14 eerie vintage photos show how Americans used to celebrate Halloween

HAUNTED AIR Ossian Brown 3 a© Ossian Brown, from the book Haunted Air (Jonathan Cape)

Long before it was possible to use Amazon Prime for your mass-manufactured Halloween costume, people put serious effort into their Halloween costumes.

Without a fast-churning popular culture abetted by the internet, the costumes reflected much of the holiday's original intent: to disguise yourself from vengeful spirits, and in some cases, be scary enough to ward them off entirely.

In Haunted Air, English musician and artist Ossian Brown collects a series of anonymous photographs that show how Americans, circa 1875-1955, dressed up for Halloween. The book features a foreword by famous surrealist and horror veteran David Lynch - a sure sign you're in for a twisted read.

The photo collection features candid shots of Americans in old Halloween garb, in all their imperfections and unique grotesqueness. Read on to see how people dressed for the year's spookiest holiday, decades before it became massively commercialized.

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All the photos feature candid shots of family members, friends, and children in Halloween garb in the US. Here, a man with a handmade cowboy mask holds a young girl.

All the photos feature candid shots of family members, friends, and children in Halloween garb in the US. Here, a man with a handmade cowboy mask holds a young girl.

"These are pictures of the dead," author Geoff Cox wrote in Haunted Air. "Torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers."

"These are pictures of the dead," author Geoff Cox wrote in Haunted Air. "Torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers."

As you can see, masks were prevalent in earlier costumes.

As you can see, masks were prevalent in earlier costumes.

While we might recognize a draped white blanket as a basic ghost costume, earlier ghost costumes, such as the one worn by the child here, featured terrifying handmade masks.

While we might recognize a draped white blanket as a basic ghost costume, earlier ghost costumes, such as the one worn by the child here, featured terrifying handmade masks.

Other masks looked even more grotesque.

Other masks looked even more grotesque.

For some trick-or-treaters, slightly ill-fitting costumes and mangled masks were good enough for a costume.

For some trick-or-treaters, slightly ill-fitting costumes and mangled masks were good enough for a costume.

Others simply exaggerated facial features.

Others simply exaggerated facial features.

Clowns, unsurprisingly, were also terrifying back then.

Clowns, unsurprisingly, were also terrifying back then.

Many of the costumes looked imperfect because manufacturing processes hadn't been refined. Plus, many of them were handmade — mass-manufacturing of costumes didn't start until the 1920s.

Many of the costumes looked imperfect because manufacturing processes hadn't been refined. Plus, many of them were handmade — mass-manufacturing of costumes didn't start until the 1920s.

Source: Bustle

"The perishing of fabrics and the rotting of early rubber, due to chemical instabilities and damp conditions, create new and sinister, puzzling abnormalities," Brown wrote of the costumes.

"The perishing of fabrics and the rotting of early rubber, due to chemical instabilities and damp conditions, create new and sinister, puzzling abnormalities," Brown wrote of the costumes.

Some of the photos have noticeable aberrations on them, giving them a gritty, spooky feel. Film isn't a perfectly stable medium, after all.

Some of the photos have noticeable aberrations on them, giving them a gritty, spooky feel. Film isn't a perfectly stable medium, after all.

"I'm excited by pictures where I can see a natural mutation has occurred," Brown wrote. "Not just in the condition of the photograph, with mold spots and tears creating new and unimagined landscapes, but also from the passing down and inheritance of a costume, perhaps over many years."

"I'm excited by pictures where I can see a natural mutation has occurred," Brown wrote. "Not just in the condition of the photograph, with mold spots and tears creating new and unimagined landscapes, but also from the passing down and inheritance of a costume, perhaps over many years."

As terrifying as the future can be sometimes, the past can oftentimes match it.

As terrifying as the future can be sometimes, the past can oftentimes match it.
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