Costumes were scarier back in the day. They just were. Back before Halloween was sexy, before it was owned by Disney, back before everyone realized you’ll still get candy no matter how little effort you put into your costume. Here are 18 costume ideas, each offering its own bit of advice on how to add some horrible to your Halloween.
1. Never Underestimate the Terror of a Filthy, Gleeful Smile.
He puts the laughter in manslaughter.
2. Clowns Are Scarier without Rainbow Wigs.
“My head handle is prettier than your head handle.”
3. When seeking to inspire terror, quantity is quality.
“Might I call your attention to the center ring, where our Circus of the Damned performers are currently gathering to eat your souls!”
4. Ladies, put some effort into those “sexy” costumes. They can be terrifying.
“Helloooooo! My eyes are up h-… oh, nevermind. You’re good.”
5. Your costume need not be elaborate, as long as you include a giant rat accessory.
I like to think the rat is nuzzling her, not sinking its gnarled teeth into her still beating heart. But really it should be doing neither.
6. There is nothing so innocence-shattering as homemade versions of copyrighted characters.
Mickey hates to see Minnie go, but he loves to watch her walk away, in these costumes from 1931.
7. A ruffly collar and cute whisker are the only differences between a cute little kitty cat and a demon hobgoblin.
The original Grumpy Cat, from 1924, would like to talk to you about these boxes of raisins you’ve been handing out.
8. Twins are always scary. So anywhere you go from there is a guaranteed horror.
“Hey sailor, have you ever had two nightmares at the same time?”
9. Blunt objects for wielding are the perfect addition to a minimalist costume.
What Death lacks in stature he makes up for in determination.
10. Sometimes depressing people is more effective than just scaring them.
Long before “Sexy” Owl and “Sexy” Pumpkin, there was…the earnest creativity brought forth by heart-rending poverty.
11. Don’t be afraid to explore other cultures' nightmares for costume inspiration.
They won’t get off the porch. I bet you wish you’d installed that newfangled telephone now.
12. Wheels may be added to the beds of sick children. Just so you know.
Before there was Make-A-Wish, there was Scream-A-Prayer—at least for the kids visiting this clown hospital in 1924.
13. Wear the head of an actual dead animal. You win.
Enjoy your breakfast? Good. Now Mr. Truffles would like a word with you.
14. If done correctly, affection can be creepier than violence.
I never realized how not horrifying the 1939 movie versions of the Tin Man and Scarecrow were, at least when compared to their 1902 counterparts.
15. Sometimes it’s ok to just sit back and let the paper-mache do the terrorizing for you.
“Little Halloween People.” I offer no jokes here. Only prayers.
16. Let your costume tell a story. One that involves meat hooks and butcher knives.
“The Author in Fancy Dress as a Side of Bacon.”
17. Try and capture unique emotions on your mask. Tenacity. Curiosity. Reverence. Cramps.
They clawed their way out of the pits of hell, the least you can do is give ‘em a Snickers bar. Besides, it’s not like you have a choice.
18. It's those guys from the tire commercials.
Well I don’t know about you, but I suddenly want to buy tires. Certainly not run, run far and hard until the very air is like daggers in my lungs. Nope. Just some tires, please!
Photos found on Pinterest unless otherwise noted.