It’s that time of year where everyone dresses up and does their level best to scare friends and neighbors. And while you may think that we’ve perfected our nightmarish Halloween costumes, it turns out that our recent ancestors did a far better – and a far creepier – job, as these 20 images reveal.
Ever seen British black comedy series The League of Gentlemen? Well, this family portrait – which we really, really hope was taken for Halloween – certainly looks like it inspired that show. That must be Tubbs on the right, while that fixed stare from the lady on the left could belong to Papa Lazarou’s mom.
Yeah, so good luck escaping from this lot. You’ve been clocked not by one, not by two, but by three pint-sized demons on the search for their next victim. The only consolation? You finally know what the grim reaper looks like.
Bringing up the rear of this motley crew are four bearded chaps who, by the looks of it, aren’t old enough to sport such full facial hair. In front of them are three half-boys, half-beasts, whose poses are somewhat confusing. Poised to pounce, perhaps?
Introducing Halloween-of-old’s porcine predator, who went further than just dressing up as an anthropomorphized pig in ironic butchers’ garb. No, what’s really creepy about this not-so-little piggy is that he stood in wait outside women’s toilets.
Whatever these sharply dressed creatures are – elongated badgers, perhaps, or giant anteaters – there’s something particularly unnerving about them. Perhaps it’s the combination of the male’s stern expression and the female’s slightly more forlorn look.
These little ghouls, by the looks of things, have spread like wildfire – and very happy they seem, too. But why did their teacher only allow the pupils to make one mask? Well, presumably because it looks terrifying when there are more than 20 of them together.
More Halloween playground fun, here – albeit with any element of fun removed. Is this the masked school bully? Probably – those two kids in the background know their place, and it certainly isn’t defending you.
This kid’s costume is almost cute, but that bulbous devil-child skull – complete with horns – tips the scales in favor of creepy. Oh, and there’s also the small issue of the child’s right arm, which appears to be missing.
It looks like the one on the right has been telling a fib or two. As for the other costumes, meanwhile – well, who knows what kind of warped mind thought them up? In fact, this image is probably best consigned to the dustbin of horrible histories.
Ah, the 1950s. By and large, it was a more innocent time – one that predated the internet, shoot-em-up video games and super-realistic horror movies. But, if this photo is anything to go by, people’s minds were as disturbed as ever.
What’s creepier – the little girl with the pumpkin for a head or the little girl with a black paper bag for a head? There’s not much in it, but the body language may just secure victory for the latter.
A miniature pilot, a big-eared… er, thing, a deformed donkey and an apparent victim of what could well be a kidnapping. Evidently, it’s just your average Halloween party from years gone by.
Hey guys! How’s your Halloween going? Sorry, you’re going to have to speak up – I can’t hear a word of what you’re saying behind those… masks? They are masks, right? Please say yes.
Hey guys! How’s your Halloween going? Wait, we’ve been here already. You know what? We’re just going to leave you to it – see ya!
These aren’t just scarecrows – there are, in fact, actual people beneath those costumes. The masks would have been scary enough, but whoever created them decided to attach massive box heads to the top of them.
These two look like a pair of well-dressed gangsters – and gangsters who can see everything thanks to the fact that their heads are, in fact, massive eyes. Meanwhile, it’s almost as if the hedge in the background completes their collective face.
Can you spot the odd one out? In fact, it’s hard to say whether he’s about to be eaten by these large-headed monsters or if he just didn’t get the mask memo. It’s probably best not to wait around for too long to find out.
Introducing the devil in human form and his three little helpers. This is presumably the first thing you see after they’ve kidnapped you and removed the black sack from your head. The next few minutes – or indeed hours – aren’t going to be fun.
Another shot taken straight from your worst nightmares – and again, this lot aren’t mere scarecrows. Their costumes may be primitive, what with the old bedsheets and holes-for-eyes technique, but they’re absolutely terrifying.
