You think you’ve seen some scary costumes in your day, eh kiddo? Well today’s costumes have nothing on the terrifying costumes of yesteryear.

Apparently it was quite acceptable to include a sack over your head for a variety of different costumes and face paint for a clown costume wound up making you look like something straight out of hell.

Ossain Brown took to the photos of the past to collect a book’s worth of anonymous snapshots of the horrifying costumes parents and children alike dressed up in on Halloweens gone past. Here are 20 of the most downright skin crawling photos that will be sure to leave you with nightmares.


For more terrifying images check out Ossian Brown’s book Haunted: A collection of anonymous Hallowe’en photographs, America c. 1875 — 1955.





Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.


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  1. Rebekah Wells Reply

    One of the masks looks like something we made at school, the ones made with paper bags…

  2. Pingback: Old School Halloween | Sparked My Interest

  3. VaultofHorror Reply

    The difference between then and now is that we are more easily creeped out. They weren’t, because they had more actual real-life horror to deal with than we can dream of. So this was fun by comparison.

    • Or it’s just because none of the pictures are clear and that if we saw these in high def color we’d say… “Those costumes look stupid and cheap”

      That said… I like that the pictures are old and foggy, otherwise that 3rd to last one just becomes ol’ trash bag smileyface.

      • Today we’d be terrified of the plastic bag over the child’s head because the warning on the box says it could cause suffocation.

          • Wynne Gruffyd

            What does Obama have to do with this? Some people will turn things political regardless. Get a grip.

          • Laura Munton Riddle

            He’s joking. It was funny. Thanx Obama!

    • ebolaoutkast Reply

      That might ‘sound’ like its true, but it isn’t. These people would have a heart attack in front of our modern day movies. Old footage is just creepy to view.

      • VaultofHorror Reply

        I’m not talking about movie horrors, I’m talking about real life horrors.

      • You obviously don’t know too many old people who think our scary movies are retarded.

        My grand mother watched me play Resident Evil 2 when I was younger and she thought it was hilarious.

      • You obviously haven’t seen old horror from the 20’s and 30’s. they were pretty creepy. Esp before censorship started in about 1935.

        • ebolaoutkast Reply

          Coincidentally just LAST NIGHT I watched Nosferatu (for the third time) and for the first time, Vampyr (1932) which I did not like. I will be watching Freaks on Saturday. Fail 🙂

    • While I agree everyday life in general was a LOT tougher and scarier than it is today these people could never have imagined the world would be the way is now and on a global scale I’d say life is quite a bit more terrifying now

  4. Tyler Westbrook Reply

    Creepy creepy creepy, and inspiring, better than a plastic cartoon mask….

  5. Vincent Tilghman Reply

    they dressed in black face… not surprising considering the time.

  6. Alicia Ford Reply

    Back then Halloween was still built on the belief that you were dressing up to scare away demons.

  7. When you don’t have a lot of money, you make costumes with whatever you have. Flour-and-water papier mache handmade masks figure prominently in this. So do sheets and towels with holes cut in them. When kids build them, none of these are going to look elegant, or even symmetrical.

    When I was a kid, old sheet “ghost” costumes were a favorite at my house, along with old-clothes “hobo” costumes touched up with Mom’s sewing skills.

    I don’t recall ever buying a costume at a store.

  8. Tanja Duncan Reply

    Some of these are scary in the fact that they’re racist, with people dressed in “black face” or Asian looking eye masks. What’s up with that??

    • Back in those days, there was no such thing as being “racist” — unless there was a lot of violence involved. Then, the word everyone used was “prejudiced.”

    • Is it racist when Dave Chappelle dresses up like a white man, or when the Wayans brothers dress up like white women?

      I just want to be sure I understand.

      • Surely that’s different.
        They were dressing up as something they considered vile, horrible, scary, evil etc. etc. So under those circumstances, yes, racist.
        As for whoever said there was no such thing as racism then, I think they should pick up a book!

