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The song that can Kill You


In December, 1932, a down and out Hungarian named Reszo Seress was trying to make a living as a songwriter in Paris, but kept failing miserably. All of his compositions failed to impress the music publishers of France, but Seress carried on chasing his dream nevertheless. He was determined to become an internationally famous songwriter. His girlfriend had constant rows with him over the insecurity of his ambitious life. She urged him to get a full-time 9 to 5 job, but Seress was uncompromising. He told her he was to be a songwriter or a hobo, and that was that.

One afternoon, things finally came to a head. Seress and his fiancée had a fierce row over his utter failure as a composer, and the couple parted with angry words.

On the day after the row - which happened to be a Sunday - Seress sat at the piano in his apartment, gazing morosely through the window at the Parisian skyline. Outside, storm-clouds gathered in the grey sky, and soon the heavy rain began to pelt down.

"What a gloomy Sunday" Seress said to himself as he played about on the piano's ivories, and quite suddenly, his hands began to play a strange melancholy melody that seemed to encapsulate the downhearted way he was feeling over his quarrel with his girl and the state of the dispiriting weather.

Reszo Seress

"Yes, Gloomy Sunday! That will be the title of my new song" muttered Seress, excitedly, and he grabbed a pencil and wrote the notes down on an old postcard. Thirty minutes later he had completed the song.

Seress sent his composition off to a music publisher and waited for acceptance with a lot more hope than he usually had in his heart. A few days later, the song-sheet was returned with a rejection note stapled to it that stated: "Gloomy Sunday has a weird but highly depressing melody and rhythm, and we are sorry to say that we cannot use it."

The song was sent off again to another publisher, and this time it was accepted. The music publisher told Seress that his song would soon be distributed to all the major cities of the world. The young Hungarian was ecstatic.

But a few months after Gloomy Sunday was printed, there were a spate of strange occurrences that were allegedly sparked off by the new song. In Berlin, a young man requested a band to play Gloomy Sunday, and after the number was performed, the man went home and blasted himself in the head with a revolver after complaining to relatives that he felt severely depressed by the melody of a new song which he couldn't get out of his head. That song was Gloomy Sunday.

A week later in the same city, a young female shop assistant was found hanging from a rope in her flat. Police who investigated the suicide found a copy of the sheet-music to Gloomy Sunday in the dead girl's bedroom.


Two days after that tragedy, a young secretary in New York gassed herself, and in a suicide note she requested Gloomy Sunday to be played at her funeral. Weeks later, another New Yorker, aged 82, jumped to his death from the window of his seventh-story apartment after playing the 'deadly' song on his piano. Around the same time, a teenager in Rome who had heard the unlucky tune jumped off a bridge to his death.

The newspapers of the world were quick to report other deaths associated with Seress' song. One newspaper covered the case of a woman in North London who had been playing a 78 recording of Gloomy Sunday at full volume, infuriating and frightening her neighbors, who had read of the fatalities supposedly caused by the tune. The stylus finally became trapped in a groove, and the same piece of the song played over and over. The neighbors hammered on the woman's door but there was no answer, so they forced the door open - only to find the woman dead in her chair from an overdose of barbiturates. As the months went by, a steady stream of bizarre and disturbing deaths that were alleged to be connected to Gloomy Sunday persuaded the chiefs at the BBC to ban the seemingly accursed song from the airwaves. Back in France, Rizzo Seress, the man who had composed the controversial song, was also to experience the adverse effects of his creation. He wrote to his ex-fiancée, pleading for a reconciliation. But several days later came the most awful, shocking news. Seress learned from the police that his sweetheart had poisoned herself. And by her side, a copy of the sheet music to Gloomy Sunday was found.

At the end of the 1930s, when the world was plunged into the war against Hitler, Seress' inauspicious song was quickly forgotten in the global turmoil, but the sheet-music to the dreaded song is still available (on the Net too) to those who are curious to know if the morbid melody can still exert its deadly influence...



This story reproduced with permission from Tom Slemen

© Copyright 2004 by Tom Slemen. All Rights Reserved.

Last modification: November 7, 2007


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