“The Hearse Song” is a song about burial and human decomposition, of unknown origin.
It was initially popular as a World War I song, and was widely sung in the 20th century as an American and British children’s song, continuing to the present.
It has many variant titles, lyrics, and melodies, but generally features the line “the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out”, and thus is also known as “The Worms Crawl In“.
It gained more popularity in present times by being included Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981) by Alvin Schwartz, who gives the lyrics as:
“Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in big white sheets
and cover you from head to feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Until your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your sides.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You’ll spread it on a slice of bread,
And that’s what you eat when you are dead.”
Popular variations include that performed by Harley Poe on his album Satan, Sex and No Regrets, with major differences occurring in the final chorus:
And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
They crawl all over your dirty snout.
Your chest caves in, your eyes pop out,
And your brain turns to sauerkraut.
They invite their friends and their friends too,
They all come down to chew on you.
And this is what it is to die,
I hope you had a nice goodbye.
Did you ever think as a hearse goes by,
That you may be the next to die?
And your eyes fall out, and your teeth decay,
And that is the end of a perfect day.
In the 1960s, Terry Teene released a rock-and-roll novelty recording, “Curse of the Hearse”, loosely based on The Hearse Song lyrics, with a different melody.
This song was included in Finders Keepers, the 2014 horror film starring Jaime Pressly.