        • s.lynn.towne Reply

          why does every one always have to search for things to call racism or prejudice. No one can change what 200 years ago was like and not every person in the photos is in black face or slanted eyes, maybe 2% of those pictured are and i never once thought “oh those costumes with the black faces and slanted eyes are soooooooo much more vile and scary then the costumes with the white faces” please get over you grandeur

          • Jamie Grayce

            the pictures are from 1875-1955, not 200 years ago and actually, almost half of the images have costumes that may be Asian or African American ‘inspired’… and it’s not about how YOU view the costumes, it was the intent of whoever created it that may have been of that opinion- like Carla mentioned above, for Halloween back then, it was a superstitious holiday for most, where people dressed up to fool or scare away bad spirits, not as pretty princesses or slutty nurses… please get over your arrogant attitude 😉

          • What do you mean 200 years ago? Slavery was only outlawed only about 150 years ago… and it’s not like bigotry went away then. That’s two grandmothers ago and you could own a person! Maybe you should read a book. Prejudice was extremely commonplace at the time of these photos. Black face IS racist. It pokes fun at certain facial features and was created to degrade an entire group of people.

        • Carla, You say this with such confidence, almost as if you knew the people in the photo personally. The fact that you automatically assume that they thought being black was “vile, horrible, scary, evil, etc.” is rooted in your own bigotry and prejudice as a narrow-minded human being. Could it be that you are simply projecting your own subconscious attitudes about black people onto them. Just because racism existed back then as it still exists today in all communities, regardless of race, does not mean that every white American at the time thought that way about blacks or that wearing a costume like that demonstrates racist attitudes as you have indicated. You are drawing conclusions from preconceived notions and not actual knowledge. It is this kind of mental process that is at the heart of prejudiced thought. Perhaps at least part of the problem is that many people today have grown up in an oppressive atmosphere of political correctness and neo-racist conditioning in universities in which only certain groups can have racist attitudes while others can engage in attitudes and behaviors that are just as racist as anything in our nations past and get away with it because of some quantitative technicality. Try and make sure that you don’t make the mistake of approving of racism simply because it is under a new management that you ideologically approve of.

          • Get over it dude, people were really racist back then and it wasn’t even a thing. That is not some wild “preconceived notion”, it’s a fact — what we know now as racism was perfectly acceptable to them. It was taught in schools, written into law, and acted out in every day life. As for the rest, well you are truly delusional if you believe there’s equivalence to slavery, Jim Crow, internment camps, etc in… what, the Wayans Brothers? Give us all a break, and stop talking about what’s taught in universities, you are obviously not bright enough to ever get into one

          • walter ego

            Jim does a great job of demonstrating the bigoted, neo-racist mentality that is nurtured by PC universities and certain media outlets, including my own Alma mater. Although I never stated that racism didn’t exist in the past, Jim, the definitive historian on race in America, feels the need to point out that “people were [like] really racist back then and [like] it wasn’t even a thing, [dude]”. Really, Jim? Wow, you are so enlightened and your knowledge and understanding and eloquent distillation of history is truly awe-inspiring. You should really go on a lecture circuit to give others the benefit of your brilliance.

            Although some Democrat Party majorities in the South codified laws of racial discrimination and some people engaged in racist behavior, others did not and you participate in ignorant and bigoted behavior when you generalize your condemnation of all or most white people in the past, including the ones in these photographs, as being motivated solely by racist attitudes. Some of the people in these photographs may have indeed had negative attitudes about Blacks but you don’t KNOW that and your smug arrogance and knee jerk prejudiced reaction only damages your own credibility.

            It is similar to assuming that all black Americans are motivated by criminal pathology simply because almost 40% of the prison population is made up of Black Americans. Is it safe to say that you believe this too? Almost 70% of Black Americans are born out of wedlock. I suspect that because of this unfortunate statistic, Jim also thinks that all Black people are sexually promiscuous. Because, as good ole racist Jim has made so very clear, because some or even a lot of people of a certain ethic group do something we can take the leap of logic and just assume that everyone is going to be guilty of the same thing.

