For added atmosphere, play the music from this track while reading on.
If a program or film wants to add fear to a scene one of the most creepy ways is to have a Creepy Child, or a whole creepy choir, singing somewhere in the distance or background, usually the tune is a mournful nursery rhyme. Sometimes it will seem like the characters can hear it and they may even call out, asking if anyone is there.
In Japanese works the Playground Song Kagome, Kagome is a popular choice for this, due to its sinister-sounding lyrics. Said lyrics include the line "Who is now behind you?", which makes a perfect cue for a Jump Scare.
- Black Lagoon: "My mother has killed me... my father is eating me... my brothers and sisters, sit under the table, picking up my bones! They'll bury them, under the cold marble stones..."
- Amatsuki has a choir of children singing the creepy nursery rhyme "Toryanse" in a whisper when Yakou appears.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind features several eerie moments when Nausicaa as a child chanted this eerie little tune, which is still quite ominous despite it being only "Na na na". If you fail to see why, consider that at the film climax, Nausicaa has more or less become an avenging version of a Messianic Archetype; in the manga, it is far, far worse.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion uses this in the Rebuild movies in the distressing scenes.
- Although no words can be made out, you can hear childlike vocalizing in Nui Harime's leitmotif in Kill la Kill. She has this leitmotif for a very good reason.
- "Ake ni Somaru" from Hell Girl starts with this, followed by creepy trance music. It did a damn good job of turning mundane, peaceful scenes (like a cityscape at sunset) into spooky panoramas.
- The track Pendulum from Shiki starts out innocently enough with a childlike chorus singing a La La La melody, only for it to slowly descend into darkness and madness as the tune shifts into a a much grimmer tone with the singing starting to sound less like innocent children and more like they are screaming the melody.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has quite a few, such as Wo ist die Käse and Noi! The Clara Dolls from the followup movie, most of them sung in Gratuitous German.
- Simon Dark: The kids in Gotham Village sing about Simon coming after those who are "bad" while skipping rope. It's unclear if Simon named himself after their song or if the song was made about him, but given Beth's reaction the song and its singers are unsettling.
- In Coraline, this trope is practically the whole soundtrack.
- Parodied in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, when the three lemurs wind up in Sonya the bear's supposedly empty train car. A creepy child-like "La la la" appears...but it turns out to be Mort. King Julien, who gets freaked out by the chanting, tells him to stop.
- In Pokémon 3, the Unown's Pokémon Speak often sounds like this, fitting their status as a Hive Mind of Eldritch Abominations.
- A trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron film has children creepily singing "I've Got No Strings" (from Disney's Pinocchio) as violent action plays on the screen... the last lines ominously spoken rather than sung by Ultron himself (James Spader).
- The Innocents has a few instances, plus a child's creepy poem recital for good measure.
- An iconic one from A Nightmare on Elm Street: "Freddy's Coming For You". The children are strongly implied to be spectres of Freddy's previous victims, as he often populates his nightmare world with them.
"One, two, Freddy's coming for you...Three, four, better lock your door...Five, six, grab your crucifix....Seven, Eight, gonna stay up late...Nine, Ten, never sleep again."
- Easily half of Tim Burton's films (particularly those scored by Danny Elfman) tend to have this in the background somewhere.
- Pops up in Scrooged as well, which Danny Elfman also scored.
- The opening of Children of the Corn (1984) depicts what happens to the town after the children murder all the adults through crayon drawings as a choir of children sing wordlessly.
- The opening credits of children-turned-zombies-comedy Cooties feature the journey of a tainted chicken nugget from slaughterhouse to cafeteria, with all the gory details...which would have been disturbing enough without a soundtrack consisting of children chanting gibberish, grinding synthesizers, and what can only be described as a sinister kazoo chorus.
- Poltergeist (composed by Jerry Goldsmith) has a great one with "Carol Anne's Theme", a semi-religious sounding lullaby that sounds very innocent and pure. Taken to a disturbing level in the ending credits when the children laughed ominously.
- In a creepy scene in The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, schoolchildren sing the nonsense folk song "Risselty-Rosselty" while a mass of Creepy Crows slowly gather on an empty playground, waiting to attack them as soon as they leave. Subverted in that the children themselves are innocent victims, the creepiness coming from the context, suspense, and situation.
- Samara Morgan sings one herself in The Ring.
