We are all a little fascinated and also creeped out by vintage Halloween pics.
What do you suppose it is about these vintage costume pics that make us feel very disturbed? I think the movies "Trick R Treat" and "The Strangers" definitely gave me this feel.
("Trick R Treat")
Halloween in school
This was back when kids could wear costumes to school and teachers would dress as witches and we would do every politically incorrect thing under the sun. The 1950s, 60s and 70s saw the heyday of Halloween trick-or-treating and school parties.
My mother once even did a Halloween party for my older siblings at our estate. She put the children in black hooded cloaks, had them hold a dish with a candle and walk the long march under the dark wisteria arbor, down the gravel path to a part of the yard we called "The Pit." She had a stake in the ground with a witch effigy. The kids got to light the kindling and chant while it burned. She would so not be able to get away with that today.
It was always so blasted cold and we needed coats but refused to wear them. We carried pillowcases and knocked on doors until midnight, the official end of the door answering time. Yes, midnight! No parents, just lots of runs for miles around to every door we could race to. We also carried eggs, just in case.
We never had our candy inspected. Somehow I survived, though I admit I never ate the candy cane from the drunk up on Sideburn Road. This man always had a party going on during Halloween and would open the door, staggering and say "Merry Christmas" and give us a candy cane. We weren't supposed to knock on his door (he was notorious) but we just had to see what the commotion inside was. Lots of martinis clinking in that house and drunken guests rushing the door to look at the "adoradabable" kiddies (hiccup).
I'm trying not to reveal my era too much, but I did Trick or Treat in a time when almost all costumes were handmade. I went most often as a gypsy, one time as a hobo and one time as Pocahontas. I still love the gypsy costume because I can have my curly hair natural and walk around barefoot while reading palms. People think it's part of being in character, but when I read them accurately, they kind of get spooked. That's what Halloween is about!
I'd like to collect these pics and more like them and make a huge wall arrangement in my writer's office. There is something eerie about creepy vintage dolls and vintage Halloween pics that will definitely incite me to write some true terror.
You might consider picking up some of the cues from these pictures for a Halloween costume that would disturb more than any Latex Pinhead mask. Sometimes, the rigged costume is the freaking creepiest. Just look at Michael Myers with mechanic's overalls and a William Shatner mask...
I remember as a kid spending weeks ahead considering the costume, beg, borrowing, rigging, sewing, gluing, and the day of Halloween, with the smell of chili cooking downstairs, the flickering Jack O'Lantern light casting shadows on my image in the mirror, I'd excitedly fix my makeup with my older sisters helping. It was the prom night for grade school!
Sometimes, I think vintage costumes were scarier simply because we didn't know what they were. What are these people dressed as above? Only they know and that's disturbing.
These oddly "wrong" faces have no fangs or horns and yet, they seem like human faces, only oddly "off." That is unsettling. They appear to be some kind of hybrid that is feasible, a freak of nature.
If you want to recreate the vintage Halloween, you need the masks. These aren't too horrible to recreate with a little paper maiche the old-fashioned way with glue/water mix and strips of newspaper dipping into it, or purchase a mix online.
Use a basic mask to work from -
Don't be afraid to cut open a mouth or widen the eyes or whatever you want before your paper maiche. Mix some paints, use a sponge to apply using a lot of monotone colors atop each other - like pale skin tone, mocha, even a blue-gray.
Ideally, your Vintage Halloween party should come with all the campiness of the season. Here's a vintage package I have for sale on Etsy you might like - HERE -
It comes with pumpkin, bag, vintage mask and vintage noisemaker.
Wax fangs, retro candy, cupcakes, caramel corn, caramel and candied apples, chili, cider, and Smarties.
Consider decorating with those old-fashioned ghosts we used to make as kids using napkins and a tie.
Remember those crepe paper streamers in black and orange twisted up overhead and black and orange balloons tied to everything?
Don't forget old-fashioned carved Jack O'Lanterns with the gnarly grin and triangle eyes.
You might also consider projecting a compilation of vintage Halloween costume pics on the wall in the background (use Windows Moviemaker free download program - super easy to use and Google image search vintage Halloween costume pics). Or try a video like Brothers Quay (Street of Crocodiles is great)
I used it at my Halloween party, projecting it onto a display of dolls for added doll dimension! Consider projecting Charlie's Brown's "It's the Great Pumpkin" against a wall with Jack O'Lanterns on a table.
Don't forget in vintage times there were a lot of sheet ghosts and spiders made with a round styrofoam ball and black pipe cleaners.
Consider printing out some poster-sized ads and hanging them up in the bathroom and fill the tub with orange and black balloons -
It's required at a retro Halloween party that you do some apple bobbing.
You might also want to do pin the broom on the witch, Ouija, Light as a Feather - Stiff as a Board, or a Halloween pinata or pumpkin carving contest.
Light as a feather - stiff as a board: A person lies flat. The others sit around her/him and put two fingers underneath him/her. The one sitting near the person's head says something to the effect of, "he's/she looks ill." Then, the others chime in, "he's/she's getting sicker," "he's/she's dying," "he's/she's dead." Everyone begins to chant, "light as a feather, stiff as a board," and imagine the person's body lifting.
Bloody Mary: Put my Bloody Mary mirror (HERE) into a dimly lit room and have them try to say her name "Bloody Mary" three times into the mirror.
Take a walk back in time for inspiration -
Don't forget the music of the times -
Embrace the retro candies of the 50s, 60s and 70s -
Everyone that attends should wear homemade costumes only - this is a vintage party! Maybe even have a few white sheets with eye holes and mouth holes cut out in case someone arrives without a costume.
And, don't forget to send them home with the little plastic Jack O'Lantern with retro candies inside - leave the candies and buckets at the table for them to fill their own as they go.