Terrifying Old-School Photos That Prove What A Horror Show Halloween Used To Be

From frightening decorations to haunted houses, bags full of candy, and creative costumes, it’s probably fair to say that Halloween is one of the best days of the year.

But even a century ago, people embraced the spooky spirit each Halloween, and after looking at these costumes and decorations, we might have a thing or two to learn from them.

The Headless Ghost

Children at school on Halloween with one student dressed up as a pumpkin ghost standing in the middle
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Schoolchildren look at each other with glee as they get into the Halloween spirit and glimpse at a person who’s dressed as a ghost but holds a giant pumpkin for a head. Whether a teacher or classmate, the kids are definitely loving the Halloween spirit.

Oh would you look at that—little Johnny is missing his head.

Wonderful Witches

A woman wearing a witch costume, holding a straw broom and a black cat
Photo Credit: George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images

What’s a witch without her broomstick?

Adorning a witch’s hat and a straw broomstick, this spooky witch is ready to conjure up spells and take to the skies alongside her black cat companion. “Double, double, toil and trouble…”

Illuminated

A young boy's face is illuminated as he looks down into a lit jack-o'-lantern in New York back in 1949
Photo Credit: Rae Russel / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Rae Russel / Getty Images

This image is sure to get you into the spooky spirit.

A young boy’s face is illuminated as he peers down into a glowing jack-o’-lantern in New York during Halloween 1949.

Terror In The Classroom

Person dressed as a ghost for Halloween circa 1905
Photo Credit: Historic Photo Archive / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Historic Photo Archive / Getty Images

In this photo from 1905, a person (possibly a teacher) is dressed in costume and they pose behind a table filled with Halloween decorations at a rural schoolhouse.

Whether this mystery man (or maiden) is dressed as a ghost, clown, or demon, I don’t care. All I do know is that I’m running in the complete opposite direction.

Cat Costumes

Photo from 1920 of a man dressed up as a cat for Halloween
Photo Credit: adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty Images

This man must adore his feline friends because, in this photo from 1920, he’s dressed head to toe as a cat.

Where was this guy during the 2019 remake of the musical Cats? Oh right, this photo is from 1920—he’s definitely dead now.

The Zombies (Or Clowns?) Are Coming

A man dressed in a clown/zombie costume for Halloween in the 1930s
Photo Credit: Imagno / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Imagno / Getty Images

We’re not completely sure whether this 1930s-era man was going for a clown or zombie for his Halloween costume, but he’s definitely succeeding at giving us the creeps.

Duct tape, what problem can’t you fix?

Trick-Or-Treat!

A small group of children wear costumes and masks and walk house to house trick-or-treating on Halloween
Photo Credit: Ernie Leyba / The Denver Post via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ernie Leyba / The Denver Post via Getty Images

In this photo, a homeowner gives out candy to the children who have shown up at his house saying, “Trick-or-treat!” But seriously, that Mickey Mouse getup looks as if he was possessed by satan and emerged from hell itself.

I’d give that kid all of my candy to never show up at my house again.

It’s Roller Derby Time

A masked woman poses on roller skates in a photo from 1910
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images

In this photo from 1910, a woman in a horrifying mask poses for the camera in costume, but notice the roller skates on her feet? We’re not totally sure what she was dressed as, but we can only imagine what this woman’s Halloween itinerary looked like.

8 p.m. – Scare neighborhood children. 9 p.m. – Attend roller derby competition. 10 p.m. – Resume terrifying young children.

Now You See Me…

Double exposure of a man sitting on a chair making it look like he's a ghost from 1900
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images

Taken in 1900, this ghastly image of a man sitting on a chair looks like he’s a literal ghost.

This image was the result of double exposure, but we’re willing to bet that whoever developed this image later got the fright of their life when it looked like their photography subject was hauntingly vanishing into thin air.

Jack-O’-Lanterns

Children dressed as goblins surround a jack-o'-lantern in a photo from 1953
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images

Gearing up for Halloween night in 1953 Chicago, three young children in ghoulish costumes and face masks peer into a glowing and grinning pumpkin and wait for one of the best days of the year to finally get underway.

When it comes to the age-old question of “Trick or treat?”, which option do you prefer?

