There is a long tradition of horror movies that become memorable for the scary, creepy songs placed as protagonists of their plots. It’s typically an old song played on a broken vinyl record player, rendered in a low sound quality, and reproduced in a dark, empty house as an effective tool to increase tension. And among the many examples coming to your mind, the ghostly song in the Insidious movie franchise is undoubtedly one of the most successful: a track coming from the last century, with a peculiar story and many reasons that make it so scary. It’s called Tiptoe Through the Tulips, and the version you hear in the movie is the one brought to success by Tiny Tim. Let’s discover it.
You can watch here on Youtube the famous demon scene with that song on the background, from the first movie Insidious (2010).
Tiptoe Through The Tulips by Tiny Tim: the creepy song from Insidious
The creepy, scary song that recurrently returns in the movie franchise Insidious is Tiptoe Through The Tulips, in the version created by American singer Tiny Tim in 1968.
The song was initially composed in 1929 and became famous thanks to the American guitarist Nick Lucas and the movie Gold Diggers of Broadway. However, the version you hear in Insidious is a particular interpretation by Tiny Tim, who brought the song into a new wave of popularity after his comedy sketches in the TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. You can find here the original 1929 version of the song, and below is the historical video of the first time Tiny Tim played that song in one episode of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
As you can see, Tiny Tim was a talented singer and ukulele player, easy to remember for his imposing stature (his stage name “Tiny Tim” was conceived as a joke) and his falsetto singing style. When you watch him in one of his performances, you are immediately surprised and fascinated by the contrast between his appearance and his incredible control over his voice.
Why is Tiptoe Through The Tulips perceived as such a creepy song? The movie Insidious undoubtedly played an enormous role in turning it into a classic scary track, but if you talk to those who knew the song even before the horror film was released, you’ll discover that many found the music scary anyway, and they are not even sure why. It may have something to do with the lyrics: the song is supposed to be a romantic ballad a man dedicates to the woman he loves, but the lines describe the man reaching her window at night, asking the girl to come out and walk through a tulip field with him. Year after year, the idea of someone knocking at our window at night must have assumed a scarier meaning, pretty far from the original romantic intentions.
You can find part of the lyrics in Tiptoe Through The Tulips below:
Shades of night are creeping
Willow trees are weeping
Old folks and babies are sleeping
Silver stars are gleaming
All alone I’m scheming
Scheming to get you out here, my dear
Tiptoe to the window
By the window, that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me
Oh, tiptoe from your pillow
To the shadow of a willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
However, Tiny Tim definitely contributed to making the song even creepier. His falsetto plays a significant role in that. If you hear the song out of a happy context, the music can generate a surreal sensation: Tiny Tim’s singing style doesn’t feel natural, so subconsciously, it gives the feeling of something distorted, different than how music should naturally sound. You don’t get that feeling rationally, but a part of you may feel something is off with that song. Therefore, when you hear Tiptoe Through The Tulips in the scary scene inside Insidious, the unique version by Tiny Tim can genuinely give you goosebumps.
To make things even scarier, Tiptoe Through the Tulips wasn’t just famous as Tiny Tim’s signature song: it’s remembered as the song he was singing when he died. It was November 1996, Tiny Tim was 64. He was supposed to play at a gala benefit hosted by the Women’s Club of Minneapolis. He didn’t feel well (he had suffered a heart attack just a couple of months before), but he still wanted to be on stage. While singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips in front of the audience, another heart attack caught him: Tiny Tim collapsed; they brought him to the hospital, but never regained consciousness again.
From his first version in 1929 to the peculiar interpretation by Tiny Tim in the 60s, passing through his death and the iconic presence in the horror movie Insidious: Tiptoe Through The Tulips is a perfect example of how a song can become a creepy symbol despite his original intentions.