step to the right with the right foot.
You follow with your left arm and leg moving simultaneously to the right, crossing your left leg behind the right leg and making that familiar “swinging” motion with your left arm.
Now take another step with your right foot to the right, and bring your left foot in to meet the right.

As you can see, all you are doing is repeating the first series of steps, but inverting your body’s direction.

 Once you have completed these steps, you take one step forward with your left foot and swing your left arm forward and outward.
You follow with one step forward with your right foot ahead of the left and your right arm swinging forward and to the left. Simultaneously the momentum built up from the initial swing of your left arm has swung it all the way around you to your back.
Now lean back with your right shoulder, swinging both arms simultaneously clockwise around your body. Your right arm is now swung behind your back and your left arm is in front of your chest, pointing to the right.
Take a step backward with your right foot, meeting both feet together and arms back to the side, returning to position one.

 Now, repeat these steps from the beginning.

 Sounds confusing? It’s really not.  As long as you watch the video and follow the steps, you will do just fine.

And remember; Don’t just stand there.  LURCH!

6) The Pistol Stomp by Zacherle 

This jaunty parody performed by the infamous Jon Zacherle is another variation of “The Bristol Stomp”. But this one is much more fun, as it involves crazed lunatics shooting at your feet while you jump around to dodge the bullets. *By the way, as a side note, I’ve tried very hard to avoid posting more than one Zacherle song, as he is responsible for creating such steps as “Limb for Limbo Rock”, “The Bat” and the “Weird Watusi” (My personal favorite). But the Pistol Stomp is one to be shared, especially given how relevant it is these days with government shutdowns, fiscal cliffs, marshal law and a complete collapse in the status quo, I bet we’ll all be doing the Pistol Stomp very very soon. So better get to practicing or you will be ill prepared for the collapse of the world order.

7) Do the Necronomicon by George Reinblatt

“In hell we dance our own special way let’s show em how we dance while our bodies decay” Here’s another super simple series of steps. “Do The Necronomicon” was the climax song for the infamous “Evil Dead The Musical”. At this point in the show, the shotgun toting hero, Ash, is up against a band of murderous Deadites and has little chance of survival. What he must do now is read from The Infamous Book of the Dead and complete the spell to remove the Deadites from this plane of existence. But part of the spell involves granting the evil behind the Deadites a mortal form to destroy. When The Evil takes on its mortal form, it leads its band of monsters in song and dance to celebrate their coming apocalypse. They call this song and dance “The Necronomicon”.

The show itself is fantastic. With blood, guts, gore, murder, demons and dark comedy galore, there is no reason to not fall for this wonderful piece of theatrical art-house cult custard pie. Do yourself a favor and buy the soundtrack, it’s a hoot. That way, when the Deadites come for you, you will know the proper choreography.

Here are the lyrics that teach the steps to the dance.

First you jump Then you sink down
Then you get back up and lasso all around
Then you spin Clap your hands
And take a brief moment to acknowledge the band

Do the robot And the sprinkler
And finish it off with your best Henry Winkler

To do these steps properly, you follow these directions.

 First you jump with both feet together in the air.  Upon landing, you “sink” or squat downward, to create the effect that you have fallen from a great height.
Once this is done you return to your position 1.
With your arms, you pretend to twirl an invisible “lasso” over your head like a cowboy. The amount of twirls is debatable, but in the past it has been done with four consecutive twirls of your wrist over the head.
You then take a step with your right foot to the left, stepping over your foot and pivoting counter clockwise to rotate or “spin” your body 360 degrees, at which point you raise your forearms so your hands are eye level.
You clap your hands three times.
Next you pause for a break, in which you engage in an improv called “acknowledging the band”. To do the improv, you pretend to be on a stage with an accompanied band just below your feet. You then pretend to shower the invisible band with admiration and affection for the time and work they have taken out of their busy lives to perform “The Necronomicon” for you.  Now don’t get too excited, there isn’t a real band performing for you in your living room.  All you have to do is pretend there is and you’ve got it.

For the next three steps, you are also expected to improvise your movements. Don’t get overwhelmed; it is all interpretive and supposed to be fun.

You take a beat to perform your own variation of “The Robot”. For those of you who don’t know, the robot is when you make rigid, stiff motions to simulate robotic movement in your body, usually with your arms stuck in 90 degree angles by the elbows.
You follow up with “The Sprinkler”. This is when you twist your body from right to left once by the waist, all the while pretending to be projecting a water stream from your arms like a lawn sprinkler.
Finally, all you have to do is finish it off with your best Henry Winkler. That is to say, you tighten your elbows into the sides of your ribs, angle your forearms so they are parallel to the floor, stick your thumbs un in the air, and as you make small circles with your forearms, you let out a cool collected “aaaaaaaayyyyyyyeeeeeee” sound.

