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Since it’s the Halloween time of year, and I know that a lot of people out there are interested in the line, “The worms crawled in, the worms crawled out”, I’m going to talk a little more about the earliest sightings of this line in print.

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that a similar line was seen in print in 1796, in a ballad called Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine, in a novel called The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis.

There was also a nursery rhyme, which can be found in Gammer Gurton’s Garland’s 1810 edition, that has a similar line. It’s hard to tell if the nursery rhyme came before The Monk, and that Lewis took the line from a rhyme he already knew, or vice versa.

Here’s the nursery rhyme…

There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone

There was a lady all skin and bone,
Sure such a lady was never known:
It happened upon a certain day,
This lady went to church to pray.

When she came to the church stile,
There she did rest a little while;
When she came to the church yard,
There the bells so loud she heard.

When she came to the church door,
She stopped to rest a little more;
When she came to the church within,
The parson prayed ‘gainst pride and sin.

On looking up, on looking down,
She saw a dead man on the ground;
And from his nose unto his chin,
The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in.*

Then she unto the parson said,
Shall I be so when I am dead?
O yes! O yes! the parson said,
You will be so when you are dead.

*The Annotated Mother Goose quotes Gammer Gurton’s Garland, “This line has been adopted in the modern ballad of Alonzo and Fair Imogene.” Which implies that the nursery rhyme came first. Yet, from what I can tell, The Monk has the earliest use of the line in print.

If anyone knows of any earlier sightings of this line, please let us know in the comments below.

***
Here you’ll find other versions of The Hearse Song or The Worms Crawled In, The Worms Crawled Out. Feel free to add the version you know in the comments.

Next: The Old Women All Skin and Bones Song

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15 Responses to “Old Nursery Rhyme with “The worms crawled out, the worms crawled in””

  1. Bette Says:

    In school – in the 50’s and 60’s – we used to say:
    ‘Nobody likes me, everybody hates me
    I’m going to eat some worms – big, fat, juicy ones, slop, slop, sloppy ones. I’m going to eat some worms.
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinnochle on your snout
    Nobody likes me, everybody hates me
    I’m going to eat some worms !’

  2. am DONACHIE Says:

    This is what we have sung in the 137th Scout Group since
    the early 70’s…

    Nobody likes me everybody hates me think I’ll go and eat worms
    Big fat juicy ones – small thin skinny ones
    see how they wiggle and squirm
    well, you bite off the head and you suck out the juice and
    you throw the skin away
    Nobody knows how I can Live on three worms every day

  3. Angela Says:

    When I was little I remember it going some thing like this:
    ‘Nobody likes me, everybody hates me
    I guess I’ll go eat worms – big, fat, juicy ones, long thin skinny ones. All different types of worms.
    They crawl in, they crawl out, they play pinochle on your snout.
    They wrap you up in a clean white sheet and then they bury you six feet deep! Your stomach turns a gaspy green and pus comes out like whipping cream, you spread it on a piece of bread and that’s what you eat when you are dead…..’

  4. sam Says:

    Here is the version my mom taught me….

    The worms crawl in the worms crawl out.
    In your stomach and out your mouth.
    They eat your eyes, they eat your nose, they eat the goody between your toes.

    Your stomach turns to grassy green and pus rolls out like whipping cream.
    They spread it on a piece of bread and eat it while you lay there dead

  5. Brianna Says:

    this is the version i was taught

    Did you ever think when a hearse goes by
    That you might be the next to die
    They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
    And throw you in about six feet
    You’re okay for about a week
    Unless your casket springs a leak
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
    The worms play pinochle on your snout
    Your liver turns a lusty green
    Your guts squirt out like shaving cream
    You wrap it up in a piece of bread
    And that’s what you eat when you are dead

  6. Jessica Hoffman Says:

    This is the one I learned from my mom…

    They wrap you up in a clean white sheet
    And bury you down about six feet deep
    Every thing goes well for about a week
    And then your coffin begins to creak
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
    The worms they pinochle on your snout
    Your back caves in
    Your eyes pop out
    And your stomach explodes
    And your guts roll out
    Your stomach, it turns to a slimy green
    And pus squirts out like shaving cream
    You spread this on some moldy bread
    And thats what you eat when you are dead.

