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]

In media[edit]

The song has been used in many films, programs and video games, often with a comic horror theme.

It has occasionally been recorded as a song, including:

  • 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.[6]


  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. ^ 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. ^ "Terry Teene injured in collision"
  7. ^ Altrevue: "The bloody classics, The Pogues"