The Origin of The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out

Last year I posted a version of The Hearse Song that I sang as a kid. Many other people also remember this song. If you’re interested, you can read all the versions of The Worms Crawl in, The Worms Crawl Out that people sent me over the past year.

Meanwhile, I found one of the earliest places the line, “The worms, they crept in, and the worms, they crept out” was seen in print. It was in a ballad called Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine. The ballad is from a gothic romance novel published in 1796. The novel is called The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. (At the time it was published, The Monk was banned for its explicit nature.)

The ballad of Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine tells the story of a young maiden who vows to love a warrior who’s going into battle. Even if he should die, she promises never to love another. To find out what happens when he does indeed die, read below! Here’s the ballad…


A Warrior so bold, and a Virgin so bright
Conversed, as They sat on the green:
They gazed on each other with tender delight;
Alonzo the Brave was the name of the Knight,
The Maid’s was the Fair Imogine.

‘And Oh!’ said the Youth, ‘since to-morrow I go
To fight in a far distant land,
Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow,
Some Other will court you, and you will bestow
On a wealthier Suitor your hand.’

‘Oh! hush these suspicions,’ Fair Imogine said,
‘Offensive to Love and to me!
For if ye be living, or if ye be dead,
I swear by the Virgin, that none in your stead
Shall Husband of Imogine be.

‘If e’er I by lust or by wealth led aside
Forget my Alonzo the Brave,
God grant, that to punish my falsehood and pride
Your Ghost at the Marriage may sit by my side,
May tax me with perjury, claim me as Bride,
And bear me away to the Grave!’

To Palestine hastened the Hero so bold;
His Love, She lamented him sore:
But scarce had a twelve-month elapsed, when behold,
A Baron all covered with jewels and gold
Arrived at Fair Imogine’s door.

His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain
Soon made her untrue to her vows:
He dazzled her eyes; He bewildered her brain;
He caught her affections so light and so vain,
And carried her home as his Spouse.

And now had the Marriage been blest by the Priest;
The revelry now was begun:
The Tables, they groaned with the weight of the Feast;
Nor yet had the laughter and merriment ceased,
When the Bell of the Castle told,–‘One!’

Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found
That a Stranger was placed by her side: His air was terrific;
He uttered no sound; He spoke not, He moved not,
He looked not around,
But earnestly gazed on the Bride.

His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height;
His armour was sable to view:
All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight;
The Dogs as They eyed him drew back in affright,
The Lights in the chamber burned blue!

His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay;
The Guests sat in silence and fear.
At length spoke the Bride, while She trembled;
‘I pray, Sir Knight, that your Helmet aside you would lay,
And deign to partake of our chear.’

The Lady is silent: The Stranger complies.
His vizor lie slowly unclosed:
Oh! God! what a sight met Fair Imogine’s eyes!
What words can express her dismay and surprize,
When a Skeleton’s head was exposed.

All present then uttered a terrified shout;
All turned with disgust from the scene.
The worms, They crept in, and the worms, They crept out,
And sported his eyes and his temples about,
While the Spectre addressed Imogine.

‘Behold me, Thou false one! Behold me!’ He cried;
‘Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grants, that to punish thy falsehood and pride
My Ghost at thy marriage should sit by thy side,
Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as Bride
And bear thee away to the Grave!’

Thus saying, his arms round the Lady He wound,
While loudly She shrieked in dismay;
Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground:
Nor ever again was Fair Imogine found,
Or the Spectre who bore her away.

Not long lived the Baron; and none since that time
To inhabit the Castle presume:
For Chronicles tell, that by order sublime
There Imogine suffers the pain of her crime,
And mourns her deplorable doom.

At midnight four times in each year does her Spright
When Mortals in slumber are bound,
Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white,
Appear in the Hall with the Skeleton-Knight,
And shriek, as He whirls her around.

While They drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave,
Dancing round them the Spectres are seen:
Their liquor is blood, and this horrible Stave
They howl.–‘To the health of Alonzo the Brave,
And his Consort, the False Imogine!’

The whole novel The Monk is available online at Project Gutenberg.

If you’re looking for different versions of The Worms Crawled In check out the links at the top of the page above. Once you’re at those links, look for the Comments. That’s where people submit other versions.


NEXT: I’ll post an old nursery rhyme called There Was a Lady All Skin and Bone that was printed in 1810. It also contains the line “The worms crawl’d out, the worms crawl’d in.”

This article was posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006 at 12:14 pm and is filed under Alonzo the Brave and Fair Imogine, American Kids Songs, British Children's Songs, British Folk Songs, Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Folk Songs, Halloween, Halloween Songs, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, The Hearse Song, The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

20 Responses to “The Origin of The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out”

  1. Ken Anderson Says:

    Can you recommend 2 or 3 popular French Christmas carols possibly with English or German equivilants (we already have ‘O Tanneubaum)?
    We are going to hold a small carol service here in the small spanish town of Peñíscola which has a number of nationalities living here.

    Regrads, Ken.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Monique from France sent me this in response to your question…

    I think that the best known beside the children’s Petit Papa Noël are:

    “Douce Nuit” (German Stille Nacht) here or here

    Il est né le divin enfant – I don’t think it was ever translated or adapted, but I can’t be sure: or

    Minuit, chrétiens:

    You’ll find a link to an English version here.

    Les anges dans nos campagnes (Gloria In excelsis Deo):

    Site for kids with a Chrismas section:

  3. Janae Murray Says:

    the worms crawl in the worms crawl out is a SONG THAT A LITTLE GIRL SINGS IN THE 1970’s FILM “MOMMY”S DEAD”. By who? I have no idea.