"Round we go, the world is spinning.When it stops, it's just beginning.Sun comes up, we laugh and we cry.Sun goes down, and then we all die..."
- Not actually singing, but in The Bad Seed, Rhoda playing "Au Clair de la Lune" on the piano, especially when Leroy is burning to death.
- The opening theme to Pet Sematary (1989) is this trope to a T.
- In 2007's Hannibal Rising, the German children song "Ein Männlein steht im Walde" is a central theme that continues through the whole movie. The last scene shows young Hannibal marching off to his next kill while a creepy, high-pitched children's choir sings the song.
- Deep Red has a creepy lullaby that serves as a background music for some of the creepiest moments.
- Modesty sings a creepy song about hunting witches in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- The opening sequence and end credits of ABCs of Death 2 both feature children singing "La la la la" in an eerie manner.
- Ju Dou: After the horrifying ending when Tianbai kills Tianqing, followed by Ju Dou setting fire to the dye mill (and apparently immolating herself), the film ends with a freeze-frame of the burning mill, and a thoroughly creepy recording of children singing a Chinese nursery rhyme.
- Phantoms: At one point during the 1998 film, the Ancient Enemy uses a child's voice to sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'
- The Last Metro: A creepy children's choir singing what appears to be a Vichy France hymn sets an ominous mood when Bernard meets his La Résistance contact in a church. Sure enough, the contact is arrested.
- M opens with an old lady scolding children for singing a song about the child murderer who's stalking the city.
Just you wait, it won't be long
The man in black will soon be here
With his cleaver's blade so true
He'll make mincemeat out of you!
- Tower of Terror: When Buzzy Crocker and his niece Anna pay a visit to HTH: The Hollywood Tower Hotel so Buzzy can get a phony tabloid picture of Anna dressed as Sally Shine for The National Inquisitor, suspicious sounds send them exploring the resort's halls. They eventually hear the wandering spirit of the real Sally Shine, singing:
It's raining, it's pouring
The old man is snoring
- The original theme for The Amityville Horror (1979) includes a childlike choir of "la la la"'s that just sound... unsettling.
- Mr Jones (2019): Starving Ukrainian children surround Gareth and sing (with a dissonant calm tone) a creepy song about Stalin being the organizer of this tragedy, and people eating their children after turning mad because of starvation. They later reappear (with a extract of the same song) during a hallucination sequence. A few notes from the same song are heard again much later, during a scene where Gareth encounters children in his hometown in Wales
- The protagonist of Ancillary Justice, the Artificial Intelligence of a spaceship that operates planetside through Meat Puppet soldiers called ancillaries, hears some children playing a game and singing about them.
One, two, my aunt told me
Three, four, the corpse soldier
Five, six, it'll shoot you in the eye
Seven, eight, kill you dead
Nine, ten, break it apart and put it back together
- The Hungry Choir in Pale has a recurring tune sung by a group of bloody-mouthed children who are thinned from starvation. The participants in the Choir's ritual are required to sing along, and if they miss a verse the children take bites out of them; if the participants die then a waiflike replica of them will join the choir.
A song for our supper,
How shall we cut it,
When we have no knife?
With our teeth,
And with our nails,
And singing out,
How glad we are to dine.
- In Dark Shadows, we hear Barnabas Collins' dead little sister Sarah long before we meet her. She sings "London Bridge" quietly, and occasionally plays a recorder.
- Doctor Who has been doing this since at least "The Trial of a Time Lord" where the Doctor was hunted through a series of abandoned warehouses whilst Creepy Children sang Ring-a-Ring-o-Roses in the background. It wasn't clear if he could hear or not. The new series used it in the Series 6 episodes "Night Terrors", "Closing Time", and 'The Wedding of River Song".
A horse and a man, above, belowOne has a plan, but both must goMile after mile, above, beneathOne has a smile, the other has teethThough the man might stop and say hello,Expect no love from the beast below
- The Beast Below:
Tick tock, goes the clockAnd now, what shall we play?Tick tock, goes the clockNow summer's gone away
- Night Terrors:
Five, Six, Seven, Eight,There's a Doctor at the gate.
- Long before that, during the Seventh Doctor's run, we have "Remembrance of the Daleks", where a little girl witnesses the Doctor and Ace arriving, before singing
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Can't even shout, can't even cry,The Gentlemen are coming by.Lookin' in windows, knockin' on doors,They need to take seven and they might take yours.Can't call to mom, can't say a word,You're gonna die screaming but you won't be heard.
