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The Ghost of John - A Halloween Classic

Updated on September 5, 2014

Have you seen the ghost of John?

Personally, no, I haven't, but this spooky American folk song has been a part of my life ever since I was a little girl. Just recently, I introduced it for the first time to the class of 3-5 years I teach to prepare them for our Halloween celebrations. Being a cute yet slightly morbid bunch, they were soon singing this song as if they were a collection of broken records. And who could possibly help it? The Ghost of John is a classic melody and round whose hair-raising tune and evocative lyrics can send shivers up the spine of even the bravest man!

Thank you to Cloned Milkmen on Flickr for this photo!

The Ghost of John

Original Lyrics

Have you seen the ghost of John?

Long white bones,and the rest all gone,


Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?

Ghost of John - The Bare Bones Version by Kirsten Lawrence

Up until this year, I only knew of the three part round version of The Ghost of John. Then, while searching for an alternative version on the Internet, I came across Kirsten Lawrence, and artist who specializes in Halloween songs. Have a listen to her haunting version of The Ghost of John, with extra verses!


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 Johns 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?

Variations on "The Ghost of John"

What, there's more?!

You bet! The Ghost of John is also known as The Ghost of Tom, depending on where you live and who taught it to you. The two versions are very similar, with the exception of one or two changes in the lyrics, and of course, the fact that our dear ghost is called Tom and not John!

Have you seen the ghost of Tom?

Long white bones with the skin all gone,

Pooooooor old Tom!

Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?

The music is also slightly different. Check out the YouTube video by senorgriffo below to hear the difference!

The Ghost of Tom - Performed by senorgriffo

Lesson Plan based on The Ghost of John

Written by FreshPlans

The author of FreshPlans has some wonderful ideas for a lesson plan based around The Ghost of John. She talks about rhyming, singing rounds, linguistic paradigms, and the use of sheet music as topics that can go hand in hand with teaching this song.The Ghost of John Lesson Plan

Do you like this Halloween classic for kids? - Have any other fun Halloween songs you want to share?

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      Anahi 2 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and gereouns advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

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      Digger 2 years ago

      Your story was really inimroatfve, thanks!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Its funny, there nothing like the original...

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great roundup!