Whether these people were donning masks to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving (more on that later), or a fancy dress party, or to safely perform a medical procedure or act in a play, the results are spooky—and likely to give you nightmares. Happy Halloween!
1865: A white caped figure wearing a Halloween pumpkin mask taking two people by surprise in their kitchen. Created by the London Stereoscopic Company Comic Series.
1909: This medical worker is wearing a protective suit that will allow him to take an X-ray without being harmed by the rays himself. That suit also makes him look like the villain or monster out of an old-school horror movie.
1911: A group of "witches" in something called a "Dream Pantomime." That one in the center will haunt your dreams.
1910: These creepy masks probably weren't meant to be creepy—because they had nothing to do with Halloween. Before October 31st became our go-to costumed holiday, kids would dress up on the last Thursday in November and go door to door asking for fruit and scrambing for pennies tossed in the air. The tradition was called Thanksgiving Masking. In 1899, The New York Times wrote about the tradition: "Thanksgiving masquerading has never been more universal. Fantastically garbed youngsters and their elders were on every corner of the city. ... The mummery, as a rule, was limited to boys in women's skirts or in masks. In poorer quarters a smear of burned cork or a dab of vermillion sufficed for for babbling celebrants. Some masqueraders were on bicycles, others on horseback, a few in vehicles. All had a good time." One thing's for sure: These masks rival much of the scary stuff that kids wear when knocking on doors today. But by the 1930s, the Times had changed its tune, wondering if Masking would encourage youngsters to turn into beggars, and by the 40s, Masking had disappeared. You can see more photos at the Library Of Congress.
1912: Giant ugly head costumes with padlocks on the chin at the carnival at Mainz, Germany. Reportedly, this carnival began as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries. No historical record of whether or not the masks were always this disturbing, though.
1925: Children dressed as ark animals at the Children's Fancy Dress Ball at Mansion House, London.
1926: The Roaring 20s were an experimental time, which might explain this weird fashion statement.
1932: Contestants in a "Neatest Figure" contest at Margate, Kent use bags as masks. It is a nightmare-inducing visual.
1932: Disease never looked so terrifying as Ernest Thesiger as the Microbe in the George Bernard Shaw play Too True to be Good.
1933: Hermione Baddeley was best known for her roles in Mary Poppins and Little House On The Prairie, and lent her voice to films like The Aristocats and The Secret of NIMH. And in 1933, she wore a very freaky Minnie Mouse costume to the Film Memories Ball. Yikes.
1954: A unique DIY take on paper bag masks that is still pretty freaky.
1955: Children in costumes arriving at a Halloween party. A sign on the door warns "Beware Ghosts are within," but I'd be more freaked out by that bunny than by any ghosts.
1955: A girl putting eyeholes in her Halloween mask. What is it about people wearing bags as masks that's so disconcerting?
1960: Kids arrive at a Halloween party. Check out that demon in the back!