Vintage Halloween Photos That Will Haunt You

Apple Bobbing

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Apple Bobbing
Keystone/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ghosts of Halloween Past

Believe it or not, celebrating Halloween and photography have something in common — besides one being a good way to capture spooky costumes and face paint for posterity. Both became popular in the U.S. in the mid-1800s. From early spirit photographs that claimed to capture the dead to snapshots of kids trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, Americans have been documenting it all with their cameras. Take a look back at more than 150 years' worth of Halloween photos, including Hollywood starlets, office parties, crazy costumes, and pumpkins (of course). So, so many pumpkins...

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Pumpkin Visitor
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Photography was still something of a novelty in the mid-19th century, and stereoscopes — twin images that when viewed appear to be three-dimensional — were a common way of viewing pictures. Landscapes were common, as were humorous images like this one.

Army Hallowe'en
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Apple Witches
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Pumpkin Carving
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Hollywood in the Silent Era could make anyone (or anything) look glamorous in a publicity photo. One of the biggest stars of the '20s was Eleanor Boardman, who is best known for her lead role in the 1928 classic "The Crowd," directed by her husband King Vidor. She got the glamour treatment along with this pumpkin in 1925.

A Bone To Pick
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Apple Bobbing
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Costumes, friends, and apples. What more do you need to get the Halloween fun going? Not much, according to these youngsters celebrating at a New York City daycare sometime in the early 1940s.

American Halloween Celebrations
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For soldiers and American Red Cross service members stationed in Great Britain during World War II, a chance to celebrate Halloween at a dance was a welcome break from the all-too-real horrors of the times.

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Pumpkin Head
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Elvis Presley and Joan Bradshaw on Halloween
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Compared with some of the spangled jumpsuits he rocked in the 1970s, Elvis Presley's choice of costume at this Halloween party in Los Angeles seems rather tame. No word on what actress Joan Bradshaw, Presley's date to the party, thought of the mask. Presley's star took off in Hollywood, but Bradshaw's never caught fire.

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Halloween 1963
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President John F. Kennedy enjoys a rare unguarded moment with his children, Caroline (left) and John Jr., during a Halloween visit to the Oval Office.

Sandra Dee
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Actress Sandra Dee continues the tradition of cheesy Hollywood promotional photos with this groovy shot. Dee's star had faded considerably by the late 1960s, but she still had a few tricks and treats up her sleeve, including a star turn in the 1970 fright flick "The Dunwich Horror."

Halloween 1974, Memphis TN
Halloween 1974, Memphis TN by Steve Mays (CC BY)


Homemade costumes are the best (as this Memphis, Tennessee, couple demonstrates). 'Nuff said.

Pumpkin vendor at Pike Place Market, 1978
Pumpkin vendor at Pike Place Market, 1978 by Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY)
Mayor's Office Halloween Party at Daisy Buchanan's
Mayor's Office Halloween Party at Daisy Buchanan's by City of Boston Archives (CC BY-SA)


In Boston, employees in the office of Mayor Kevin White celebrated Halloween with an office party at the bar Daisy Buchanan's. (You can see more candid shots from this wacky party at the Boston city archives.)

Photo used to promote Elvira's appearances at Knott's Berry Farm's 1986 Halloween Haunt in Buena Park.
Photo used to promote Elvira's appearances at Knott's Berry Farm's 1986 Halloween Haunt in Buena Park. by Orange County Archives (CC BY)


If you grew up in the 1980s and watched a lot of late-night horror movies on cable TV, you remember Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who hosted a weekly syndicated program. In 1986, she paid a visit to the ghost and ghouls at Knott's Berry Farm (aka "Knott's Scary Farm") in Southern California. Two years later, Elvira got her own movie.

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The '94 season turned out to be a nightmare for the Buffalo Bills. They'd lost their fourth Super Bowl in a row that winter, then went 7-9 during the regular season. At least they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 44-10 during this home game the day before Halloween.

Kathy Kinney ("The Drew Carey Show", left) judges the "Mimi" lookalike
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Kathy Kinney (who played Mimi on "The Drew Carey Show") keeps alive the Hollywood Halloween tradition of promoting themselves during this look-alike contest in Santa Monica, California.

Patriotic Halloween Costumes In Atlanta
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Another Halloween tradition: Fightful masks of the politicians of the day. In 2001, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were two popular options.

All The Pumpkins You Can Carry For $5
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Halloween masks are offered for sale at Fantasy Costumes on October 28, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
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 Heidi Klum's 14th Annual Halloween Party
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Supermodel Heidi Klum loves Halloween — really loves it. So much so that she's hosted a gala celebrity party in New York City every year since 2000. Among her most eye-popping costumes: a buxom Jessica Rabbit, a gory flesh-eating alien, and the werewolf from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video.

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Annual Halloween Parade Held In New York's Greenwich Village
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If you live in New York City, you take the subway everywhere, even on Halloween. The annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is one of the nation's most extravagant, though it was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

President Trump And First Lady Melania Host Halloween Event At The White House
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It doesn't matter who is in the White House. Halloween has been celebrated by the president and first lady going back to the Eisenhower administration.

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