The Creepiest Vintage Halloween Costumes

29 10 2013

Halloween 1910What makes something creepy? YouTube user Vsauce cogently explains that creepiness arises from uncertainty over whether or not something is a threat. It is never straightforwardly frightening; rather, it is unsettling because it straddles the border between safety and danger. Humans have difficulty handling vagueness and ambiguity.

This is a natural topic to discuss in relation to the upcoming Halloween holiday. Halloween is about uncertainty. Very brief history: The Christians Christianized a Roman holiday of the dead called Lemuria, which occurred in mid-May. They christened it All Saints’ Day. Then they realised there was another nasty pagan death holiday over in Ireland called Samhain (SOW-in) which occurred on 1 November, and they moved the Christianised holiday Lemuria forward six months to 1 November to co-opt the Irish holiday. That day became the new All Saints’ Day. Hence Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve. For pagans, there lay uncertainty over the intentions of the dead, and it was deemed wise to propitiate them, often by dressing up to imitate them and offering them food.

So, Halloween was never really about running around trick-or-treating dressed up as Superman; it was about exploring the strange world of spirits, be they good, bad, or mercenary—we never know for sure. (In fact, trick-or-treating isn’t even a hundred years old.) Well, I think Halloween celebrants have appropriately reflected this cognitive dissonance toward the dead in the form of some very disturbing masks and costumes. Below are some of the most unsettling vintage photographs and stills of humans mimicking the dead or otherworldly creatures. Importantly, they are utterly lacking in any modern-day commercialism or skimpy ‘sexiness’.

Take the following portrait, for instance:

Halloween - Vintage Witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a drear and dour portrait. The expressionless face and slightly smug grin creeps me out. I can’t tell quite what she is thinking. Is she going to hex me, or ask me to go bobbing for apples (which, creepily enough, actually stems from a pagan divination ritual)?

But that one only scratches the surface. Consider some of the more clown-like masks and costumes, as in this image:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes XI

Holy shit. Look at the one in the bottom middle. Is that Michael Myers from Halloween in drag?  I can’t tell what she’s thinking. Some of them are scowling, but others are smiling. Others yet are just characterless black masses. Um, I’ll pass on this party. (Or will I?)

It gets even creepier when you put children in masks. Look at these little creeps:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes IX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh my God. These creeps outdo everyone at the local cosplay convention in terms of effect. It just goes to show you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on a costume to look like the spawn of Satan. Just dig it out of your grandmother’s closet.

You know how they say clowns are creepy? Well, not as creepy as these gorgeous creatures:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at the creep on the bottom right with the triangle balloon head. Is he dressed for a German S&M porn film? Why don’t we do this anymore? Old-timey Halloween was way creepier than modern-day Halloween.

But, still, children in masks are creepier:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes VI

I seriously feel concerned for that little kid in the foreground with the hat turned askew. Look at that fucked-up Uncle Sam behind him and the creepy rodent thing in the Boy George hat to his right with the garden tool in his hand.

But these little creeps, they are truly disturbing:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes III

In 1985 when I was in Grade One our class watched an old film about Norwegian troll folklore. There were music trolls, graveyard trolls, and bedroom trolls. The bedroom troll lived under your bed and would reach up and grab your hand, trying to pull you under. The actor playing the bedroom troll had this matted fur covering his arm. Some of the others wore prosthetic skin masks. Ever since then, I have been unable to sleep with my hand dangling over the edge of the bed. These creeps remind me of that.

Look at these shady creeps:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes V

This isn’t creepy because of the masks they’re wearing, but because they’re a bunch of brown rabbits surrounding a little white rabbit like they’re about to pounce, and they have these fucked-up grins on their faces. Especially the white one. And those ears are unnatural-looking.

Still, the masks are the creepiest, in my opinion:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes

Masks like these look like they’re half-melted; they resemble the face of a terribly deformed burn victim. The ratty mime costumes don’t help to allay my—fear?—no, uncertainty.

More little creeps from the suburbs:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes VII

I personally think these kids look creepier than Michael Myers or Jason. But again, they’re not exactly scary—their masks have ambiguous half-smiles, which makes them even more disturbing.