            Now that Jim has proven his ability to use the sweeping generalization fallacy he also decides to dust off the straw man fallacy as well and makes the accusation of being delusional for an argument I have not made. The act of putting on a costume, whether it is a Halloween costume from 50-100 years ago or masks worn by the Wayans Brothers in our own day has anything matching “equivalence” with slavery, Jim Crow or internment camps is just silly. However, the racial prejudice and malice that exists in many freshman orientations and ethnic studies programs, so-called corporate “sensitivity training programs”, rhetoric from race hustlers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc. and media types where whites are branded by default with racist attitudes, almost as if it is coded into their DNA is rooted in the same kind of desire to dehumanize that is used to intimidate and marginalize individuals and groups that may disagree with them on issues that may or may not even be related to race. When Representative Charles Rangel accuses people that support tax cuts to stimulate the economy as guilty of racism is a perfect example of the ironic use of the charge of racism as a racist act in which the moral integrity and humanity of someone is smeared for something that has nothing to do with race. Racism of the past wrongly and illogically assumed stupidity and moral depravation of people simply for having a certain skin color. The enlightened racism of today engaged in by people like Chris Matthews, Tavis Smiley and MIchael Eric Dyson assumes moral depravation and character assassination of Whites as racist in general, especially those that do not conform to their political ideology.

        • Andrew Yates Reply

          Also the masks probably werent black, they were probably brightly coloured and just came out as black, so just stop looking for something race-orientated to get all uppity about! Pipe down and enjoy the photos for the simple minded beauty!

          • No, the faces are black. Look at them! They have white lips and bulging eyes just like typical “black face” affair. They are racist, it’s a reflection of the times.

          • Andrew Yates

            I am looking at them… but I’m not making a concrete answer as to whether they are black or white or rainbow. They are black and white photographs, therefore you have no definite proof what the original colour was. So just enjoy the photos for their funny halloween character instead of trying to find something to condemn as racist.

    • The woman with the Asian eyes carrying the doll reminds me of the character Eliza from the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin when it was portrayed in the play put on for the English in the original “The King and I” movie. That came out in 1956, this could be that old of a photo….

      • Dennis Andrew Betz Reply

        Too much assumptions here. We don’t know who is underneath the masks, what the intentions were of the mask wearers, or what references were made in regards to current topics. Too many people apply today’s society to a past they didn’t experience. Enjoy the photo’s as an art form from yesteryear.

      • Andrew Yates Reply

        They are probably not meant to be asian. Stop reading into it. they probably couldn’t make a perfectly oval eye in their mask using scissors – the reference, race related or not, is beyond the point of the photos.

    • Seriously, i don’t think you should label people as racist without knowing them.. not everyone was “racist” back then and not everyone that wore black face meant it as a racist symbol -we see things now differently because we have become a politically correct generation.

      • Wow. Just because people back then didn’t see something as racist doesn’t mean that it wasn’t racist. “Gee, owning black folk was just the norm back then. It doesn’t mean it was racist!” LOL. “Oh, we didn’t allow black folk to drink from the same fountains or eat in our restaurants. That’s just how it was. Doesn’t mean it was racist!”….see how that (doesn’t) work? Good lord, this country hasn’t come very far at all. Pure ignorance to the truth.

        • Really ALL people owned slaves? Are you kidding me. The entire country was divided on this issue and went to war on it….how about looking at an individual not the whole

          • Jamie Grayce

            lol did you even read the post above? I don’t see where it says that all people owned slaves…

          • Um, while I want to like your post, that’s not actually why the Civil War started. Go read a history book.

      • Jamie Grayce Reply

        offending someone isn’t about YOUR intent, it’s about how it affects others… wearing black face may have not been intentionally ‘prejudiced’, but it may have (and probably did) offend many people to see someone dressing up as a caricature of their culture… I’m curious to know how many people that wore black face back then did it out of admiration for whomever they were dressing as…

        • There was no PC then.. as people have already mentioned several times, they are probably really green or dark red. You cannot walk around this world worrying if your every action is going to offend someone…especially when you have no idea what offends per race, religion etc. PC goes way too far sometimes.

          • It is not that hard to learn what is offensive to specific races and religions. If there is any question that something might be offensive maybe you shouldn’t do it. If I hear about being “PC” one more time I’m going to scream… this has nothing to do with “political correctness” and everything to do with politeness and just being a decent person.

