The Ghost of John Lesson Plans

Ghost of John

One of our favorite songs for Hallowe’en is “Have You Seen the Ghost of John?” As far as we can tell, this is a folksong, and it appears to be an American one.

Hayes Roberts at is the artist responsible for the skeleton musician here, used with permission. Check out his teacher-friendly site, and you’ll find elaborate coloring pages.

  • There are recordings of this song available. Our first choice would be Wee Sing for Halloween. As with all the Wee Sing series, there are lots of songs and many have the sheet music, word sheets, and suggested actions to go with the songs. You can play this and sing along:

  • The easiest way to teach a song to a class is always to sing it to them. Follow the links below to learn the song yourself if you do not already know it. You will find sheet music and help for several different instruments, or you can play the midi files as accompaniment. Sing the song one line at a time and have the students repeat the line after you. Once that is comfortable, have them sing the song along with you.

Here are the words:

Have you seen the ghost of John? (or “Tom”)
Long white bones and the rest all gone? (or “the flesh all gone”)
Ooooh, oooh, ooh, ooh
Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?

  • Click here to hear the song and see sheet music.
  • Here is sheet music, pennywhistle notation, a midi file, and more for the same song with the name “Tom.” The midi at this site is the simple tune, while the one above has it as a round.
  • You can also hear an interesting take on it with extra words by clicking here. This is a performance by an Oklahoma artist.
  • Here is a PDF song sheet with chords and an asterisk to show when to come in. You could copy this four to a page, but the words are simple enough that it might be more sensible to write it on sentence strips and put it in yourPocket Chart .

This is a very short song, and it can be fun way to start class when the kids are getting a little overexcited. Singing together lowers blood pressure and promotes a feeling of solidarity. You can also take it a step further and use it in lessons:


  • This is a round, and an excellent choice for practicing the singing of rounds. Josepha’s method for teaching rounds is to have the class sing all together until they are confident. Then divide into two groups and point at each group when it is their turn to start — that is, at the beginning of the first and the second lines. When that seems easy, have the second group start on “ghost.” Work up to three or four groups.
  • Use bamboo sticks or another bony-sounding instrument to mark the strong beats. Have students thwack the floor on the strong beats, thus:Have you seen the ghost of John?
    Long white bones and the rest all gone?
    Ooooh, oooh, ooh, ooh
    Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on?
  • Practice singing in spooky voices. Analyze what makes the voices spooky.
  • Sing the first two lines mezzo forte, the “oooh” section forte, and the last line pianissimo.


  • “John,” “gone,” and “on” are valid rhymes for some English speakers and not for others. Have students determine whether the three words rhyme for them or not. Chart the numbers. If the words do not all rhyme, make lists of rhyming words for each. If the whole class agrees on this question, send students out to find someone who disagrees. This is a great opportunity to recognize and respect regional differences in language, as well as a bit more sophisticated look at rhyming words.
  • Write additional verses using different names (“Have you seen the ghost of Kim?”, etc). Make sure the lines scan!


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  1. I love this song and your plan is great. I woul like to add that artist Kristen Lawrence has a wonderful rendition of “Ghost of John” with additional verses that are more kid friendly and are frankly not as strange as the guy in the above post from OK. I know this is a year late, but…she has a website called

  2. Hi there! I love your lesson plan ideas for the Ghost of John! I’ve featured your page on my small site called (you guessed it) The Ghost of John. 🙂 Cheers! Heather

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