8) The Monster Mash by Bobby "Boris" Pickett

Alright folks, here’s where we get a little predictable. But there’s a reason we save the best for last. Even if you don’t know Bobby “Borris” Pickett, you certainly have heard his work before. Back in the 60’s, he was the king of the monster dance craze scene, as he created what has become the most well known Halloween song of all time, The Monster Mash.

The dance is a basic variation of the Mashed Potato. For those of you under the age of 50 who don’t know how to do the Mashed Potato, allow me to explain the steps.

You begin with your feet facing inward.
While on the balls of your feet, you rotate them outward, second position with your heels together.

You repeat this motion twice, then on the third foot rotation, you shift your weight onto your left foot and lift the right foot to your side.
You then repeat these steps but this time you shift your weight to your alternate foot, extending the other leg outward the opposite way.

To do the Monster Mash, all you have to do is follow these simple steps, all the while raising your arms in a monstrous manner up and down in unison to the beet of the music. If you are in need of a visual reference, here is a splendid little tutorial that shows you the basic steps of the Mashed Potato.


With this classic move, you are sure to win any dance contest at your local mortuary. It’s like bringing a bazooka to a butterfly hunt.

***Fun fact; most people like to stick their arms out in this fashion to imitate the Frankenstein Monster.  But it originated not from the movie Frankenstein, but the movie Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman. In this film, Bela Lugosi played the monster; not the iconic Boris Karloff. In the previous film to Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, the Ghost of Frankenstein, The Monster was blinded as a byproduct of a botched up brain transplant.  Even though they don’t address it directly, it is heavily implied Lugosi was trying to keep continuity, playing the creature blind by extending his arms out as though he couldn't see.  But after this film they hired Glenn Strange to play the monster, who would continue this trend of arms out in the air without playing the monster blind.  And they never address it again. I don't mean to be critical of Stange's performance; I love his Frankenstein Monster.  There is footage of Strange discussing how he was directed by Karloff himself at moments in House of Frankenstein in order to stay more true to the fan favorite character.  But I find it fascinating to see how the creature evolved throughout the years.  In the "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" DVD, there is a documentary about the making of the movie, where we learn a great deal about Strange's transition from Western actor to Horror Actor.  All this information and more is covered in this documentary.  Anyway, enough nonsense, time to get back to dancing.

9) The Time Warp by Richard O'Brien

Easily the most well known horror dance craze of all time, the Time Warp has been a fan favorite since it’s creation in 1973. Go ahead and insight a Time Warp at your next party. I bet everyone in the room will join in on your shenanigans.

Despite the dance’s fame, the origins of The Time Warp are a complete mystery to the world. The most any of us know is it is a dance conceived in the distant galaxy of Transylvania, on the planet Transsexual and is used as a ritualistic “affair” hosted by the late Transylvanian mad scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

 The steps to the dance are simple, and even spelled out in a very helpful graph by British actor Charles Gray.

It’s just a jump to the left, then a step to the right with your right foot.
You put your hands on your hips, and tuck your knees in together, making for an awkward squat.
Followed by a pelvic thrust backward and forward three times that will literally drive you insane.
Then, using your hips and knees, you twist your body clockwise as you make a light bounce with your feet and knees.

10) The Thriller by Michael Jackson

"Though you try to stay alive your body starts to shiver For no mere mortal can resist the evil of The Thriller."

The gold, friends.  Did you expect anything else?  Doubtful.  To the majority of folks in this world and the next, this is THE ONLY Halloween dance. Yet very few people know the steps outside of extending their arms and fanning their fingers into claws, swinging them back and forth a couple of times. Let’s not forget that the Thriller was a well organized, well choreographed number that requires a lot of practice. It is for this reason that I myself am not going to teach you how to dance this famous craze. Instead, I will lead you to the real professionals who have spent days, weeks, months and years to perfect their skill at getting down like the dead man himself (Too soon?)

Ines Markeljevic has created a 40 video tutorial on how to do the whole 6+ minute long dance number. This all sounds so difficult, but believe me when I say the videos are efficient, effective and super easy to learn. With a couple of friends, this is a very fun recreational activity to engage in. You can start with the first video here, and if you go to the youtube page, watch the rest to learn all the steps.

