October 26, 2023

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

What is Vintage Obscura?

Vintage Obscura is a community that started on Reddit in 2012 based around the love of older obscure music. It is a community based in digital crate digging and discovery of out-of-the-way genres. Vintage Obscura was started as a way for me to keep track of the older music I was finding in internet searches. I created the sub to archive links without expectation it would be of any use for others. Other people started to join and do the same. Now we have a little under 100K subscribers.

When did you start the Vintage Obscure Halloween Mix, and what inspired you to do so?

The mixes were always a part of the community since a user (EvilNight) compiled around 400 tracks and released them for people to make mixes. The mix series began with Summer mixes which were random songs mixed in with radio drama ephemera. The Halloween mix was started in 2013 based on things that were found by the community including surf, disco and some novelty. It was a very easy and fun mix to do which is why we continued to do so.

What is the methodology behind compiling the mixes?

Every year I put a call out for music and the community responds. Each year we try to find more music not featured on past mixes so at some point there will be an end since we will have covered all of it but not yet. There are a few users in the community that are integral each year which post long lists of music that we haven’t featured. A big mention goes to fellow moderator PostPunkBeatnick (who is also responding for some of these questions). I break up the music into eras and then make mixes based on themes. Generally it is: spooky 45s, psychedelic horror, the dance mix, weird things, and finally, a bonus of music that didn’t work on any other mixes.

Where do you and the Vintage Obscure community find the songs that you include?

Kaptain: I have no idea where people find their music but it can be entirely digital or for some, like the user who runs Dollar Country includes going to record stores and literally crate digging for material that has been forgotten by most of the world. As for non-halloween music, I usually pick a genre I know nothing about and listen to compilations or go through lists others have put together.

Post Punk Beatnik: Digging and digging and digging. I personally start searching for and collecting tracks for next year's mix via YouTube as soon as the current year's mixes drop. A lot of sifting through songs based solely on the title or already existing compilations in the hopes something makes your ears perk up and a little grin grows across your face. At a certain point the algorithm becomes your best friend!

In your opinion, what is the scariest song you’ve included on a mix?

This wasn’t on a Halloween mix but someone posted a technical record for heart doctors to listen for abnormal heart rhythms. There is some strange music posted under the banner of “not music” or “educational” like self-hypnosis tapes which are sometimes scary to listen to.

What is the oldest song you’ve included? Or an especially old one that comes to mind?

Someone posted the Carbarlick Acid Rag (1904) by Clarence C. Wiley for this year’s mix though I don’t think there is an original recording from that year. We did have American Quartet's Skeleton Rag (1912) on an earlier mix. There was a time when the community was really into "early music" which was music recorded on Edison Cylinders (1902–1912). When you get to the genesis of recorded music though the quality is understandably “lofi”.

What do you like about Halloween, and what fascinates you about old Halloween music?

Kaptain: Personally, I was never allowed to celebrate Halloween as my Father thought it was demonic. I had to sit in the principal’s office during school Halloween parties. During trick or treat my siblings and I had to sit in the basement and not answer the door. If anything, these Halloween mixes are a way for me to celebrate all of those years where I didn’t get candy. As for other people, I feel everyone enjoys things either dark or festival spooky and finding something out of the way is like discovering something special. Unlike other holiday music (like Christmas) there is no reason to pay homage to tradition so anything dark or festive can be mixed with any type of music. There is also nothing that is out of bounds for Halloween as country, electronic, R&B, punk, pop, reggae, cumbia, and many forms of rock have all seen records made in its image. I also mod r/metal and found the same feeling listening to things like death metal as spooky doo-wop singles. Its all a party in the graveyard.

Post Punk Beatnik: One of the only holidays where it’s best practice to be WEIRD. You can binge watch horror movies (extra points for shitty B-movies), dress up as your favourite monster or ghoul and go scare some little children! Or, ya know, just give em some candy and wish them a Happy Halloween! The more I think about it, I find the holiday perfect for the season, the landscape transforms into beautiful expressions of oranges, reds and yellows as the leaves change and the days get shorter and colder. The perfect time for a one night transformation to let loose before we hunker down for the winter months. All of this lends itself perfectly to old halloween music, a genre that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is more than comfortable being labeled “NOVELTY”. It’s spooky, off-kilter, light hearted, at times depressing, but always fun. Themes of devil worship, demons, ghosts and phantoms as a metaphor for lost love, bad luck and hard times. There’s a lot more I could say about the genre but the main thing that draws me to old Halloween music is the sense of nostalgia it brings. For me in particular, doo-wop, R&B and rock'n'roll Halloween tracks seem to conjure up visions of a simpler time. You know those old black and white pics from the 50’s and 60’s of children in crappy homemade costumes? That’s what pops into my head when I hear old Halloween music.

What sort of Halloween characters do you see a lot? What are some infrequent and surprising ones?

There was a period of time when Halloween novelty records were made in mass, and it seemed like any group made a Halloween single. Each year we always have an overflow of music made between the years 1940-1960. This coincided with the universal monster era so Dracula is the most frequent character along with the cartoon Lugosi impression. The periods of the late 70’s also saw a lot of horror movie dance mixes so slasher icons show up from time to time.

How have the mixes developed over the time you’ve been doing them?

There used to be one long mix each year which was over an hour with all of these sides in one continuous play but YouTube has been diligent in taking down our mixes so making shorter mixes prevents the entire thing disappearing. The mixes now survive along multiple platforms including Mixcloud, YouTube, and Every year people say they want to buy a vinyl copy since I design the cover to look like old record covers. I wouldn't even know where to start when it comes to copyright since these mixes have always been free parties.

Why should people explore and join Vintage Obscura?

VO will eventually find you once you start digging into weird genres. The time period for "vintage" also changes as in the past ten years the 80's and 90's have become more of the end of what is considered vintage. There will also always be obscure music so while we might not be around "Vintage Obscura" as an idea will still be. Our Halloween mixes are always going to be the most popular and for a lot of people we are the Halloween mix each year. For anyone else who wants to stick around there is some great music in the digital record bins.

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Kaptan Carbon is the creator of r/VintageObscura and also a mod at r/Metal. He writes about RPGs, heavy metal, and obscure synth music for various places like Invisible Oranges and has a blog at He posts about growing hot peppers and train games on Instagram @kaptaincarbon.