Halloween Images Collection: strange and unsettling illustrations

We here on the blog, as you may have noticed, spend a lot of time trawling through the images on Flickr Commons, particularly the massive sets of public-domain book illustrations from the British Library Labs and the Internet Archive.  This is a fairly enjoyable pursuit most of the time, but over the past year we’ve found a few pictures that are… less delightful.

Here’s a collection of pictures that we’ve salted away; images that are weird or atmospheric or maybe even a little disturbing.  They probably won’t keep you awake at night…. but then again, they might…

***TRIGGER WARNING for clowns, spiders, sentient bagpipes, severed heads, people being eaten by trolls, and probably some other things too…***


Read on at your own risk…

From the Flaxman Low stories.  You can read another of those here!
A troll(?), from Skamtbilden och dess historia i konsten, 1910.
From the collection The World of Romance, published 1892.

In the story depicted in the above image, “A Terrible Night”, an unfortunate traveller in Ireland has an alarming experience in a house which “enjoyed the general reputation in the neighbourhood of being haunted, for ghosts and goblins are always sure to take a big house off a landlord’s hands when he can get no other tenant”.

Here’s a bogeyman you never realised you needed to worry about, as featured in The Young Pretenders, 1895.
Another sleeper has an unsettling visitation, in Idone: or Incidents in the Life of a Dreamer, by J. H. L. Archer, published in 1852.  We may be seeing more about Archer on the blog in due course.
Knock, knock… from The Book of Old Edinburgh, 1886.
A particularly horrifying French take on the jack-in-the-box: “le diable sortant d’une boite a surprise” comes from the 1902 Histoire des Jouets.
Cathy, is that you?  A scene from the 1894 novel The Haunted Station, which resembles a more famous one from Wuthering Heights…
A horrifying insect attack, from Shafts from an Eastern Quiver, 1894.
Bagpipers beware: this design for a “Spirit of the Pipes” comes from Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 1860.

The book’s explanation for the bizarre figure above is as follows:

Above the door of Dundarav, a ruined castle near Inverary, there used to be a figure playing a tune upon his nose, which suggested the above design of the Spirit of the Pipes.

The extremely picturesque Dunderave Castle is still standing, although the bagpiper seems to have been lost.  This photograph from the 1890s may show the place where this carving was located – perhaps the upright figure that’s still visible (although eroded) to the right side of the doorway was the inspiration for this picture?

An eerie depiction of “The Frost King”, from Rhymes and Jingles (1903)
A gruesome fate befalls a soldier in the 1887 memoir Incwadi Yami: or, Twenty Years’ Personal Experience in South Africa
A revolutionary gleefully displays his gruesome trophies in the 1898 book La fin d’un siecle sans Dieu
Finally, a horrific surprise awaits these grave-robbers in the 1866 serial Ivan the Terrible.

I have combed Ivan the Terrible (although in fairness, I drew the line at actually reading it from start to finish) and can’t even find the scene in which this takes place, let alone any good explanation for the presence of a horrifying clown in this coffin.  (Some of my friends have fervently attested that an actual zombie would be far preferable to this.)

If anyone wants to try shed some light on this mystery, the complete PDF for this (anonymous) work can be found here!

So, which of the above – if any – is the most shiver-inducing?  Let us know in the comments!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Spooky illustrations! Perfect to get one in the mood for All Hallows Eve! 🙂


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