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Have YOU seen the ghost of Tom?

Round this time of year I tend to get this little tune in my head; a tune in minor key that they taught us in grade school:

Have you seen the ghost of Tom?
Long white bones with the flesh all gone
Ooh-ooh-ooh-oooh, poor old Tom
Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on!

Googling on it proves that it's widely known, but no one seems to know who wrote it. So, is this a song that just a few schools learned? Or nearly all kids in the U.S.? Or all over the world? Now I'm curious:

Poll #198560 The Ghost of Tom

Do you know this song?

Yes, I do know it (though perhaps the lyrics were a bit different)
Sounds vaguely familiar
Nope, don't have any idea what you're talking about

ETA: Here: I found a midi file of the tune, so you can learn it if you don't know it.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 30th, 2003 11:44 am (UTC)
Heh - oh, believe me, people don't want that. ;) But I did find a midi file of the tune, so they can at least hum it. (See the edited-to-add, above.) From what I've seen on Google searches, the lyrics don't vary too much - "skin" instead of "flesh," things like that.
Dec. 18th, 2004 12:25 am (UTC)
link to stream
Oct. 30th, 2003 10:49 am (UTC)
I went to school in New Jersey. Perhaps you should add a bit to your poll, asking if they knew it, where they went to school. You might find it's a regional thing, or something.
Oct. 30th, 2003 11:55 am (UTC)
we used to sing this in the school choir when I was 8!
I sing it to myself all the time, but I don't know very many people who have heard it.
And of course, having learned it at school - nobody ever tells you the origins of the songs you sing unless they're from *gag* Oliver Twist (don't get me wrong, loved the musical, hated singing the show tunes).
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - curvature - Oct. 30th, 2003 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 30th, 2003 08:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, we sung that once last year as a choir warmup, our teacher had us do it in canon. I can't for the life of me remember what the second line was, so I'm going to assume it was the same, but the third line we just sung all 'oo's. It's pretty. As for your location question, I learned it in Australia. I wonder if people learn the same tune in other languages, with different lyrics?

Old choir songs are fun, I randomly got The Water is Wide stuck in my head the other day, and did a google search on it and asked my lj buddies about it. It's cool to think how long these little tunes have been around for and where they might have come from.
Oct. 26th, 2007 11:25 am (UTC)
It's an American folk tune. Find lesson plans, sheet music, and midi file links at xanga.com/dextr for Oct. 26, 2007.
Oct. 28th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)
Cool. Thanks! Glad others know it too.
Oct. 6th, 2017 03:08 am (UTC)
Have you seen the ghost of time eyes bulged out and the nose too long with big ugly teeth and they shiny white chin only one cheek to keep his tongue in
Oct. 11th, 2008 12:14 am (UTC)
Ghost Tom
Yeah, I'm in high school chorus, and I just learned it like a week ago. its been stuck in my head since then however, these are the lyrics we learned:

Have you seen the ghost of tom? Long white bones with the flesh all gone. Ooh, ooh, ooh, oooh, ooh, ooh, ooh. Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on.

Pretty much the same, but still different. I really like the tune. Can't stop singing it. My friends in I, who are also in chorus, are going to sing it while we trick or treat. *laugh*
Oct. 12th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
Re: Ghost Tom
Ah, good! Glad it's still being taught. It makes a good spooky round. It's pretty much the only Halloween song I know, too...
Oct. 25th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
I learned the following lyrics in CT ~ 1977
Have you seen the Ghost of Tom
Eyes bugged out and nose too long

with big ugly teeth and
only one cheek to keep his toungue in
Oct. 14th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
Re: I learned the following lyrics in CT ~ 1977
This is the lyrics that I learned in elementary school in the early 70's in Northwestern Ohio.
Mar. 27th, 2018 11:42 am (UTC)
RE: I learned the following lyrics in CT ~ 1977
This is the version i learn in grade school 40 years ago.
Oct. 31st, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)
Ghost of Tom
I learned it in New Orleans in the early 60's from a wonderful music teacher, Al Moore. He was a Juliard graduate but his real love was folk music. Thanks to him, I know the words to lots of folk songs. He spent his summers at a camp in the North Carolina Mountains.

I can fill in the missing words to the last version. Yes, I love the tune too, I sing it every year.

Have you seen the ghost of Tom?
Eyes bulged out and nose too long
With big ugly teeth and a shiny white chin
Only one cheek to keep his tongue in

Apr. 8th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
We know the song too!
I sing in a choir in the Netherlands and we use this song to warm-up our voices!
Apr. 10th, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
Re: We know the song too!
Good! I'm glad it made it all the way over to the Netherlands. Thanks for letting me know!
Oct. 15th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Love this song!!!
Dec. 17th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
Have YOU seen the ghost of Tom?
I went to a Primary (elementary) school in Bradford, England and am so happy that people worldwide learned this song too! My old music teacher was an absolute legend!
Nov. 5th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
this was it
have you seen the ghost of tom
eyes bugged out and nose to long
with big ugly teeth and a shinny white chin
only one cheek to keep his tongue in

and there was a story about how tom was working in the fields and heard a scream going back to his wife to find her gone the house ransacked he hear's her screaming in the woods. and chases her.. getting his cheek ripped off on a tree branch.. and they found elizebeths body the following spring in the snow and the only thing they found of him was his cheek on a tree my old music teacher told that story every year saying it happened near edgar nebraska.. then we sang the song...

Nov. 9th, 2010 02:45 am (UTC)
Re: this was it
Whoa, creepy! I'd never heard that one. Got to love local legends. :) Thanks for bringing it over!
Apr. 28th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
Ghost of Tom
I have this song in my head around every October 31st. for the last 45 years. I learned it at grade school Bethesda Maryland in the mid sixties. I recall Long White Hair with the Flesh all Gone. It was printed in our song books we had at school. Thanks to all who gave comments about this song, it looks like it was well known around the world.
Oct. 27th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
Ghost of Tom is from England and has a creepy story just as Ring Around the Rosy does. It's from a children's rhyme. A man named Tom was hung for murdering children in the dark ages and the villagers left his body hanging in the tree refusing to bury him so that his soul would never rest in peace. The eventual hanging bones inspired the local children's chant which over the centuries turned to song.
Aug. 11th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Ghost of John/Tom
I love the song, and I know it's been around for a long, long time...I'd love to know the real history...not to say that these two versions of its history are incorrect...
A musician out west (California?) named Kristen Lawrence, I think, has an amazing version of it - check her out!
Sep. 5th, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
Ghost of Tom
I learned the song, with no explanation mind you, while I was in Air Force tech school. I joined the base Blue Falcon choir and we used the song as a warm up until about Christmas when the program director thought it was no-longer appropriate. We spent many saturdays singing at the officers club. That was fall 1988.
Sep. 17th, 2018 11:35 pm (UTC)
Ghost of Tom
I learned/ sang this in Catholic grammar school in Connecticut. Have wondered about it for years since then. Fun to know a lot of others sang it in school as well.
May. 2nd, 2019 04:12 pm (UTC)
yes I remember
Pleasant View Elementary School in Montgomery County Maryland circa 1978 we learned this song. its been around a LONG time....
May. 5th, 2019 08:41 pm (UTC)
I learned it as:

"Have you seen the ghost of Tom?
Long white bones with the flesh all gone
Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on"

There's a story in Tennessee about a dude named Tom who was dating a women who (without his knowledge) was married and the husband killed her and skinned him (no I won't go into more detail it's pretty gory), could it maybe be related to that?
Jun. 4th, 2019 03:12 am (UTC)
incarnatiosn of immortality 3
is where i heard it
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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