When taking a photograph, most of us simply don’t think twice these days. We get out our phones and snap away, not thinking too hard about what the image looks like or whether someone else might find it odd. It turns out that people in the past were a little bit like that, too. Of course, they had much more limited resources, and it took more time and effort to arrange a photograph, as well as costing more. But they still tended to snap first and think later.
How do we know this? Because of all the photographic evidence, of course. All of the things that people took pictures of, thinking it was a nice family snap or a record of a holiday celebration. All of the nightmare-inducing images were recorded forever in film, and have now helpfully been scanned onto the internet in order to terrify us all.
They don’t all come from the distant past, but some are more recent, too, proving that we have never really learned a thing. We have to wonder whether the people who took these photographs realized just how terrifying they were, or whether they just couldn't see the forest for the trees. What started out as innocent photographs taken without a second thought have turned into the kind of nightmare fuel you'll need to get yourself geared up for Halloween. Are you ready to scare yourself? Then start scrolling down…
15 These Early Halloween Masks
When it comes to Halloween, a lot of parents like to sit their kids down in their cute Halloween costumes and take some pictures of them together. They’re so adorable in their outfits! That’s exactly what happened here, except… wow. It seems that back in the day, Halloween costumes consisted of paper masks with vague eye holes and mouth holes. Our favorite is the one with the fake mustache just pasted right on there across the front. These children are basically the definition of terrifying. They look like they have had their souls removed and are coming for yours next. If it wasn’t for the old-timey photo quality we would think this was a still from the latest low-budget horror movie. We also get the feeling that these masks are vaguely racist, but they’re so low quality anyway that it’s hard to tell much of anything about them.
14 This Nightmare Easter Bunny
We’re not certain that this is where the inspiration for Donnie Darko came from, but it can’t be far off the mark. This is what people thought would be a great rendition of the Easter Bunny back in the day. Were they really serious about thinking that kids would like this? The two children in the shot are reacting in the only possible appropriate way for when this nightmare approaches you. More than that – when it grabs you around the waist and holds you tightly so that you can never escape from its bristly clutches. It looks like this rabbit has seen better days, with a few bare patches (which probably means that people have been using this thing to scare the wits out of children for years). Once upon a time, when its ears stood straight and its whiskers pointed in the right direction, it might have been a little bit less scary. On the other hand, we kind of doubt that.
13 This Gas Mask Wedding
We get that there was a time when everyone had to wear gas masks in order to be sure that they were safe. We understand the big bulky suits and the precautions were necessary, in case someone released something deadly while you were trying to celebrate. Really, we get that this was an awful situation and that it’s wonderful they were able to find something happy in the midst of all of this terror. But seriously, a gas mask wedding is not at all what we wanted to see. There’s more than a touch of the Silent Hill in this shot, and we do not want to go anywhere near it. You can even make out what looks like smoke or mist in the background. This is just a whole world of nope. Even more terrifying is the thought of something like this having to happen again today.
12 This Girl’s Creepy Mask
This photo was taken in the 1950s in New York, and shows a girl proudly showing off her latest class creation. We’re… not entirely sure what it is, other than the fact that it is definitely terrifying. Is it supposed to be Santa Claus, maybe? It’s definitely a face, with a mouth and eyes that we can clearly make out. But what’s with the long thing under the mouth or the curled-over part at the top? We’re hoping that what we’re looking at is a Santa hat curled over and a long beard, rendered with fairly poor art skills. It would be easier to tell if it was in colour. The backdrop doesn’t help, with all the creepy childish drawings of people doing various things, like sitting in a space-age car, or in what looks like a room full of creepy portraits. They seem to have predicted the ‘television phone’, which also means that these kids probably had some sort of fortune telling powers.
11 This Easter Bunny From The Asylum
Alright, this is just getting ridiculous now. Who on earth thought that this costume would be a good idea? Let’s look at the facts: we have a white sweater with a hood on it, which doesn’t do anything to hide the fact that this is a man in a suit. He isn’t wearing comically oversized paws to hide his man hands, even. Then there’s a pair of ears sewn on the top, and worn directly over the face. Is this something someone made in an asylum workshop? There’s absolutely nowhere else that this could have originated. The plaster features, the big red eyes, the drawn-on whiskers – it’s all ludicrous. For once, the kid just seems totally baffled rather than scared, but if we met this guy on Halloween we would be walking in the other direction. And it’s not even Halloween – this is for Easter! Easter isn’t supposed to be scary!
10 This Guy Taking His Deer For A Walk
At first, the mind can’t even comprehend this. It must be some kind of prank, surely? But no, this young guy is genuinely walking through a forest with a deer held over his back. Not just any deer, but a large dead stag. Not just over his back, but clasped with its legs around him as if he was merely giving it a playful piggyback. When you get over the grisly aspects of it all, there’s one thing you have to realise about this guy. He’s strong enough to carry an adult deer without it even affecting his posture or causing him to look strained. That’s another reason to be frightened if you come across him without warning – he’s almost certainly stronger than you. Everything about this shot definitely could be taken straight from one of those wilderness horror movies where a group of hippy travellers happen across a surly local in the woods, with his fresh kill across his back…
9 This Chilling Father Christmas
A lot of kids get a bit scared when they go in to see Santa, and often that can just be due to the fact that they are totally overwhelmed. Here’s a guy who they have been told watches everything they do, knows when they’ve been bad, and is here in front of them to demand what they want as their reward for the year gone by. It’s a lot to take in when you’re three. These two kids are obviously out of their minds with fear and just want to get out of there as soon as possible. But what really makes this portrait scary is the way that Father Christmas just stares right into the camera with those dead eyes. Eyes that say: 'After my shift is over, I’m going to track down these kids and brutally murder their parents because this job is literally the worst thing I could have taken.'
