Over the last twenty-five years, scenes in which singing children can be heard in horror movies have become a common thread that draw emotional reactions out of fans. As a writer who focuses in on horror movie symbolism, I find that singing children in horror movies draw emotional reactions out of people for a reason.
The origins of where the idea for singing children is something that has been debated for many years by those of us that study horror history. On one side of the fence there are those that point to the stories in ancient Japan of ghost children that would sing and lure people to their deaths inside of dark woods. Some of these singing children stories led to the story of the Japanese yurei. You can read more about the yurei here.
On the other side of the fence, you have people that point to some of the gypsy traditions around certain areas in Romania. There are some gypsy bands that would have children sing at the burials of people that they believed were touched by evil spirits. The singing children was to appease the good spirits, and the good spirits would make sure that the deceased did not come back from the dead.
Loss of Innocence
One of the greatest fears of parents is that there will be some kind of event in their child’s life that will strip them of innocence. Usually in horror movies, the singing children would appear at a point where some kind of innocence would be lost. Point to some of the scenes in Nightmare on Elm Street where a person was about to make a decision that would strip innocence (i.e. doing drugs, having sex). The music is there in hopes of reminding the person to stay on the right path.
Sometimes, the singing children would be there to mark a person for death. In some instances, the audience is clued in to who is going to die next by the sounds of the singing children.
There are also instances in which the singing children can be heard because the spirits are trying to make direct contact with the characters in the horror movie. A perfect example of this would come in The Blair Witch Project when the children’s spirits were trying to warn the main characters of the story about the impending finds that they would discover.
The next time that you hear singing children in a horror movie, think about the horror symbolism that is being directed towards you. See which level of connection you make with what is going on in the movie.