The Hearse Song

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"The Hearse Song" is a song about burial and human decomposition, of unknown origin. It was popular as a World War I song, and was popular in the 20th century as an American and British children's song, continuing to the present. It has many variant titles, lyrics, and melodies,[1] but generally features the line "the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out", and thus is also known as "The Worms Crawl In".[2]


While there are reports of the song dating back to British soldiers in the Crimean War (1853–1856),[3] it certainly dates to at least World War I (1914–1918), when it was sung by American and British soldiers,[4] and was collected in various World War I songbooks of the 1920s.[5] The key line "the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out" appears in some versions of the otherwise unrelated song "There was a lady all skin and bone", and may date to 1810 or earlier.[3][5] It was used in the movie Picture Mommy Dead (1966).

More recently, it appeared in 1981’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, who gives the lyrics as:

"Don't you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in big white sheets
and cover you from head to feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Until your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your sides.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You'll spread it on a slice of bread,
And that's what you eat when you are dead."[4]

Another version from the book, "You Will Be The Next" goes as:

"Did you ever think as a hearse goes by,
That you will be the next one to die?
They wrap you up in big white sheets
and cover you from head to feet.
And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
In your stomach and out your snout,
And your eyes fall out and your teeth decay,
And that is the end of a perfect day."[4]

In media[edit]

In the 1960s, Terry Teene released a rock-and-roll novelty recording, "Curse of the Hearse", based on The Hearse Song lyrics, with a different melody.

The tune was used as the theme for American McGee's Grimm.

This song was included in Finders Keepers (2014 film), a thriller/horror film starring Jaime Pressly.

The Pogues recorded a short version of the song entitled "Worms", included on the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, and sung by drummer Andrew Ranken.

Holby City included the song in their episode "For You May Be The Next To Die" in June 2017.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina included the song in their episode “Chapter Thirteen: The Passion of Sabrina Spellman” in April 2019.

The band Harley Poe recorded a version. [6]

YouTuber Rusty Cage included a version on his album "Gangstalkers Vol. 4"


  1. ^ Dennis, Dixie (2008). Living, Dying, Grieving. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-7637-4326-0.
  2. ^ Pen, Ronald; Rick Kogan (2010). I wonder as I wander: the life of John Jacob Niles. University Press of Kentucky. p. 100.
  3. ^ a b Pankake & Pankake 1988.
  4. ^ a b c Schwartz, Alvin (1986). Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. HarperCollins. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-06-440170-8.
  5. ^ a b Doyle 1976.
  6. ^ "Harley Poe: The Hearse song lyrics".