  4. Deric McClard Says:

    Here’s the version that my cousins taught me in TN in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s:

    Have you ever seen a hearse go by
    And think that you were the next to die
    They’d wrap you in a big white sheet
    And put you under six feet deep

    After the coffin’d begin to leak
    The worms’d crawl in, the worms’d crawl out
    The worms’d play pinochle on your snout
    They’d eat your eyes, they’d eat your nose
    They’d eat the goop between your toes

    Your stomach’d turn a mellow green
    And it’d all puff out like big whip cream
    You’d smear it on a piece a bread
    And that’s what you’d eat after you’re dead

  5. lynne Says:

    i know a different version..
    have you ever seen a hearse go by
    have you ever thought your going to die,,
    wah har har wee hee hee
    we’re having a wonderful time

    they put you in a big black box
    and cover you up with dads old socks (or could be sand and rocks)
    wah har har wee hee hee
    we’re having a wonderful time

    and once you’ve been there about a week
    the poor old coffin begins to leak
    wah har har wee hee hee
    we’re having a wonderful time

    the worms crawl in and the worms crawl out
    they crawl in thin and they crawl out stout
    wah har har wee hee hee
    we’re having a wonderful time

    then…. something…. i cant remember
    you’re blood runs out like Devonshire cream
    wah har har wee hee hee
    we’re having a wonderful time

    then i cant remember any more..

  6. Cindy Says:

    And yet another version:

    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 . . .

  7. Tyler Gangloff Says:

    Have you ever seen a hearse go by you might be the next to die, they dig a hole and put you in thats where you stay for 99 years 99 years beneath the ground,, then one day.. the casket creaks the worms crawl in the worms crawl out, the worms play pinicole on your snout, your eyes cave in your teeth decay thats the end of a wonderful day.

  8. “The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out” or “The Hearse Song” | Mama Lisa's World Blog Says:

    […] Come read about The Origin of The Worms Crawl in the Worms Crawl Out a.k.a. The Hearse Song. Share on Facebook and other […]

  9. soul prophet Says:

    This is how I remember “The Hearse Song”, from that movie who’s name I could not remember for the life of me until I read it on your website. Can’t wait to get out of work and try to locate it on dvd.

    The worms go in
    The worms go out
    In your stomach and out your snout
    If you should laugh when the hearse goes by
    You will be the next to die!

    Scared the daylights out of my as a child, and it still haunts my memories today. Brrrr, just got the chills. Did a ghost just go thru me????

  10. allieeemcg Says:

    Just found a 1966 movie called Picture Mommy Dead with Zsa Zsa Gabor. A little girl sings the song in the same tune we always sung it in. Of course our lyrics were another variation from this one and the others here but every Halloween we always think of it! And I still get weird feelings whenever a hearse goes by because of this song!

  11. allieeemcg Says:

    forgot the link! Its on Youtube!

  12. mckenzie chritsian Says:

    have you ever thought when a hursh goes by you will be the next to die a tall thin man digs a hole and outs you in the worms crawl in the worms crawl out the wroms play pinucle on you snout they use your bones as telephones and call you up when your not home

  13. Miranda Gable Says:

    The Hurst the Hurst goes rolling by,
    And know you know you’re next to die.
    They wrap you up in bloody sheets,
    And bury you under six feet deep.
    It all goes well about a week,
    Until your casket springs a leak.
    The worms crawl in,
    The worms crawl out,
    The worms play Pinochle on your scalp.
    They crawl out your kidneys and out your eyes,
    And puss comes out like whipping cream,
    And that’s the end of my beautiful dream.

  14. The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out « Swords & Dorkery Says:

    […] called “The hearse song.”  There’s some interesting stuff about it here and here.  I bet larvae get tired of singing […]

  15. Renate Says:

    I remember…….When you die
    they throw you down about 6ft deep
    Bugs crawl in
    Bugs crawl out
    Bugs play ping pong on your snout
    Then your liver turns a ghastly green
    And puss oozes out like thick whipped cream
    Hasten Jason bring a bucket
    Whoops bring a mop

  16. Phlipi Says:

    Have ya ever seen a hearse go by, that said you were the next to die
    They wrapped ya up in a bloody sheet and buried ya down about six feet deep
    In and out for about a week then the coffin begins to leak
    The bugs crawl in, the bugs crawl out, the worms play penuckle on your snout
    Your liver turns to slimey green , the puss runs out like whipping cream
    your eyes cave in your teeth decay thats the end of a wonderful day.

  17. karen Says:



  18. karen Says:

    This is the version we sang as children; there were more verses but i can not remember them. If anyone out there remembers it this way and knows the remaining verses, please let me know.

  19. Grant Says:

    The next time you see a hearse go by remember you my be the next to die!
    They wrap you up in a big white sheet and throw you down about 6 feet deep
    the first few days it’s not so bad but then 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
    your guts turn all moldy g r e e n and shoot up puffs like whipping c r e a m
    and we all begin to sing oh great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts mutilated
    monkey meat hairy little piggy’s feet all topped off with ventilated vulture vomit and we eat without a spoon

  20. Steve Says:

    one more version…

    the worm crawl in, the worms crawl out
    the worms play pinochle on your snout
    your guts turn green like sour cream
    but that’s not the end of the stor-ey…
    when you are tired and very weak
    you open your mouth but you cannot speak
    you jump off a building
    commit suicide
    then you’re in heaven with god on your side

Leave a Reply