Vintage Halloween Greetings Cards Are Surrealist Nightmares

You might be familiar with our ongoing series showcasing unsettling vintage Valentine cards. In a similar vein, Halloween enthusiasts of the past would send illustrated greetings cards to celebrate the spooky season. While you might expect these to feature creepy Halloween artwork – they often depict scenes with an unreal, surrealist aesthetic.

There are some familiar motifs in the cards of yesteryear, such as pumpkins, black cats and witches. However, there are anthropomorphic vegetables galore, and ominous faces in the sky that make these cards seem otherworldly and strange to modern viewers.

We are extremely in favour of resurrecting the tradition of sending greetings cards to celebrate All Hallows Eve. However we might rethink some of the more bizarre images seen on the original cards. The tradition began in the late 1800s USA, and peaked in popularity in the 1910s. In fact, they were almost as popular as the more widely known Christmas card all the way until the 1930s.

Now extremely popular with collectors of vintage Halloween wares, the best known printers were Well-known early postcard printers include Winsch and Raphael Tuck & Sons

Some of the folk origins of Halloween, including the legend of Stingy Jack can be seen on the illustrations. Owls also feature heavily – having since been overtaken by bat’s and spiders as the default animal mascot of the holiday.

Check out a selection of vintage Halloween greetings cards featuring pumpkin children, strange vehicles, anthropomorphic vegetables and more. Happy Halloween!

“Halloween” (Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd., 1908) (via Toronto Public Library)
Halloween postcard (1908) (via Huron County Museum/Flickr)
Via suburbanturmoil
A Merry Halloween via Missouri Historical Society
via Cooper Hewlett
The Halloween lantern car via Commons
via National Air & Space Museum
via Cultura Collectiva
Via Valerie Jackson Harris Collection 
A Halloween Pumpkin Hot Air Balloon, 1909 via copyright.
via PictureBoxBlue
Via New York Public Library
via Toronto Public Library
via Toronto Public Library
via Toronto Public Library
via Hagley
Shhh ghosts via Henry Ford
via Henry Ford
via Henry Ford
via NYPL