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  12. mister mist Reply

    Damn, Im glad racism is dead now. They really thought black peopl all had huge eyes, big lips and were literally black? Im glad I live now in present non-rasict america.

    • Somewhere, All Sharpton and Jesse Jackson just giggled at the irony of your remarks.

    • Andrew Yates Reply

      are you stupid. the photo is BLACK AND WHITE. in reality the photos were probably brightly coloured. I.e. horrific green or bright devil red. which would all come out black. Some people who coment before thinking and ruin the joy of these old photographs. The past is the past, GET OVER IT.

      • Clearly you’ve never seen someone dressed in blackface before. It’s more than just the color its the way the features are extenuated. Please google a photo and realize that yes a number of these photos are clearly blackface.

  13. Pingback: 8 Spooky, Old Halloween Costumes That Put Today’s Costumes To Shame »

  14. Jennifer Hackler Reply

    This is so unsettling, its like “The Strangers” meets demonic children. Also, the black and white film isn’t helping the cause either. However, assuming none of those children are demonic stranger killers, I bet they had a blast. I wonder if any of them are still alive.

  15. Vanessa Sarges Reply

    Fifth from the bottom is absolutely EPIC! I think these are creepy and fantastic. Beats 99% of the costumes today when it comes to creep factor.

  16. Pingback: Vintage Halloween Photos are Creepy as Sin! | All Things All Hallow's Eve

  17. who cares what they are dressed as. they did not mind what they did back then.
    we are complaining how “pc” was back then, stop putting labels on what you don’t know or understand.

  18. Pingback: 8 Spooky, Old Halloween Costumes That Put Today’s Costumes To Shame | Liberty Update

  19. You have to take in to consideration that it was a different era of fashion too. Eg. if they were somehow looking at photos of us in the present I’m sure they would think we look really ‘futuristic’. Clothes from that era tend to look a little drab and creepy, and I think the homemade masks and stuff add to that. It’s more psychotic serial killer looking, rather than cheap, synthetic plastic masks that are bought in a store

  20. Frank_Lovece Reply

    These show a great deal of imagination and wonderful use of available, native materials. So much more interesting than store-bought costumes

  21. Pingback: BFTP: Vintage Halloween | nmxmr BLOG

  22. wow why does every single blog regardless of it’s intent becomes a debate about racism – it was a fact of life, there wasn’t “PC” versions of anything, because people didn’t mean to be “mean” or “racist” when they used the terms, they just used them.
    Now can we go back to the discussion about how creepy these “old school” costumes are? I think they all look pretty awesome (and I did a paper bag mask in school, its what we did, because the plastic box costumes were pretty flamable, and honestly too hot to wear).

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  26. Amy Hitchcock-Courchaine Reply

    In the 3rd and 4th picture you will see a pumpkin on the table and a little girl standing and by her feet are 2 cat buckets and pumpkin basket with face inserts. You can still buy these! The actual mold from prob these ones lol. At Wisconsin Fiber Craft in Sullivan Wisconsin! I made them that is how I know lol.

  27. I think if any of these guys showed up at my door I would need to change my pants!

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  29. Andrea Yoder Reply

    The best part of these is that most were not all intended to be THAT scary, but because of the raw materials available, that is how they came out. I also appreciate that Halloween in the past generally was meant to be spooky as intended. You didn’t see people dressed as cutsie little things then. They were creepy things. Now days people go in their pajamas, wear fuzzy pink bunny costumes, go as rock stars, super heros and politicians ,goofy things or they use their Halloween costume to be try and push through some personal message to others about whatever cause. That is absurd. Costume parties any other time of the year, that is fine. Halloween is a celebration of horror and the paranormal, so celebrate it that way or stay home and keep your whiney pussified little children there with you. You wouldn’t show up to an Xmas party demanding to pass out Valentine’s cards would you? Same concept. And YES I know the history of Halloween and it being based in a period of time when ancients believe the veil between the realms was the thin so blah blah blah…. don’t start on your pseudo-theological arrogant (usually grossly misinformed) Samhain soap boxes.

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