  7. Eileen Monreale Says:

    the worms crawl in
    the worms crawl out
    in through your belly and out through your mouth
    your hair turns gray
    your teeth decay
    and that is the end of a perfect day!

    that is the version I remember
    a friend’s mother sang it as she tickled
    her baby daughter’s belly. I recall
    mother & baby laughing –
    as I watched on as a child
    I didn’t quite get it.

  8. Eileen Pratt Says:

    Woman in a churchyard sat
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    She was very short and fat
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    She was very short and fat
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    Saw three corpses carried in
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    They were very long and thin
    Oo oo oo oo oh ah ah ah ah
    The worms crawled in and the worms crawled out
    oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    They went in and they came out stout
    Woman to the corpses said
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    “Will I be like you when I am dead?”
    Oo oo oo oo ah ah ah ah
    Corpses to the woman said
    “Aaaaaaaaggggggggghhhhh!”

    (I sang this as a Girl Guide sitting in a circle with the lights out. We linked arms ans swayed as we sang. The final line was a piercing scream which terrified those who’d never sung it before!

  9. Eli Moore Says:

    I have heard a very old recording of this song, sung by two, in a wonderfull harmony. I would love to find this recording again, but i don’t know where to look. The lyrics are a bit different. “It happened on a holiday, that lady went to church to pray” and rather than “rested” it says “tarried” which is such a nice word for waiting or wasting time.
    Also, rather than Parson, it used the word Sexton.

  10. John Dough Says:

    Have you ever thought when a hearse went by
    that maybe you’ll be the next to die?
    They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
    and throw you down six odd feet.
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
    they play pinochle in your snout.
    They eat the goo between your toes
    and pus comes out like soft whipped cream.

    Whoops I forgot my spoon!

  11. Pat Says:

    Did you ever think when a hearse goes by
    That you might be the next to die
    They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
    And throw you in about six feet deep
    You’re okay for about a week
    Unless your casket springs a leak
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out
    The worms play pinochle on your snout
    Your liver turns, your guts come out.
    Your eyes pop open and goo runs out.
    You sop it up with a piece of bread.
    And that’s what you eat when you are dead.

  12. Kathryn Says:

    The version my mother rembered goes like this

    Did you ever wonder when you saw a hearse go by
    That you would be the next to die
    They wrap you in a big black sheet
    and bury you in the ground six feet
    Everything goes fine for about a week
    and then your coffin begins to leak
    The worms march in and the worms march out
    Your eyes fall in and your teeth fall out
    Your tummy turns to a sicknin green….
    …Good evening friends…. (this part is done in a singsong voice)
    They eat your eyes
    They eat your nose
    They eat the jelly between your toes….

    She said there was more to the version she knew but cannot remember the rest.

  13. shekky Says:

    The version I remember, which is similar to the rest, is:

    Did you ever see a hearse go by,
    And think that you’d be the next to die?
    They wrap you up in a dirty old sheet
    And throw you in a hole about eight feet deep.
    All goes well for about a week
    And then the coffin begins to leak.
    The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
    The ants play pinochle on your snout.
    Your blood it turns a slimy green,
    And pus comes out like thick whipping cream.
    And me without my spoon…boom, boom.

  14. Madeline Says:

    I know this version

    Knowbody likes me
    Everybody hates me
    Think I’ll go and eat worms
    Big, fat, juicy one’s
    Little, thinny, skinny one’s
    Worms that squirm and squirm
    Bit their head of slurp
    Thats juicy
    knowbody know
    How much I grows
    On worms three times a day.

  15. Madeline Says:

    Knowbody likes me
    Everybody hates me
    Think I’ll go and eat worms
    Big, fat, juicy one’s
    Little, thinny, skinny one’s
    Worms that squirm and squirm
    Bit their head of slurp
    Thats juicy
    Throw their skins away
    knowbody know
    How much I grows
    On worms three times a day.

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