- Star Trek
Hail, hail, fire and snowCall the angel, we will goFar away, for to seeFriendly angel come to me.
- Also, the episode "Miri" has unseen children singing standard schoolyard chants, to creepy effect.
Huffety puffety Ringstone Round.If you lose your hat it will never be found,So pull up your britches right up to your chin,And fasten your cloak with a bright new pin,And when you are ready, then we can begin,Huffity, puffity puff!
- Near the end of the second season of Veronica Mars, there's a closing-episode montage set to Alejandro Escovedo's "Falling Down Again", which features children singing in the chorus and laughing during the fade-out, playing in conjunction with the imagery of Thumper chained to a urinal, struggling while the stadium is being demolished.
- The Poirot episode "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" makes use of this at the beginning and throughout the episode, as children ominously sing the nursery rhyme.
- Stargate SG-1: The episode Grace has Major Carter wandering away from the X-303 Prometheus' bridge to investigate a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that seems to be coming from somewhere nearby. She doesn't find the source.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Nightmare as a Child", Helen Foley hears Markie creepily singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in her mind.
- Caïna uses a sample of a small child singing as Bookends in the song "Willows and Whippoorwills".
- Decoded Feedback's "Death Control" opens with a child creepily singing "Ring Around the Rosies".
- The "we will watch them burn" Fade Out of Suede's "We Are The Pigs".
- Some performances of Gustav Mahler's "Das klagende Lied" have a boy sing the words of the slain brother when the flute is played.
- Nightwish's Imaginaerum album is full of this, particularly on "Scaretale."
- The fanmade My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic song "Daddy Discord" combines this trope with a Villain Song; for all her natural pony cuteness, Screwball quickly lands herself in Creepy Child territory as she sings of her unflinching desire to help her creator take vengeance for his imprisonment in stone by tearing the world apart through fear and chaos.
Screwball: 'Cause you... are my Daddy Discord... and I... am a piece of you.
- Oingo Boingo's song Insanity features keyboardist Carl Graves's children chanting the bridge lyrics.
Like a wave we cannot see / washing over you and me / hiding here and hiding there / madness hiding everywhere
- Cygnus X's "Kinderlied Part 1", the Album Intro Track of Hypermetrical.
- Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" includes a distant boys' choir. The Latin texts the boys sing are entirely innocent, though the context is rarely innocent and at one point directly contradictory. The boys' slow singing of the "Hostias" over a dissonant organ/harmonium chord (up to the final line, "Quam olim Abrahae promisisti et semini ejus" Translation ) is intercut with the final line of Wilfred Owen's "Parable of the Old Man and the Young" (sung by the tenor and bass in an unrelated faster tempo), which holds Abraham responsible for killing "half the seed of Europe, one by one."
- A Russian children choir singing "Mutter" by Rammstein becomes a creepy experience if you actually know what they are singing about.
- The "Pray For Us All" chorus towards the end of Coheed and Cambria's song, "The Light and the Glass"
- The climax of The Dead Texan's "Glen's Goo" where we hear a children choir singing things like "total capillary meltdown".
- In "These Are Our Children" by I Monster, the main verses are sung by children. The somber and rather ominous tone gives a creepy feeling to the song, especially given vaguely lyrics such as "now you're cold on the floor". For added bonus, there is an Ominous Music Box Tune throughout.
- The Wyatt Family has used children as psychological weapons in their feuds, attempting to unnerve opponents by having one (or a chorus) sing the children's Christian song "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and selling their characters as a psychopathic, bloodthirsty, Deliverance-type Satanic cult. This was used to great effect by Bray Wyatt and his "followers" in their 2014 feud with John Cena.
- The Bible has this passage, Jesus describing His current generation as creepy children singing: Matthew 11:16-17 "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented."
- Rightly found in ObsCure, a choir of children sing about the light (the only thing that seriously harm the infected kids of the school).
- This trope is invoked in Dragon Age: Origins when the Warden explores a creepy orphanage rife with demons and ghosts.
One, two, Maric's run through
Three four, the kingdom's at war
Eight nine and now you die
- Strangely, subverted by Disney. The Beta for Epic Mickey was supposedly going to have this in the form of the iconic song It's A Small World playing backwards during the Gremlin Village level. According to Warren Spector, the launch version was supposed to have the lyrical version as the boss for the Clock Tower, but copyright reasons kept this from happening. One can assume this is why the song doesn't play backwards at any point in the game.