The younger they get, the creepier they get:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes X

I call this one China Doll Black Face KKK Bloated Child Corpse Mash-Up, because that is exactly what it looks like to me.

The little creep below is one of the most disturbing of all:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes VIII

Not only is she creepy because she looks like one of those trolls in the classroom film I watched, but she is creepy because she is alone, like some solitary hunter,  about to run at me with a hatchet concealed beneath her cowl.

But this, oh, this is the creepiest image of all:

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks Costumes XII

This is actually a still from the Vsauce video I mentioned above about why things are creepy. I don’t even know what these little creeps are supposed to be, let alone what they are thinking underneath their fucked-up masks. That is the unsettling part.

So, those are the images of the creepiest vintage Halloween costumes I could find. I really think Vsauce is spot-on in his observations—the creepiest things are those which straddle the border between our sense of safety and our sense of danger, those which toy with our need for certainty. And none of these costumes is in the least cute or sexy. They aren’t princesses or fairies (unless you mean fairy in the sense of the Aos [Ees Shee], the capricious spirits of ancient Irish folklore). Maybe we can stop with this trend of marketing sexy French maid costumes to women and revive the custom of disturbing people’s minds.





Brandon’s Halloween Costume

19 10 2013

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks CostumesI haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years. As a child I was a firefighter, a clown, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a mime, and a vampire, but nothing lately. Well, Halloween was originally a time for adults to party, not for children to go trick-or-treating (which tradition is only about eighty years old).

My vampire was kind of shitty. It was inspired by the version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee. I had thick, opaque, stark white skin, black circles round my eyes, red lips, and blood pouring down my chin, and I wore a white shirt with some cheap pendant, black slacks, and black Brandon Vampire XVIdress shoes. I made my own cape of black velvet on the outside and red polyester on the inside. And the collar was cut out of an old pizza box. Yes, I really did that.

At the drop of a hat, this year I decided to resurrect my vampire, but this time he will be less cheesy and more genuinely creepy. In fact, I’m not even sure he won’t be a she–with a very flat chest. This time, he will be a priest raised from the dead as a vampire–or a priestess raised from the dead as a vampire. I guess in the latter case she’d have to be a Wiccan high-priestess or something, since Catholics still don’t allow women to be priests. I know, even though it’s supposed to be creepy, isn’t my new goth vampire idea still kind of corny and stupid? I kind of like that though.

By genuinely creepy, I mean she will be realistically deathlike. No more big black raccoon eyes and blood-red lips–no, this bitch is gonna have red lines around her eyes surrounded by deep grey shadow, and grey-red lips which fade toward the lip edge rather Brandon Vampire IVthan go over the edge drag queen-style. She won’t have thick, stark white, drag queen-style pancake foundation, either, but a thin, translucent veil of white reminiscent of a corpse washed ashore on the beach in Blackpool in the dead of winter. She will have long black hair, but the wig I have is too glossy, so I think I’m going to rub some dirt in it. And then I am going to stick some twigs in it. She has to look like she has just climbed her way out of the grave, you know.

Naturally, she will have fangs. How can you have a vampire without fangs? Mine are those theatre-quality fangs with the thermoplastic granules that you melt in hot water, stick into the fangs–which you press upward into your canines–and mould around your molars. The result is highly realistic, natural-looking, bloodsucking feline jugular-rippers.

Brandon Vampire XIXBut she will have black nails. I want a little bit of Vampira’s influence in there somewhere. I bought black nail polish because at first I thought I would just paint my nails black, but I have such stubby and unglamourous fingernails that I ultimately elected to buy the cheap, long, black, plastic, fake fingernails at the costume shop.

And of course there is the costume itself. My vampire won’t look sexy, not even in the kitschy 1950s Vampira way–I find that a bit predictable and passé. I do like that look, but I just want to try something different, and, besides, I don’t have Maila Nurmi‘s voluptuous, wasp-waisted physique, so I have decided to don a priest’s cassock. The cassock actually looks rather like a High Victorian bustle Brandon Vampire VIIdress without the bustle, including a short, tight-fitting bodice, so I think it suitable for a priestess who has just risen from the dead. On top I will wear a black, hooded mantle to create the appearance of a solid, matte, black column of unwelcoming gloom.

