Every generation has a Halloween meme that exists somewhere in the Venn diagram of weird, scary, and vaguely horny. For boomers, it’s the Monster Mash; for Gen X, it’s the scene in Ghostbusters where Dan Aykroyd gets a blowie from a ghost; for Gen Y, it’s the KXVO Pumpkin Dance Guy with David S. Pumpkins in close second. Now, Gen Z has their own version of Vaguely Horny Halloween Creepiness thanks to the remix of “Spooky Spooky Skeletons,” a 1996 novelty hit by Andrew Gold that’s now being subject to the TikTok trend treatment.
For the past few weeks, the #teens have been posting TikToks of themselves doing a highly choreographed dance to an insanely catchy dubstep remix of a song called “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” The dance itself is a bit comparable to the Chicken Noodle Dance, albeit jauntier, sexier, and more spasmodic. Some, such as Ellen Show staffers who recently posted a version on the show’s TikTok, are attempting the dance in full-blown skeleton costume; others take a more minimalist approach. An 11-second segment of the song has been featured in about 2.2 million videos, and the #spookydance hashtag has about 243.1 million views.
While “Spooky Scary Skeletons” has only been blowing up TikTok relatively recently, few know the backstory behind the meme, let alone the artist behind the song itself, who spent his career playing a backseat yet key role in shaping many watershed pop music moments. Below, a brief history of the meme itself, as well as an official introduction to the man responsible for sending many a shiver down TikTokers’ spines.
Who sings “Spooky Scary Skeletons”? “Spooky Scary Skeletons” is a 1996 children’s novelty hit by pop musician Andrew Gold. The son of Hollywood composer Ernest Gold and legendary Hollywood ghostsinger Marni Nixon, Andrew Gold started his career in Linda Ronstadt’s band (that’s his guitar work, by the way, on her landmark 1974 album Heart Like a Wheel) before launching his own solo career.
Gold had some minor pop radio hits in the 1970s, most notably “Lonely Boy,” which was later covered by the Foo Fighters and used to heartbreaking effect in the movie Boogie Nights (and, to significantly less heartbreaking effect, in Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy). His most significant contribution to pop culture history, however, is probably writing and performing the original version of “Thank You for Being a Friend” — which is now best known as the theme song for The Golden Girls.
When it was first released in 1978, “Thank You for Being a Friend” was conceived by Gold as a mellow yet sunny soft rock ditty; in one interview, he said he considered it something of a “throwaway,” and that it took him about an hour to write. Nonetheless, it officially entered the pantheons of pop culture history when it was selected as the theme song for the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, where it can be heard on TV Land reruns to this day. (That version was performed not by Gold, but by jingle singer Cynthia Fee.)
Unbelievably, “Thank You for Being a Friend” is not Gold’s only contribution to the NBC sitcom theme song canon. He also wrote “Final Frontier,” the theme for the Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt sitcom, Mad About You.
Apparently liberated enough by NBC royalties to pursue any number of passion projects, Gold played in a few bands during the 1980s and 1990s before releasing his solo children’s novelty album Halloween Howls (which is available for streaming on Amazon Prime), featuring covers of songs like “Monster Mash” and originals like “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” The original version of the song is much slower and self-consciously creepy than the remix version making the rounds on TikTok. (It also has the unique distinction of being one of the few Halloween novelty songs to prominently feature the very un-Halloween-y xylophone midi sound effect.)
If there can be said to be a Halloween pop music canon, Halloween Howls did not quite enter it; if the album’s Amazon reviews are any indication, prior to its memeification it was primarily played by elementary school teachers and moms during barre class. That changed, however, in 2010, when a YouTuber posted a version of the classic 1929 Silly Symphonies cartoon “The Skeleton Dance” with Gold’s tune in the background, according to KnowYourMeme. To date, the video has racked up more than 34 million views, and it has been credited as integral to the popularization of the skeleton subculture and the overall spooky aesthetic
In 2013, DJ The Living Tombstone uploaded the sped-up remix that’s currently making the rounds on TikTok. Over the next few years, it was primarily used in video gameplay animations, as well as the aforementioned pumpkinhead dance video.
The origin of the actual Spooky Spooky Skeleton choreography that we currently see trending on TikTok remains something of a mystery. From what we can tell, the choreography appears to have been popularized. if not created, by TikTok creator minecrafter2011, a 16-year-old whose version of the dance appears to have been posted last month (TikTok does not currently have a timestamp feature), which has garnered nearly 5.2 million likes. The dance itself appears to be culled together from a melange of different sources, including this 2015 Vine of Beyonce and her backup dancers set to the song, as well as this 2014 YouTube video of glow-in-the-dark skeletons dancing to yet another dubstep remix; either way, we’ve reached out to minecrafter2011 for more clarity, and will update if we hear back.
Unfortunately, Andrew Gold is no longer around to enjoy the renaissance of his decades-old Halloween novelty song; he died of a heart attack in 2011 at the age of 59. Nonetheless, subscriber-hungry teens will continue to pay homage to his work on TikTok for generations to come — or at least until the end of spooky season rolls around come November 1st.