14 Weird Old Photos Of People Wearing Masks

Image credit: 
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.


Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.


Getty Images

1925: Children dressed as ark animals at the Children's Fancy Dress Ball at Mansion House, London.


Getty Images

1926: The Roaring 20s were an experimental time, which might explain this weird fashion statement.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.


Getty Images

1954: A unique DIY take on paper bag masks that is still pretty freaky.


Getty Images

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.


Getty Images

1955: A girl putting eyeholes in her Halloween mask. What is it about people wearing bags as masks that's so disconcerting?


Getty Images

1960: Kids arrive at a Halloween party. Check out that demon in the back!

More from mental_floss...

October 31, 2012 - 1:30pm
webby
submit to reddit