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A haunted home: Vintage Halloween decor and where to find it
Vintage Halloween decor runs the gamut from traditional kitsch to gothic elegance. Photo: Beyzaa Yurtkuran/Pexels

A haunted home: Vintage Halloween decor and where to find it


Whether you love the look of antique gothic collectibles or traditional pumpkin kitsch, our guide to vintage Halloween decorations will get you into the spirit of the season

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As the leaves begin to turn and a slight chill swirls through the air, there are those who reach for a pumpkin-spiced coffee, those who dim the lights for a campy slasher flick, and those of us whose spines tingle with the permission to showcase our spooky vintage wares.

Whether they’re items with manufactured hues of orange and black, or the truly terrifying pieces that come with an authentically haunting backstory, here’s how vintage Halloween decorations lend the spirit of the season to your home.

Classic seasonal collectibles

What’s Halloween without a jack-o'-lantern?

To bring the spiritual Samhain observances into the secular mainstream, many North American homes translated the carving of turnips into the more readily available native alternative: pumpkins.

While the organic versions seem to have withstood the test of (relatively recent) time, reusable iterations of pumpkins serve a fun glimpse into the ever-changing popular aesthetic of the season.

Some aspects of the traditional Halloween representation remain consistent — orange pumpkins, black cats — but the stylistic depictions vary enough to reveal a clear decade in which they were produced, as does their market value today.

Better than alchemy, if you happen to have a Depression-era paper mâché pumpkin, it might be worth more than you expect.

For those who prefer the pumpkins of the mid-century and later, Halloween blow moulds are a sturdier collectible and less precious than their paper counterparts.

With blow moulds still in production, even those that are from several decades past can easily be updated with modern electrical kits, allowing for a simple lightbulb-to-outlet hookup and extending their use for as long as a user might like.

In addition to setting your porch alight with witches and candles and cats, blow mould shapes can also be found as candy collecting containers or other small pieces of decor.

Where to find vintage paper mâché pumpkins

Shop: The Vintage Crate

Item: Vintage Paper Mâché Choir Face Pumpkin Bucket
Photo: The Vintage Crate/Etsy

Shop: Right Brain Left Wing

Item: Vintage Paper Mâché Pumpkin
Photo: Right Brain Left Wing/Etsy

Where to find vintage Halloween blow moulds

Shop: RetroCite

Item: Vintage Pumpkin Blow Mould Bucket for Candy
Photo: RetroCite/Etsy

Shop: SeaGreenVintage

Item: Vintage Empire Halloween Ghost with Jack-o'-Lantern Blow Mould
Photo: SeaGreenVintage/Etsy

Eerie ephemera  

Considering the traditions of generations past, Halloween celebrations included toys for making merry (or making scary?) like noisemakers, activity cards and party favours.

At the turn of the 20th century, regular correspondence via postcard was beginning to become the norm.

Postcards were both a common souvenir from regional travels and seasonal greetings mailed out in the form of quirky lithograph-printed paper to mark the occasion, including for Halloween.

For decades prior to the availability of box-store seasonal decor, crepe paper and cardboard cutouts were a classic expectation at home Halloween parties.

Perhaps the most common collectibles of Halloween ephemera are the various shapes and classic character die-cuts of the 20th century. These range from the traditional 2D colourful hanging pieces into more elaborate versions that include joint structures for mobility or 3D honeycomb crepe paper pop-outs.

Where to find vintage Halloween postcards

Shop: Ordinary Artifacts

Item: 1909 All Halloween Greetings Antique Postcard
Photo: Ordinary Artifacts/Etsy

Shop: Ordinary Artifacts

Item: 1913 Your Halloween Fortune Antique Postcard
Photo: Ordinary Artifacts/Etsy

Where to find vintage Halloween character die cuts

Shop: Three Parrots Curated Vintage

Item: Halloween Owl Cardboard Die-Cut

Photo: Three Parrots/Etsy

Shop: Three Parrots Curated Vintage

Item: Vintage Black Cat Cardboard Die-Cut
Photo: Three Parrots/Etsy

Find vintage Halloween decor at a local market

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Inspired by literature

Many are familiar with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, an 1820 short story by Washington Irving, in which a “headless horseman” balances a jack-o'-lantern in place of his head.

Paintings and sketches of the 19th century that illustrate the spooky story serve to demonstrate that a truly terrifying tale transcends generations, technology and other such change.

Where to find vintage Sleepy Hollow items

Shop: VintageRetroArtwork

Item: 1960 MAD Magazine Halloween Issue with Headless Horseman
Photo: VintageRetroArtwork/Etsy

Shop: LesTroisJ

Item: 1896 Edition of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Antique Book

Haunted treasures

Those looking to embrace the eerie aesthetic of the supernatural and scary but lacking holiday collectibles can lean into the spirit of the season by highlighting items that might have once been at home among festive or unearthly delights.

For the imaginative buyer or seller, it does not take much to spin a yarn about a haunting backstory of a vintage piece, particularly those that naturally lend themselves to the unsettling aesthetic.

With a recitation of the superstitions and folklore surrounding the selling and sharing of secondhand mirrors, anyone can easily transform their home into a classic haunted house with a foxed glass mirror, its silvering misting away through time or magic.

Whether for holding a potion on a witch’s altar or simply as a vessel for your gin and tonic, black amethyst glass carries a special magic unto itself. Wave a piece of glassware in front of a lit candle (or any nearby lightbulb) to reveal the pleasing purple hues through its opaque structure — no wizardry required.

Tintypes, sepia photos and gothic paintings offer a mysterious or macabre presentation to a display that can make the viewer see their surroundings as haunting and beautiful.

Where to find vintage macabre decor

Shop: Eclecticpelican

Item: Antique Oval Mirror with Mercury Glass
Photo: Eclecticpelican/Etsy

Shop: Eclecticpelican

Item: Antique Paper Mâché Crow
Photo: Eclecticpelican/Etsy

Shop: Chasing White Buffalo

Item: Vintage Black Amethyst Glass Bowl
Photo: Chasing White Buffalo/Etsy

Shop: Townshends Emporium

Item: 1800s Antique Tintype Photograph
Photo: Townshends Emporium/Etsy

Trick or treat

If you’re not being picky about the age of true antiques, a quality reproduction that offers the same creepy appearance might still be well within the limits of vintage.

Pieces made in Germany or those that sport the stamp of the Beistle Company are good signs of the real deal.

Forms made from composite or paper mâché also point to a production of the previous century.

That being said, to the right buyer, a Jason Voorhees mask from the ’80s could be more enticingly macabre than a witch’s broom from the 1930s. Totally retro Halloween die cuts from the ’90s can offer as much of a fun aesthetic as those from the 1890s, depending on the vibe in question.

If ever there was a time to neglect to polish a dusty item or perhaps leave a cobweb undisturbed, it is October.

Whether you embrace the traditional, the kitschy, or the truly bewitched, be sure to take advantage of the spooky spirit of the season with your vintage items.

Krista Montelpare is a freelance writer based in Nova Scotia and the founder of vintage shop Cellary.

A fresh take on all things old.
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