8 This Kid In A Basket Cage
At first you look at the fact that it’s a kid in a basket, and it looks pretty cruel. You hope that he was placed in there as a joke, rather than as some kind of punishment. But then you look at his face and you think, hey, maybe they put him in there so he wouldn’t bite visitors anymore. We guess that this was probably taken by a family member who thought it was pretty funny to see the boy inside the basket, but we aren’t laughing. The kid genuinely looks like he has gone feral. It’s as if someone wanted to transport their dog to the vet without him getting loose. What would make this photo even better would be if we had another shot after this one of someone lifting the basket up by the handle and carrying him around like this was how he travelled.
7 This Creepy Hidden Person
When you take a shot of your friend sitting in her dorm room, you expect to have just that when you look at the photos later. But it’s not always the case. If you’re unlucky, you might just wind up with something far more sinister. That’s exactly what happened in this case, when the person who took the photo took a closer look and realized something terrifying was going on. It appears that there is a face looking out from underneath the bed, watching the girl and her friend. It’s almost impossible to spot at first, but once you see it, you can’t look away. Is it really the face of someone hiding under the bed? Was it Photoshopped in at a later date? Or is it simply the way that the wood used for the bed frame looks, tricking us into seeing a face? We know which one we hope it is.
6 This Entertainer And His Dummy
So, here’s a nice shot of a handsome young man who was in the entertainment business. It’s a headshot of its day; helping him to show off his talents and perhaps land some future work. And what’s this? The lead character from a horror movie sitting on his knee? Yep, it appears that he has actually brought a haunted ventriloquist dummy along with him for the shoot. The horrendous doll has an enormous grin and looks just terrifying with odd dark paint smeared across its cheeks. If we saw this on stage, we would turn and walk the other way before it managed to put a curse on the entire audience. The spookiness of the photo isn’t helped by all the aging effects of time around the edges, making it look even more like ghosts are present. If you could see the other side of this photo, we bet whoever the dummy is looking at fell down dead the next day.
5 This Halloween Party
As if the kids weren’t bad enough, it turns out that adults used to get dressed up for Halloween as well. And guess what? They used to wear masks. All of them. Some of them appear to be a little politically incorrect, and since this is in black and white we’re going to go ahead and hope that the twins on either side of the shot actually had bright red skin. Or at least that the masks were the same colour as their actual skin underneath. Between them we have a nice creepy clown who puts us right in mind of John Wayne Gacy, a witch (why does a witch need to wear a mask?), a policeman, which was apparently a spooky costume at that time, and… something else? We’re not quite sure what the woman in the middle is except that she appears to be wearing a colander on her head.
4 This Santa Wearing A Mask
What is it with old-timey people thinking that adding masks to things makes them better? They almost always make a costume far creepier than it needs to be, and Santa is not the kind of guy that you want to apply the term creepy to. Check out this mask, which is basically a white slab with red painted all over it in random places and a very fake beard stuck on top. Why is nightmare Santa such a thing? Get a big enough fake beard and you can cover any face. Spectacles help too – that’s why he always wears them, to pretend that he’s not someone’s dad in a red suit. The little girl is utterly distressed at being captured by such a horrific creature, but the little boy is freaking us out even more with his calm demeanour. He’s looking at his sister like she’s a little freak for being scared of Santa. Honestly, we’re not taking any of his sass – we’d be terrified too.
3 This Baby Hanging Out In Mid-Air
This shot was taken of a baby whose mother proudly wanted to showcase her latest purchase. These baby cages were all the rage in London and New York at one point, and there are actually quite a few shots of them around. The person who took this thought they were just documenting a useful new trend which gave apartment dwellers a lot more space for raising their children, but today, this photograph looks absolutely terrifying. Every part of this contraption looks like it could break at any moment, and if it ever did, the baby would be down on the pavement – cradle and all. The fact that anyone thought this was a good idea, even as a passing trend, seems baffling to the modern parent. How could they have trusted that these bits of wire and wood would be enough to support their child in such a dangerous position?
2 These Beauty Pageant Girls
While they may be showing off some boxes of presents in the picture, the sight of girls with swimming costumes and bags over their faces wasn’t actually too unusual during this era. It was all part of the trend of beauty pageants which focused on assessing the girls’ bodies, rather than their faces, in order to decide who had the best pins or chest. In order to make things fair, and also to keep the voting fairly anonymous, the girls would put bags over their faces before they went in front of the judges. All that this resulted in was nightmarish photographs like this one, in which it seems like an army of female Scarecrows (or, worse, some twisted KKK beauty pageant). Imagine if this was what everyone looked like on TV. Frightening stuff. It looks like some kind of dystopian alternate past where everyone was horribly disfigured in the face from gas attacks.
1 This Family Portrait Straight Out Of Our Nightmares
Taking a family portrait is a pretty normal occurrence. Everyone wants to capture their family at some point; it provides a lasting memory of who they were and what they all looked like together. It becomes a treasured keepsake, displayed in the home for all visitors to see. And scream at, if this one is anything to go by. There’s something off about every single member of this family. We have the grouchy old mother, who looks as if she is ready to lay down a curse upon you. There’s the father with his demonic eyes and pursed expression, as if holding back a torrent of anger that he wants to unleash. Then there’s the equally demonic child, who looks upset or confused at the very least to be looking out at you. The whole set up just gives us all the nopes. We wouldn’t want to hang this in our home in case it possessed us.