Frightfully Fun ways to use images this Halloween

It’s that time of year again – the weather is getting colder, evenings are creeping in and we’re getting out our warm coats – Autumn is here, and with it comes Halloween!

This is a great time of year to look at some of the archive’s creepiest content – Witches, Vampires, Cats, Ghosts and more can all be found in abundance.

Join us as we spark life into some Halloween favourites, Frankenstein-style as we revisit a selection of seasonal staples to make the most of these creepy characters!




This .gif comprised of: Halloween Greeting, 1912, Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (1863/65-1934) / Private Collection / DaTo Images. FRANKENSTEIN, 1931, directed by JAMES WHALE Boris Karloff (b/w photo) / Diltz


A halloween menagerie just isn’t right without the classic Pumpkin. Jack O’ Lanterns are a Halloween cornerstone and will be seen all over in the build up to Halloween. We’ve got a huge selection of pumpkin images in the archive, from paintings and advertisements to traditional engravings, photographs, and drawings.

There’s lots of fun to be had when combining these spooky squashes with other creepy imagery. A quick roll or glinting empty eye socket can give them a bit of a spark!




This .gif comprised of: Ghost artworks from the Bakemono Zukushi Monster Scroll, Edo Period (1603-1868) / Pictures from History/Woodbury & Page.


These traditional Japanese ghosts of the Edo Period (1603-1868) originate from the Bakemono Zukushi handscroll, painted by an unknown artist. The painted scroll depicts 24 traditional monsters that supposedly haunt people and localities in Japan. The hideous Boukon, or ghost of a departed soul, appears to have pale blue skin, long hair, and distorted features. The smaller Hajikkaki has a round, white body with short arms and legs. As well as a huge range of ghosts from the far reaches of Japanese culture, more typical ghosts and spirits of all shapes and sizes can also be found in the archive.

Here, four layers of fades have been used to make the cut out ghosts vanish and reappear – but segments, i.e. arms, can also be cut and animated separately as with examples shown below.




Animated 19th century phenakistoscope with grim reaper dancing / Richard Balzer Collection


This jovial dancing grim reaper is an example of one of our animated phenakistoscopes from the 19th century. We’ve been able to take these images courtesy of the Richard Balzer collection and digitally animate them, giving the illusion of motion as they would’ve been seen originally. Skeletons can be some of the creepiest halloween images or some of the most humerus (sorry) depending on how they’re used, so visit our lightbox for some inspiration.

Each frame of the skeleton is a slightly different image – when these are played in quick succession the image appears to move – this works in a similar way to stop-motion animation.





Long Eared Bat and Vampire Bat (coloured engraving), English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / Look and Learn / Valerie Jackson Harris Collection

Originally this flapping bat was an illustration from Look and Learn, courtesy of the Valerie Jackson Harris Collection. We’ve given him a spark of Halloween magic for this blog post. With many wonderful illustrations and digitally restored book illuminations in the archive, it can be hard to know where to begin. Bats are just one of the many items covered extensively in the archive in depictions of both their real-world and horror-themed counterparts. You’ll find Vampires, Bats and Vampire Bats in the archive!

This bat with his flapping wings is a composite of three different images, played and looped in quick succession.



Horror masks and costumes

Animated 19th century phenakistoscope with demon and bird / Richard Balzer Collection


This is another example of our animated 19th century phenakistoscopes, this time depicting a nightmarish mask eating birds – teeth gnashing and eyes quivering all the while. Some of the scariest halloween images we have are depictions of costumes from the past – and a selection of photographs from the late 1800s – early 1900s really get the spine tingling!



The Grim Reaper

This .gif comprised of: The Silent Highway-Man (engraving), English School, (19th century) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn. Sunrise on a Florida beach (photo) / Buyenlarge Archive / UIG


This 19th century cartoon from Punch depicts Death as a ‘Silent Highwayman’ – a morbid cartoon from 1858. The allegorical figure of death paddles through the Thames on a canoe, a reference to the high level of pollution and disease, rife in the hot summer of that year. This Halloween he is destined for a more scenic locale. Hooded skeletons are a classic Halloween image – for something more sinister, discover other depictions of this most feared figure from throughout history, across countries and cultures.

Using a cutout of the Skeleton in the boat, it appears to travel through the river and off the picture – but don’t forget to reconstruct a ‘background’ of the image behind the moving element for when it travels offscreen!




Animated 19th century phenakistoscope with green demon / Richard Balzer Collection


This grotesque face appears to be eternally screeching in the third and final example from our phenakistoscopes collection. Not as commonly seen on Halloween as witches or ghosts, demons nonetheless make up some excellent halloween imagery. Grotesques and Gargoyles can be seen in our TERROR AND WONDER: 10 Key Elements of Gothic Literature blog, and devils often make a popular costume choice for children.

This image appears to loop endlessly with no clear start or end point because the final frame is the same as the first. 




The Old Woman who Rode on a Broom (litho), Hardy, Evelyn Stuart (1865-1935) / Private Collection / © Look and Learn


Everyone loves a witch. Like the castles they are typically shown to inhabit, they’re a foundation of Halloween festivities – though as with others on this list they have darker historical roots in our culture. From film stills to 18th century engravings, witches of all kinds can be seen in the Witches & Wizards lightbox. For a closer look at this Halloween archetype check our our 10 Baddest Witches blog post – a retrospective of Witches, fictional or otherwise from throughout history.

Using a cutout of the original line art layered from the original background, the Witch appears to whizz across the screen on her broom.



Read more

Halloween: Costume Inspiration a selection of  costume inspiration highlights

75 years of the ‘Baron of Blood’ A look back at the work of Canadian filmmaker, actor and author David Cronenberg

Terror and Wonder 10 key elements of Gothic literature

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