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) Don Ameche, Zsa Zsa Gabor

It gained more popularity in present times by being included Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981) 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]

There are a number of variations in the chorus of this song. In late 1950s eastern Washington state, it was sung:

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout.
A big black bug with two red eyes,
crawls up through your stomach and out through your eyes.
Your liver turns to a slimy green,
And looks and tastes like whipped cream.

Other popular variations include that done by Harley Poe, with major differences occurring in the final chorus:

And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
They crawl all over your dirty snout.
Your chest caves in, your eyes pop out,
And your brain turns to sauerkraut.

They invite their friends and their friends too,
They all come down to chew on you.

And this is what it is to die,
I hope you had a nice goodbye.
Did you ever think as a hearse goes by,
That you may be the next to die?
And your eyes fall out, and your teeth decay,
And that is the end of a perfect day.[6]

One of the last popular variation was the youtuber Rusty Cage's one as a cover song in his album "Gangstalkers Vol. 4". The changes are in all the song, but the most notable variations are in the chorus and last verses:

Your brain turns into maggot pie
Your liver starts to liquify
And for the living, all is well
As you sink further into hell

And the flames rise up to drag you down
Into the fire where you will drown
Your skin melts off as you descend
And Satan tears you limb from limb
Your suffering will never end

And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
They’ll eat your guts and then shit them out
And when your bones begin to rot
The worms remain, but you do not

So don’t ever laugh as a hearse goes by
For someday, you’ll be the one to die
And when Death brings his cold despair
Ask yourself, “Will anyone care?”[7][8]

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.

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.

In 2017, YouTuber Rusty Cage uploaded a cover version of the song as part of a suicidal video series, and for his 4th album "Gangstalkers".


  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 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". 
  7. ^ "The Hearse Song Rusty Cage Album Gangstalkers, Vol. 4". 
  8. ^ "The HEARSE song".