Sporting mascots have all the usual characteristics you might find in cute, kid-friendly designs. They often have large plush heads, big eyes and animal like features. However, sometimes these features morph together to create something that is truly terrifying. First becoming popular at collage sports games, mascots as we recognise them today gained wider popularity in the 1960s. Some feature iconic designs that form important parts of their team’s history – including The Toronto Raptors dino-raptor, who will no doubt be roaring with fans at the Spectrum Center Charlotte when the team face the Charlotte Hornets. Others are quickly pulled or fade into obscurity due to the design team producing something that haunted the nightmares of fans.
Here’s our look at some of the freakiest, creepiest sports mascots ever to haunt stadiums around the world.
Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty
Imagine a tribble sized up by a hundred and growing an enormous pair of wide, unblinking eyes. That’s Gritty, the unnerving Philadelphia Flyers mascot. He’s a monster of some kind, and the team were clearly going for a goofy design – but the wide eyes, flopping tongue and eerie smile make him look like he escaped from the laboratory of a crazed scientist.
Matilda: Commonwealth Games, 1982
Size is everything with mascots, and we’re not sure what the designers of this Commonwealth Games mascot was thinking. The 1982 games were held in Brisbane, Australia – so we understand the thinking behind having a kangaroo centre stage. Kangaroos are fairly large, but this one that towered over athletes is definatly overkill. The beast was 13 metres tall and six tonnes, it could turn its head, move its ears, and the eyes could wink and blink. It was possible to go inside the sculpture, though we have no idea who would want to.
Illinois Valley Central High School Grey Ghosts
The origin of the name Grey Ghosts is disputed – sometimes attributed to the sight of smoke rising from railroad tracks, sometimes to the sight of the players uniforms on foggy pitches. However the name started, the team embraced it and made their mascot this spooky ghost character. As ghosts go, he’s pretty cartoonish – but we imagine he’s still an eerie sight gliding across foggy pitches.
Schneemann: Winter Olympics, 1976
Tyrolean snowman Schneemann looked ok on paper. The friendly character who’s name means snowman in German took a turn to the dark side when his design was translated into a 3D costume, the Olympics commissioned several of the horrors and put them on skis. Cartoon proportions did not translate well here, with the snowmen sporting giant feet, tiny heads, sinister grins and long pointy noses. In fact, they look like they belong in a haunted Christmas grotto – not helped by the black and white photographs which are most the most common surviving records of the Schneemann.
Boltman: San Diego Chargers
A superhero style character themed around electricity sounds great. However, it becomes a lesson in giving kids nightmares when given a human-like face that falls straight into the uncanny valley. Who decided that what this mascot’s mask needed was realistic teeth!? Controversy around ownership of the character has circulated for years, and as such he hasn’t been seen in costume frequently. We can’t help thinking that spectators are probably very happy about that fact.
New Orleans Pelicans’ King Cake Baby
Babies are scary. They make strange noises, spew bizarre liquids and crawl around the floor; there’s a reason demon kids are a fixture in horror movies. Imagine a scary, angry looking infant made adult sized. The grotesque creation has staring blue eyes and an expression that says “I am going to devour your souls”. The designer of this one is clearly proud of the monstrous mascot, as they criticised horror studios Blumehouse for the supposed resemblance to the killer from the ‘Happy Death Day franchise. Here’s a hint; if you think your family friendly mascot looks like the mask worn by a horror film slasher – you might want to rethink the design.
What sporting mascots do you think are the scariest? Did any mascots give you nightmares as a kid? Are any particularly scary ones you hope to see when you get your Spectrum Center tickets?