Poster for a horror movie, or cute family photo from Halloween 1960? / Delilah Jenkins, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Modern trick-or-treating as we know it originated in North America in the early 1900s. The custom of kids in costume going door-to-door on October 31 has largely stayed the same, but the aesthetics have evolved in the last century or so. Today it's easy to pick up a mass-produced costume from your local Spirit Halloween. The DIY Halloween looks of yesteryear were much less polished—and much more disturbing.
Below you can see photos of terrifying costumes from Halloweens past. Many of the pictures date back to the 1950s—the decade when trick-or-treating exploded in popularity following the sugar rations of WWII. There's something uncanny about the dead-eyed, vintage masks every kid seemed to wear in the mid-20th century. The fact that the photos are in black-and-white also adds to the horror movie vibe. If looking through all the pictures gives you nightmares, here are some much cuter costumes to cleanse your eyes with.
This unsettling scene was captured on a farm in New Jersey in the 1910s. / Richard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
In real life, covering yourself in cornstalks probably looks very silly. In an old photograph from the 1950s, it's terrifying. / Richard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
This photo from the 1950s is further proof that children make everything creepier. / David, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Whatever's going on with the baby's face is just one horrifying element of this 1949 photo. / Richard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
This joke group costume from 1950 comes off more terrifying than these guys intended. / George Pickow/Stringer/Getty Images
If we found this undated picture in a family photo album, we'd burn the whole thing. Maybe the house, too. / simpleinsomnia, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Bunny costumes—just as scary on Halloween as they are on Easter. / simpleinsomnia, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
In case that last rabbit costume wasn't frightening enough, here's one from 1955. / Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images
Whatever the costume in this 1935 photo is, we hate to see it. / Imagno/Getty Images