10 terrifying costume ideas for Halloween

Spooky cultural heritage to inspire you

Imogen Greenhalgh (Europeana Foundation)

If you're planning to mark All Hallows Eve, or Halloween as it's now known, by dressing up, why not leave the witch's hat and bed sheets in the costume cupboard and use some of Europeana's spookier collection items to inspire you instead?

A boy appearing to two girls as a ghost, Wellcome Library, CC BY

There's all sorts of monstrous creatures in Europeana, but below, we've chosen some of our favourites. Do share your cultural heritage inspired creations with us on our Facebook! The scarier the better...

The "Peruvian harpy": a harpy with two tails, Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0 The Peruvian Harpy, Wellcome Library, CC BY

This particular outfit will suit those with long hair and big ears. Differentiate yourself from the average mermaid with your second, scaly tail.

Barrel_Rijks_x500 The Games and Wine Devil, Rijksmuseum, public domain

This one's relatively straightforward to create if you happen to own a wine cellar. Note the intricate headpiece made from vines and playing cards.

Two monsters, Wellcome Library, CC BY

You can credit the vivid imagination of Italian engraver Giovanni Battista de'Cavalieri (1526–1597) for these bizarre characters. Seven heads and seven eyes, or a long snaking neck - neither of these will be easy, but you're sure to stand out from the crowd.

Interbreeding of the theatre Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk A monster representing the state of the theatre through the interbreeding of tragedy, comedy, and pantomime. CC BY 4.0 Interbreeding of theatre, Wellcome Library CC BY

This particular monster will appeal to actors and playwrights especially. The three heads represent tragedy, comedy and pantomime so you might need a couple of friends.

Greenmonster_Lyon_1_x500 Praying man attacked by a demon, Lyon Municipal Library, public domain

Creep up on your unsuspecting friends dressed like this green demon and you'll be sure to give them a fright! Demons were considered particularly frightening in the Medieval era, hidden from sight but ready to spring out and lead you into temptation.

Strangling_Rijks_x500 A soul in hell is bitten by a demon, Rijksmuseum, public domain

This scary creature has sharp fangs and pointy wings. Best accessorized with a head to feast on.

Aristocracy_BnF_600x A monster with three heads, National Library of France, public domain

This rather ambitious option will please fans of French history. The monster's heads represent the Three Estates (the clergy, nobility and common people).

Tentation_Lyon_600x The Temptation, Municipal Library of Lyon, public domain

Lots of choice here. The mysterious figure on the right is probably the most sinister, and only really requires a long pointed nose and a dinner jacket.

KM12613_600x St Micheal and the demon, KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA

This beast is sort of sweet, and has a coat in different shades of red, yellow and green. A long black tongue and deranged expression makes him suitable for spooking.

Female and male specimens, Rijksmuseum, public domain

Another one with a variety of options to pick from... Some might make you a little unpopular!

Happy Halloween!

halloween monsters