- Dishonored features a rather ominous variant of The Drunken Sailor known as "The Drunken Whaler".
- The tag children singing "Kagome, Kagome" around Miku in the first Fatal Frame, and the handmaidens singing "Sleeping Priestess" in the third one. Specially effective with the handmaidens, since they are singing about skinning and impaling people in a monotone, almost entranced tone of voice.
- At the end of the first Episode in Umineko: When They Cry, Natsuhi, George, Jessica and Battler are taking refuge in Kinzo's study when the phone rings. When they answer the only voice they can hear is Maria singing in the background.
- In League of Legends, Thresh the Chain Warden's leitmotif involves little children singing a creepy nursery rhyme about how the rattling of Thresh's chains may be the last thing you hear.
Cling, clang, go the chains
Someone's out to find you
Cling, clang, oh the chains
The Warden's right behind you
Cling, clang, go the chains
There's no more time for fear
Cling, clang, oh the chains
The last sound that you'll hear.
- In Plague Inc., a young boy can be heard singing 'Ring around a Rosy' in a slightly distorted voice, in reference to the theory that the song is an allegory to The Black Death.
- The Binding of Isaac plays Jesus Loves Me over the credits when you beat it enough times, with a creepy distorted effect.
- In Rule of Rose the young Aristocrats sing a creepy tune about a monster called 'Stray Dog' around a fire in the chapter Sir Peter, shortly before Jennifer is forced to shove a rat-on-stick in Amanda's face.
- In Bravely Default the theme tune of the Ba'als includes a segment of this in their Leitmotif. The bosses in question are Early-Bird Cameos for Bravely Second, where the theme returns
- In Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, the final mission's theme Chandelier is mostly this with elements of Cherubic Choir, for a very solemn and funereal atmosphere. Quite appropriate, as the mission features a superweapon in an Arctic frozen sea bombarding the capital city of Emmeria.
- Although Mihaly's granddaughters in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown aren't creepy themselves, their singing is given a creepy context in a cutscene before the final mission, with shots from the viewpoint of the "Zone of Endless" AI, as well as automated factories preparing for a Robot War.
- It's only in the trailer of Five Nights at Freddy's 2, but the first thing you hear is a chorus of children singing the main verse to London Bridge is Falling Down. Very creepy, and also very fitting if you know the part about the nightwatchman...
Set a man to watch all night,Watch all night, watch all nightSet a man to watch all night,My fair lady...
- The theme song of Hisako, Killer Instinct's resident onryu, incorporates some childlike chanting to terrifying and badass effect.
- In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansion pack Heart of Stone we hear some children singing about the Man of Glass. The children themselves are perfectly normal (and are actually present in the world rather than just part of the soundtrack), but the content of their song is decidedly creepy.
- Nu-13's new theme in BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma, titled Awakening the Chaos II, uses a regular dramatic choir for most of the music. After about five minutes, though, it switches briefly to a group of small children singing the same riff in 'La la la la la la la...'. It fits the character very well, because Nu is mostly a Killer Robot but is occasionally also a Psychopathic Manchild.
- One of the most legitimately unsettling moments in Silent Hill: Homecoming is when you enter the playground for the first time and you hear the disembodied voices of children sing the first line of "Ring Around the Rosey". It's no less creepy when you hear the same disembodied voices laugh together on the way back, either. You never find any actual kids and nothing comes of this either.
- South Park used this trope in the episode "Ginger Kids".
- In the final episode of Over the Garden Wall, while Greg begins to turn into an Edelwood tree, a Dark Reprise of Greg's earlier song "Potatoes and Molasses" can be heard, with Greg singing in Latin, and a line from The Beast's song thrown in at the end for good measure.
- In an episode of DuckTales (2017), Scrooge and his family venture to Ithaquack where they face various challenges from Zeus who has a grudge against Scrooge. One of them involves Zeus summoning a siren (who has taken the appearance of a little girl) to hypnotize his son Storkules to destroy the McDuck family against his will. Scrooge even lampshades this trope when the siren begins her song.
Scrooge (to his nephews): "Plug your ears! No good ever came from a creepy child singing!"
- One of the more infamous parts of Courage the Cowardly Dog in the episode "Freaky Fred" has a choir repetitively and monotonously singing "la la la" as the titular barber shaves the hair off a terrified Courage.