A Corn Maze

Photo from 1910 of a family hanging out in a corn maze
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock / Corbis via Getty Images

From corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and trick-or-treaters, there are many things that just scream “Halloween.” This photo from 1910 shows a family hanging outside at night in a cornfield.

The fact that this photo is in black and white somehow makes things even scarier.

Copycats

A photo from 1952 of children trying to emulate the faces of the masks they're holding on Halloween
Photo Credit: Al Moldvay / The Denver Post via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Al Moldvay / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Surely you know the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”? Any parent will know that children love to copy the behavior of others, and in this case, it’s not behavior they’re copying, but something a little spookier.

These children take that childhood saying to heart as they attempt to emulate the faces of the “Flying Heads” wooden masks in this image from 1952.

Halloween Hippos

Two people dressed as hippos at the Halloween Breakfast and Festival in Anaheim in 1952
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Examiner / USC Libraries / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Examiner / USC Libraries / Corbis via Getty Images

In a Halloween breakfast and festival event in 1952 Anaheim, this mother-daughter duo won first place in the “couples’ costumes” category for their “Mr. and Mrs. Hippo” costumes.

Because if there’s one thing Halloween is good at, it’s the ability to make anything scary. Including hungry, hungry hippos.

Bo Peep

Little girl dressed as Bo Peep standing with a goose at the Anaheim Halloween Festival in 1951
Photo Credit: USC Libraries / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: USC Libraries / Corbis via Getty Images

During a Halloween festival in Anaheim in 1951, a young girl dressed as Bo Peep poses with her goose friend.

Although, according to the story, Little Bo Peep used to actually herd sheep, and this little girl is instead walking around with a goose on a leash. Should somebody tell her?

“A Coven Of Witches”

A group of women dressed up as witches in a photo from 1910
Photo Credit: Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Transcendental Graphics / Getty Images

Whether in the 20th century or a hundred years later, a witch is always a popular choice of costume for women and girls.

This “coven of witches” poses for a portrait on Halloween night, and it proves that when it comes to Halloween costumes or decor, the spooky classics will always stand the test of time.

Someone Decapitated Billy, Again

Halloween costume of a young boy holding his own head and sticking his tongue out
Photo Credit: adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: adoc-photos / Corbis via Getty Images

We’re not totally sure how this kid is pulling it off, but this image from 1910 shows a boy in uniform not only headless but even holding his own head and he playfully sticks out his tongue. Now there’s a getup worthy of a “Best Costume” award.

Dammit, Billy, now that’s why you don’t play around with the meat cleaver!

Halloween Festivities

Three girls wearing masks and in costume stand outside and converse with each other
Photo Credit: Felix Koch / Cincinnati Museum Center / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Felix Koch / Cincinnati Museum Center / Getty Images

In this photo from 1929, three girls amuse each other wearing masked costumes as they await Halloween festivities in Cincinnati.

If you’re looking for a theme from photos from the 1900s to 1950s, it’s that Halloween lovers adored their ghoulish face masks. They’re definitely braver people than me because those things are horrifying.

Gourd-Awful

A jack-o'-lantern surrounded by gourds outside
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

From pointy teeth to sinister eyes and spooky designs, jack-o’-lanterns are where people get to imprint on them their own creativity and they make the perfect Halloween decor.

But the look on this jack-o’-lantern’s face is giving me nightmares. I can tell a very fun person carved this one.

Bobbing For Apples

Black and white photo of a girl bobbing for apples on Halloween many decades ago
Photo Credit: George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: George Rinhart / Corbis via Getty Images

In this photo, a girl is bobbing for apples during Halloween festivities, and by the look on her face, she’s pretty good at it too.

Although perhaps with recent world events, this not-so-sanitary tradition might now belong to the history books.

Say Cheese

A group of school children pose for the camera wearing their Halloween costumes
Photo Credit: Angus B. McVicar / Wisconsin Historical Society / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Angus B. McVicar / Wisconsin Historical Society / Getty Images

Standing in a Wisconsin-area theater during a Halloween party in 1931, these children pose for a photo that shows off their diverse Halloween costumes.

Whether you’re a child or an adult, it’s hard not to get into the spooky spirit each year when October finally rolls around.