But it’s not only costumes that can bring the spookiness to Halloween. It also helps to have a few creepy tales on hand to really send chills down the spines of your fellow Trick or Treaters. Although, if you were planning on getting a good night’s sleep tonight, please look away now.
20. Charlie No-Face
The legend of Charlie No-Face concerns a real person, Raymond T. Robinson. Robinson was a native of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, who died in 1985 aged 74. Also known as the Green Man, the unfortunate Robinson suffered severe electrical burns to his visage as a child. The legend, then, arose from his habit of taking late-night walks and unintentionally terrifying people with his disfigured face. Of course, the stories eventually took on a life of their own.
19. The Licked Hand
A young girl was home alone and saw a report about a dangerous escaped criminal. So, at bedtime, she double checked the locks and went to her bedroom with her dog, who slept by her bed. Every so often in the night, she put her hand down, and the dog licked it. Next morning, however, the girl went to the bathroom and saw the dog’s severed head hanging from the shower fitting. On the wall was written, “Humans can lick too.”
18. Bunny Man
Think that bunnies aren’t really scary? What about a homicidal maniac dressed in a bunny suit running around the countryside, wielding an axe? According to the legend, the original Bunny Man was an escapee from a Virginia asylum prison in 1904. In 1970, though, Bunny Man apparently made two appearances with his axe. First, he terrified a couple in a car, then he scared a security guard.
17. The Russian Sleep Experiment
Sometime in the late 1940s, Russian scientists apparently designed a macabre experiment to test the effects of prolonged sleeplessness. So five prison inmates were locked in a room, which was flooded with a gas that made sleep impossible. After five days, the guinea pigs had descended into insanity. After 15 days, though, the chamber was opened, and inside was carnage. In fact, the prisoners had torn off chunks of their own flesh off and eaten them.
16. The Royal London Hospital Body Train
The Royal London Hospital, which today operates behind its original site in Whitechapel, east London, once – according to legend – had a body train. The story goes that, in the early 1900s, cadavers from the hospital were transported via an underground railway to an unknown destination. The legend may have sprung from old rumors that empty rooms under Whitechapel Station, located directly opposite, were used as a temporary morgue.
15. The Clown Statue
A young girl was babysitting for family friends, who happened to have a collection of clown dolls. The girl was particularly leery of one large doll, which she reckoned was staring at her. So she phoned the father, described the clown and asked if it was okay to move the clown to another room. The father, however, yelled at her to leave it well alone. The clown doll turned out to be a violent dwarf who’d previously threatened the family.
14. The Babysitter
A teenage girl was babysitting one evening for children, who were asleep upstairs. The phone rang, and a stranger asked if she’s checked on the little ones. She ignored the weird call, of course, but the stranger called again, asking after the children. Now she was scared and called the police, who agreed to trace the calls. However, it turned out that the call was from an extension in the house, and that the mysterious caller had killed the children.
13. The Vanishing Hitchhiker
A driver stopped for a female hitchhiker, who climbed into the back seat of the car. The hitchhiker then asked to be dropped at a specific address. But upon arriving at the house, the driver looked around to find that the hitchhiker had strangely disappeared. He decided to ring the doorbell of the property, only to be told that a young woman used to live there: she was killed in a road accident on that very date.
12. Victim of the Beast 666
Lillian “Lilly” Gray died aged 77 on November 14, 1958 and was buried in Salt Lake Cemetery. Nothing especially chilling about that, right? Until, that is, you read the epitaph on her tombstone, “Victim of the Beast 666.” Did Satan take her as his own? Well, no. It turned out that she died of natural causes. But her husband seemed to have been a paranoid eccentric, and it was he who was responsible for the gravestone.
11. The Dead Boyfriend
Two young lovers in a car were enjoying some quiet time in the woods. The boyfriend then left the car to answer the call of nature, and, after a while, the girl heard a spooky scraping noise on the vehicle’s roof. Terrified, she drove off – only to quickly stop when she heard a strangled scream. What was the noise? Well, a rope had been attached to the car’s fender and looped around a tree branch. And at the end of the noose was her boyfriend, hanged.
