Vintage Halloween Decor Photos That Are Equal Parts Charming & Terrifying

by Cat Bowen

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Sometimes, we look to the past for ideas and inspiration, and sometimes, we are looking back on history so that we may never repeat it. This list of vintage Halloween decorations is a little bit of both. Some are great — all spooky ghosts and candy corn fun — and some? Well, Lizzie Borden should have used her ax to slay these decorations before they were even displayed.

I don't know what our parents and grandparents were thinking with some of them, but remembering my own MawMaw's creepily carved pumpkins with carrots for witch noses, I do have some idea of just how weird and wild it could get. Being that what people think of as "Halloween" is a uniquely American celebration, looking back on vintage pictures gives us not only a glimpse of the holiday, but also of Americana (though I will argue it is pretty dang whitewashed). The creativity of some of the decorations is, honestly, so much better than I ever would have thought it could be. Seriously, we think we have it all in hand thanks to our LED lights and fancy space age fabrics, but what they managed with simpler materials and ingenuity is truly striking — and sometimes truly cringeworthy.

1. When You See It

Why is the pumpkin in a birthday hat? Anyone? Is it supposed to be a wizard or witch's hat? Because it looks like K-Mart's finest birthday hat — unchanged.

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2. I Just Like How Creepy This Is

You really have to look at it to see what's happening in this vintage photo, but once you do, it's great. Is it a boogie man? Nope, it's a kid sticking his head in a very glowy pumpkin while wearing a creepy mask.

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3. This Is Sweet

I'm here for the pumpkin up front with the tongue.

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4. A Trendsetter

Oh, look, a naked baby among pumpkins. Apparently this has *always* been a decoration.

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5. Pumpkins Have Never Gone Out Of Style

A classic pumpkin really just can't be beat.

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6. That Mask Has Me Like...

No. No, no, no. No. Just no.

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7. OMG, WHY?!

Is this a store? The physical manifestation of my personal hell? Revenge? I cannot tell.

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8. That Kid In Front, Though

Everything about this picture is scary, but the kid gleefully holding the decapitated pilgrim takes the cake. Put that on a postcard.

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9. Oh, Dear

They didn't have to go so hard or so creepy, but I'm honestly loving it. The lantern ghost, the witch in the window, all of it. (Also, snow!)

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10. So The '90s Are Vintage Now

Pose with your gourds, everyone. Do it.

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11. Here For This

Witchy pin-up Halloween? Creepy pumpkin background? I am in for all of it.

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12. I Am Here For Gandalf Halloween

An unconventional choice for a scarecrow, but he terrified orcs, so I guess crows would be easy.

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13. A Twist On The Naked Baby

When I think "Halloween," I definitely think about getting eaten by a jack-o-lantern in a frilly dress while wearing Mary Janes. (My daydreams are very oddly specific.)

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14. Beach Halloween

Is it a beach ball? A witch? A jack-o-lantern? All three? Really, I'm just here for those vintage swimsuits.

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15. The Fanciest Of Halloweens

They're in evening wear. Why don't we have fancy Halloween parties like this anymore? Also, that's a disco pumpkin if I've ever seen one.

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16. Standard Halloween Decor

The decorations are standard — hay bales and muted oranges. The outfits are where it's really at.

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17. What Is Happening Here?

I have a ton of questions and no answers. I am going with a spaceship trying to blend in.

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18. This Is Hardcore

This kid either grew up to be the one who makes their kids' costumes from scratch eight months out from Halloween, or they don't celebrate at all. There is no in-between.

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19. Up, Up, And Away

Would I get in it? No. Would I watch it from afar? Yes.

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20. Halloween Cats Are Always Fashionable

As the mom of two black cats, I approve of this message, and the fact that someone had this professional photo of their cat done in a wheelbarrow of pumpkins and gourds.

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