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Ghost of John - Halloween Fun with Music and Verse

Updated on August 15, 2014

Sing Along with the Ghost of John

If you are looking for some fun Halloween activity for your classroom that will also help them learn how to rhyme and write poetry, check out the following ideas.

The delightful American folk tune, "Ghost of John," had one traditional verse. Nice, but short.

It was transformed into a spooky-fun Halloween Carol when classically trained organist Kristen Lawrence wrote four more verses and arranged the traditional tune into the epic Bare Bones Version with a massive cathedral pipe organ.

Now kids of all ages can create their own descriptive verse(s) of poor John's ghost and do their own sing along.

Subject Area: Language and Performing Arts (Music and Visual Arts)

Grade: Pre-K - 6

Halloween Enrichment Project

Write Poetry - Sing - Draw - Share


The American folk song, "Ghost of John," traditionally has only one verse:

"Have you heard of the Ghost of John?

Long white bones and the rest all gone.


Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?"

Then have the students listen to the music or watch the YouTube video and follow along with the extended lyrics listed below.


Following the poem's format, have the students write their own verse(s), describing poor John.

3. DRAW:

Have students draw their interpretation of their verse(s) illustrating the Ghost of John.


Have students sing their verses and share their artwork. For extra fun .... the teacher could film the class singing the verses they wrote and illustrated and post their own YouTube video. (Get parent's permission first, of course.)


1. Poetry is learned more effectively by experiencing it though multiple sensory modes.

2. Provide a meaningful Halloween-themed project appropriate for K - 6

3. Provide an opportunity for the student to sing their own verse(s) to musical accompaniment.

4. Combine writing, singing, and drawing in a fun Halloween activity.

Materials Needed

1. Music: "Ghost of John" by Kristen Lawrence.

- The vocal version of "Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" is available on the "Arachnitect" album by Kristen Lawrence.

- The vocal "Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" and both instrumental versions of the "Bare Bones Version" and the "Ghost of John - Dead Musicians Version" are also available on the "Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven" album by Kristen Lawrence. With the instrumental versions, teachers can have their students take turns to sing their original verses.

2. Art materials: pencils, paper, crayons.

Examples of Students' Verses

Students at an elementary school listened to the song and wrote these verses:

Have you heard of the ghost of Sue?

Swishing and whistling with a whoo.


Trying to frighten people with a boo!

by Anika

Have you seen John's poor dog June?

She barks and howls at the midnight moon!


Isn't it sad she died from a poisoned prune?

by Elliot

Have you heard of the Frozen Head?

Instead of skin, he is made of lead.


He goes through a doorway and under a bed.

by Julia

Have you seen the toast for John?

Long white bread with the crust all gone.


Wouldn't it be silly with no crust on?

by Brook

Note on Image: This colored woodcut of the Dance of Death, or Imago Mortis, is considered one of the most powerful expressions of late-medieval German art. It may be attributed to Albrecht Durer. It is found in the 1493 book by Hartmann Schedel, Liber Chronicarum, better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle.

Ghost of John - at Amazon

This album contains two American classic poems:

- Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

- "Ghost of John"

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

This CD has the vocal version as well as the Instrumental version of Ghost of John -- as well as the musical setting of Poe's "The Raven."


"Ghost of John" Lyrics

1st verse and melody traditional, additional verses by Kristen Lawrence

(with permission by Vorswell Music)

Have you heard of the Ghost of John?

Long, white bones and the rest all gone!


Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?

John belongs in a quaint nightmare.

Wobbly jaw and a hollow glare!


Wouldn't things look murky through sockets bare?

John is gone from feet to skull.

Pointy elbows and clavicle!


Wouldn't it be harsh to hug John's fossil?

John's not sad; he has had his day.

Smile that's fixed in a rigid way!


Wouldn't frowning be hard when lips decay?

John once said, "I've lost my head!"

Empty thoughts top his spine instead.


Isn't it the truth now that he is dead?

Did you sing this tune in elementary school?

Have you heard The Ghost of John?

See results

Oh my goodness...I haven't heard this song since I was in 1st or 2nd grade in Music class. I wonder why our music teacher never let us sing it after that year. It was one of my favorite songs for Halloween. I'm close to 40 years...I sometimes wondered if this song was real or if I imagined it.

— AugustBliss - YouTube comment

Halloween Carols by Kristen Lawrence - MP3 Albums

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

"The Raven" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Dead Composers Version - Instrumental Version

A Broom With A View - From The Halloween Carols
A Broom With A View - From The Halloween Carols

"Mostly Ghostly" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"A Broom With A View" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Cats In The Catecombs" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Vampire Empire" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"Souling Songs" - All Hallows and Samhain Versions

"Sleeping Dust - Death Lullaby" - Vocal

"Dark Glass" - Vocal

Arachnitect - From the Halloween Carols
Arachnitect - From the Halloween Carols

"Arachnitect" - Vocal

"Blood Waltz" - Vocal and Instrumental Versions

"The Ghost of John - Bare Bones Version" - Vocal

"The Ghost of John - Dead Composers Version" - Vocal

Vampire Empire - Radio Edits From The Halloween Carols
Vampire Empire - Radio Edits From The Halloween Carols

Radio Edits of Halloween Carols -

from Arachnitect and A Broom With A View

Dark Glass - Instrumental Version


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