10. The Spider Bite
A young woman went off on vacation to an exotic destination. While away, she was conscious of an insect bite or a sting on her cheek, but she thought nothing of it, as there was only a small red mark. However, after she returned home, the pinprick became a large, angry-looking swelling. Of course, she went to the doctor, who immediately pierced it – and out poured dozens of tiny spiders. The shock, naturally, drove the woman mad.
9. The Dead Lady’s Ring
This story, which dates back to at least the 14th century, concerns an old woman who died and was buried wearing a valuable ring. An unscrupulous grave robber, however, unearthed the coffin and opened the lid, intent on stealing her possession. But when the ring wouldn’t budge, he flipped out a knife and sliced into the woman’s finger. Then the woman awoke, and the thief died of fright. It turned out that the woman had been prematurely buried.
8. The Choking Doberman
A woman came home to find her beloved Doberman gagging and choking. Nothing she did helped, so she took her pet to the vet and left the pooch in his care. While on the way home, though, the lady’s phone rang. It was the vet, who revealed that the dog had ingested three human fingers. The woman therefore phoned the police, and when they all arrived at her house they found an unconscious burglar, who’d fainted from severe blood loss.
7. The Lost Bride
It was a happy wedding day at a large old home. The guests played hide and go seek, but no one could find the bride. In fact, much to the groom’s grief, she was apparently lost forever. Nevertheless, when the newlywed’s younger sister got married years later, the guests had another hide-and-go-seek session. This time, though, the new bride found her sister’s moldering corpse in a trunk in the attic, where she’d been trapped to die a horrible death.
6. The Melon Heads
The Melon Heads legend, and its variants, comes from Michigan, Ohio and Connecticut. Apparently, children or small adults with large, bulbous heads live in the woods and attack and kill people. The reason? The Melon Heads are said to have been suffering from hydrocephalus, a medical condition characterized by the swelling of the head. According to the legend, they were maltreated in a hospital or orphanage and now wreak their revenge on humanity.
5. The Titanic’s Amen-Ra Curse
Everyone knows the Titanic sank because an iceberg ripped a hole in its hull. But why did it happen at that particular time? One legend has it that it was because a mummy from ancient Egypt called Amen-Ra was on board the ship. The mummy had apparently been excavated by four young Englishmen in the 1890s, all of whom came to sticky ends. Alas, the curse they fell victim to allegedly continued by ending the lives of 1,517 souls on the Titanic.
4. Char Man
Char Man manifests himself at Creek Road in Ventura County, California, near the bridge crossing the San Antonio Creek. This ghoul takes the shape of a hideously burnt man who attacks passersby, especially if they stop on the bridge. Char Man is said to be the survivor of an intense 1948 forest fire, in which a father and son were caught. According to legend, the father died, but the son survived and was ultimately driven insane by his horrible injuries.
3. The Well to Hell
The story goes that Russian engineers drilled a nine-mile-deep hole somewhere in Siberia. Eventually, then, their drill broke into a flame-filled cavern, so the engineers lowered a heatproof microphone into the hole. The intense heat unfortunately melted it, but a few seconds of the recording somehow survived. It was apparently of people screaming in pain. Was this the sound of hell?
2. Bloody Mary
Chant “Bloody Mary” repeatedly as you look into a mirror in a candle-lit room and you’ll apparently conjure up the spirit of Bloody Mary herself. In fact, she will appear behind you in the mirror. One version of the legend says the apparition will be covered in blood; another says she’ll scream blue murder. Another still reckons that she’ll scratch your eyes out. Willing to give it a go?
1. The Black-eyed Kids
The Black-eyed Kids legend is said to have started in Texas when reporter Brian Bethel wrote about the phenomenon. Apparently, the children in question are supernatural beings identified by the fact that their eyes are a solid black. Aged from six to 16, these creepy children, who are often seen in pairs, usually appear at night and can, it is said, become frighteningly aggressive.