But that’s not all. Turns out Markeljevic is an activist as well as being a huge Michael Jackson fan. He is responsible for the creation of the charity event/flash mob group Under the bandwagon, Markeljevic plans on breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest group of people performing the Thriller dance at one time this October 26th; the 30th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. That’s right folks, they will be holding their special dance number in Toranto Canada. If you are in the area and available, I encourage you all to go check it out and join in on the shenanigans of the undead.

Honorable Mentions

The Zombie Walk by The Magics

Good lord is this one obscure! I can’t tell you how hard it was to find this dance craze, but I did! You die hards can find it on the album “Doo Wop Halloween Is A Scream” and to tell you the truth, this is one of my new favorite Halloween Mixes! Every song in this mix is golden. But I really can’t say the same thing about this song itself. Written and performed by “The Magics” (Can anyone else find another song these people made?) This is easily the most difficult and obscure dance number in this list. I almost didn’t put this song in the list. But it screamed inclusion, since it was clearly written to be a song and dance craze. Hell, even the lyrics offer instructions on how to perform The Zombie Walk.  But I just can’t make out what the Hell these singers are saying. If the song was written to teach a dance number, shouldn’t the point be to understand the instructions they tell you? No one has posted the lyrics online either. It seems that nobody can understand what The Magics are saying (or maybe nobody cares).  So it is up to Uncle Jeffrey to figure out this conundrum. Well I just about have.  So, wanna learn the Zombie Walk? Let me teach you.

There’s a brand new dance called the zombie walk
Come on and dance lets start to stalk
Ooooooooooooohhhhh zombie walk
Ooooooooooooohhhhh zombie walk

 First you bend your knees left and right, sit up too
 On your toes left heel out right heel too
 Now you go up twice, move Turn and 2 Steps back
Then you do the ___ you’re on the right track

As you can see, I didn't quite make out that last line.  It was a chore to decipher the lyrics this much and I still can't understand what the singers are saying most of the time.  If you happen to have a better interpretation of the lyrics I would love to hear it.  But this is what I believe these mush mouths are saying...Either way the dance is dumb.  So let's just pretend it never existed.    

Werewolves Of London by Warren Zevon

In 1978, Singer/Songwriter Warren Zevon got together with his crew of fellow musicians and producers to create a Halloween themed song and dance number. With copious amounts of alcohol in their systems, they each wrote a different verse and came up with this classic, iconic dance number. It is easily one of my favorites of all time and I would put it much higher on the list if not for the fact that despite being written by 4 different musicians, not a single one of them remembered to teach us how to do the dance in question. They just allude to Lon Chaney and his son performing the dance at one point with The Queen (I assume of England and not of Scotts). No one else dances The Werewolves Of London, not even the werewolf in question. All he ever does is look around SoHo for some Chinese food and get drunk at Trader Vics (following a very good hair day mind you). Maybe he was the one who got everybody drunk.  He didn't want to share how he performs his dance.  Oh well.  Despite that this song doesn’t have a dance craze to go with it, it is one of the best dance crazes to sing about. And next time you fimd yourself walking through the streets of SoHo in the rain, look for that place called Lee Ho Fooks, and get yourself a big dish of Beef Chow Main. Endorsed by the Werewolves of London themselves.  AHOOOOO! Werewolves of London.

Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns 

This is easily the oldest best kept secret in the horror world of Dance Crazes; Danse Macabre.  Written by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1874, this classic piece is something to savor with a dark red wine on a late, cold October evening.  The reason I did not put this on the main list is, like The Werewolves of London, there isn't one official dance any mortal can perform.  The story goes every year on All Hallows Eve, Death raises the dead and plays his fiddle.  His playing is accompanied by the newly raised corpses who dance the Dance of the Dead (not the Voodoo Walk) until the sun comes up.  At which point, they all must return to their graves for a whole other year.  It is an iconic piece that imbues listeners with a sense of reverence, fear and insight.  So allow me to cheapen all that with this horribly animated cartoon produced by PBS in 1980. 


  1. The"Dance of Death" image at the top is a well remembered image from my early childhood.... The Best Zacherly video clip is "Grave Robbing Tonight" a newer one with a great animated story... My favorite of his songs is "Gravy"... Have a great weekend...!!!

  2. yes You Tube removed most of the "clips" posted at our "Crypt"....

  3. Just realized that this comment was on the same day as the attack upon my Home......

  4. Disney updated the available cartoons for " Danse Macabre " with the release of "Mickey's house of Villains", if you'd rather watch Mickey and Minnie play Hansel and Gretel.