The cassock itself is something else–it was custom-made for me by the Victorian-style fashion designer Kambriel of North Carolina. I simply selected the article I wanted in the material I wanted and sent her my measurements. She produced a perfect-fitting cassock for me and sent it to me in the post, complete with a personalised handwritten thank-you note. It was a bit pricey–around USD$300–but for the style, quality, and service, perhaps it wasn’t.

I can’t remember where I came across Kambriel’s Web site, and it may be too late now to order any of her items in time for Halloween, but she crafts the most sumptuously beautiful garments, for both women and men. Just visit her site in the link above and browse her catalogue to behold some of her creations. Oh, and the wig Brandon Vampire XIIII bought came with a face-veil! So I can cover my ashen face with an ethereal, spiderwebby black net to scare the children! Madam Death. She will Fuck. You. Up.

I’m sure I’ll tweak the outfit a little more before Halloween, but you get the basic idea. I know it doesn’t sound very creative, but I like to look at Halloween costumes the way I look at dance music remixes: I prefer a complimentary homage to the classic, original version over a completely irrelevant oddball. The difference lies in the nuance. Maybe next year I will don a creepy vintage mask–I do love those–but I love makeup, and reinventing the classic vampire with an unexpected twist is a show of creativity in itself, isn’t it?

Or maybe I’m a witch.

A vampire-witch?

A witch raised from the dead as a vampire!





Brandon’s Kiddie Art

12 10 2013

Brandon Art - Loretta SwitDo you have a scrap-book? Have you ever dug it out of a long-neglected closet only to discover your early childhood drawings? Well, that is exactly what I did a short while ago when my mother enlisted me in the task of retrieving some files from an old bedroom closet in her house. I unearthed my old scrap-book, which features all of my artistic accomplishments from the day I could finger-paint until the day I turned into a stubborn and fractious adolescent.

Well, I wasn’t a typical boy. Most of my scrapbook consists of unicorns and women. I never liked drawing what is traditionally considered the ‘male’ form, even though that is the body I am attracted to as an adult; I always liked drawing what is traditionally considered the ‘female’ form. To me, the ‘male’ form was chunky and unwieldy, and I saw a certain grace and wiliness in the ‘female’ form. Somehow it just resonated with me, even though I have XY chromosomes (whatever).

I’d like to share with you what I think are some of the most interesting works of ‘art’ I produced in my childhood. The portfolio was lovingly compiled by my mother, who went through a calligraphy phase in the early-to-mid ’80s. Apparently, looking back on my own work through the years, I provided the occasional annotation out of bashfulness, but I have included them here for the sake of authenticity.

This is a lady with fucked-up eyes and possibly broken legs, from 1983:

Brandon Art - Princess (1983)

This I have now christened Superman meets Wonder Woman, from 6 February 1983:

Brandon Art - Superman and Wonder Woman (6 February 1983)

Does anybody remember Charmkins? Probably not. It was a toy franchise from the ’80s. They made toy houses and figurines for you to play with. They also made toy figurine stamps. You could stamp a picture of a Charmkin character (usually a girl with pig-tails) on anything. I didn’t even remember they existed until I dug up this picture I drew in 1983:

Brandon Art - Charmkins (1983)

And then there is my future wife:

Brandon Art - Julie

Well, that turned out to be naught.

But I was created in the image of God, and God doesn’t make mistakes:

Brandon Art - Loretta Swit

Don’t I look like Loretta Swit from M*A*S*H??

And then there is the oddly disabled unicorn:

Brandon Art - Unicorn Legs

Can somebody please help her?? She’s struggling.

And then the unicorn became more robust, and she gained a few makeup tips along the way:

Brandon Art - Univorn Makeup

She and her daughter will zap you with their magical powers of unicorn happiness!

