Did You Know?: Nursery Rhymes Are Really Quite Dark


There’s a nursery rhyme every horror fan knows by heart. The nursery rhymes we learned as children sometimes have their own dark past. This proves sometimes fact is scarier than fiction.

As horror fans, we all have that little bit of a modified nursery rhyme burned into our brains. It’s because Wes Craven took an innocent rhyme and made it very sinister.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at those lyrics again:

One two Freddy’s coming for you.

Three four better lock your door.

Five six grab a crucifix.

Seven eight better stay up late.

Nine ten never sleep again.

Though A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t the only horror film to use a nursery rhyme. The Evil Dead turned childish rhymes into skin crawling mocking chants.

Sam Raimi’s ‘The Evil Dead’ — Courtesy of Renaissance Pictures

What a lot of people don’t realize is most nursery rhymes have a pretty morbid past. Don’t believe me? Well just keep reading Residents of Elm Street as I guide you into the dark beginnings of favorite nursery rhymes.

As children, we were taught nursery rhymes. These sound cheerful, however, when you scratch the surface things get morbid. This is because most nursery rhymes are about some rather morbid events in history.

Take “Ring Around The Rosie” for instance:

Ring around the rosie,

Pocket full of posies,

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Sounds like a lot of nonsensical babbling doesn’t it? Alas “Ring Around The Rosie” actually has a historical significance. This cute little rhyme is actually about the Bubonic plague.


First of all, the line “Ring around the rosie” is about a small rose colored rash. One of the symptoms of the plague. “Pocket full of posies” refers to the posies the plague victims kept due to smell because they were rotting. Therefore, “Ashes ashes we all fall down” is pretty obvious –Everyone was dying, dropping like flies.

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Then there’s “London Bridge”, which is pretty self evident. Also, there’s Jack and Jill is referring to King Louis XVI who was beheaded as in “broke his crown” and Jill was Marie Antoinette, as in “she came tumbling after: or was beheaded next.

Sometimes nursery rhymes don’t even bother to sugarcoat their meaning. Take for instance “Rock a bye baby.” On an aside, the lyrics are actually hush a bye baby. First of all what mother would willingly put her baby’s cradle in a tree? No less, who would take the time to make this rhyme. The rhyme is literally about a baby falling from a tree to it’s death.  And people think we horror fans are morbid because of the violent things we watch almost if not daily.

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In conclusion, Residents of Elm Street, what do you think? Did I miss any? Which is your favorite? Will you teach your own children these nursery rhymes now knowing what you know?

Love ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’? Fan of frightening nursery rhymes? Let the other Dreamers know what you think in the comment section below.