Misty (as I’ve named her) needn’t be bound by skin colour. She can be red if she wants and give birth to a green unicorn with wings! This is the drawing that won me the classroom prize in the 1984 Reflections Art Contest. They were looking for creativity. Well, they found it:

Brandon Art - Unicorn Family with Fairy

In 1985, when I was in kindergarten, I was honoured with the opportunity to work with a lovely artist named Wendy. I remember her name was Wendy, and she had a short, ’80s brunette perm. This is a product of my lessons with her:

Brandon Art - Angry Heroin Addict (1985)

I remember my mother praising this drawing for its abstractness and mystery, but for me it was just normal. I wanted to do something different. Still-lives are boring to me. I want to draw people and animals doing and thinking things.

In 1985 in Sunday school (yes, I was raised as a Christian), I decided to draw a strange and perversely vicious Easter Bunny:

Brandon Art - Easter Bunny

Yes. That Easter Bunny is hungrily scraping its way toward a basket-full of eggs with orange claws that match its eyelashes. (I’m sure the eggs are certified humane.)

Mrs Landmark, my Grade One teacher (7 year-olds for you in Britain) absconded with my precious October, 1985 Calendar:

Brandon Art - October Calendar (Unicorn and Castle)

I remember my mother saying she had a conference with Mrs Landmark in which Mrs Landmark expressed the concern that I was a little bit too effete and was worried that I would be bullied for it (and yet she liked my artwork). My mother said she defended me and expressed many positive points about my character. Mrs Landmark was full of shit. If you encounter a boy who is effeminate, you never penalise him for being effeminate–you penalise his bullies for bullying him.

And then there was the whole 1980s anti-drug campaign which didn’t work. Since then, Washington state, where I live, has fully legalized private cannabis use:

Brandon Art - Users are Losers Drugs

It’s strange how this anti-drug campaign seems so outmoded now, especially since it blindly encompasses harmless drugs like cannabis.

And then there was my beautiful drawing for Christmas of 1988 in Seattle:

Brandon Art - Christmas Seattle (1988)

I was already sifting through my scrapbook at this point, so it is amazing my mother captured this shitty drawing. It depicts Santa Claus flying over Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, kind of like Oslo Fjord) toward downtown Seattle, with Mount Rainier in the background. Don’t judge me. I was ten years old.

So that is my artistic portfolio as a child. I think the main point to take away from this is to let your children be themselves and explore their own identities. I was an effeminate boy. Some boys will be masculine; some boys will be feminine. Likewise, some girls will be masculine; some girls will be feminine. Just be a loving, caring parent.





OMD (Late to the Game, as Usual)

10 10 2013

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The DarkYes, I already know that Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) are the seminal synthpop band of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The question is: how the fuck did I miss the fact that they reformed in 2005 and released albums in 2010 and 2013? I attribute it to marketing. Marketing, commerce, pop culture trends, avarice, blah blah blah.

Happily, OMD entertained my tardiness by travelling back in time to the very distant past–2010–to release their first album in something like fifteen years–History of Modern. And it is amazing. And then they released another album a couple years later in 2013–English Electric, which is equally amazing.

Hold my breasts, Jesus. Is this for real?

Yes. It is, and OMD’s new material gives veteran synthpop duo Erasure a run for their money–and I am a hardcore Erasure fan.

Consider the extended version of ‘History of Modern (Part I)’:

But it doesn’t end there. OMD’s synthpop genius carries on to their song ‘Sister Marie Says’:

Perhaps their most poignantly beautiful song since their reunion is ‘Stay With Me’, from their 2013 album English Electronic:

Actually, come to think of it, I think ‘Helen of Troy’, from the same album, might be even more stunning:

This last track reminds me of a lot of material being produced by newer bands like College, FM Attack, and Parallels. Just look up those last three bands to see what I mean.

Honestly, I am impressed by OMD. They have made an amazing comeback. They didn’t try to kowtow to current electronic dance trends–otherwise they would have ended up sounding like Lady Gaga–rather, they wrote intelligent material which incorporates modern technology to create delicious, melodic pop anthems. That is what I love about synthpop bands. They evolve.