With Halloween just around the corner, it's time to dig through your closet or visit your nearest costume shop to get your outfit together. Need some inspiration? Before you reach for the same Lara Croft costume from last year, take a look at these options. Literary Halloween costumes come in all shapes and sizes, so if you're looking for something truly scare-inducing this year, it might be time to open a book. Whether you want to find a creepy new twist or go with a tried-and-tested character, there's a costume for you.
And they're not just for bookworms. Although you may not think intellectual costumes are for everyone, you'd be surprised how many recognizable costumes derive from literature. Your favorites werewolves and vampires, witches and monsters, often come straight off the page. Novels, short stories, fairytales, and mythology are all filled with the monstrous and demonic, so there's plenty to choose from.
They make perfect costumes for English majors, who will want to get every detail right (from the book, not the movie, obviously) or anyone who wants to show off their literary prowess. You might not get the most candy on Halloween, but you will hopefully get the most screams.
One of the most popular Halloween monsters has to be Frankenstein's creation - and it's a literary reference everyone is soon to get immediately. But forget the green face paint: in the book, Shelly actually describes him with "yellow skin scarcely cover[ing] the work of muscles and arteries beneath;" with black, flowing hair; very white teeth; and watery eyes. Completely disgusting, but easily achieved with a wig and some careful body art.
Oh, and don't forget the "straight black lips" achieved with some trendy black lipstick and a total lack of happiness. But remember, the monster is so ugly it's "a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived" so if you're looking for a sexy Halloween costume, this is not for you.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown
Granted, It is a shape-shifter in Stephen King's horrifying book of the same name, able to take the form of whatever children fear. But its form as Pennywise is the most well-known - and the most terrifying. Described as having a "white" face, with "funny tufts of red hair on either side of his bald head" and "a big clown-smile painted over his mouth," it's an easy costume to do. Plus, clowns are just really scary in their own right. Try adding a bunch of balloons, which appears in the book. And if you can shape-shift into spiders and all things horrific, that's a plus.
The Sand Man
The titular character from the 1816 German short story is an easy costume with a high creepy factor. Coppelius, or the Sand Man, throws sand into children's eyes until they bleed and fall out, before taking them home and feeding them to his own children. Although he's described as generally "hideous and repulsive" what is most distinctive about him are "his coarse brown hairy fists."
But what's most important is his fascination with all things ocular. Muttering "pretty eyes, pretty eyes" and carrying a pouch of fake eyeballs should do the trick.
The world's most famous vampire gets a lot of admirers on Halloween, but not all of them do the literary Dracula justice. Although film portrayals of Dracula get some things right, they often miss out on the "long white moustache." He does, however, come "clad in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour about him anywhere".
You probably can't do anything to get the "thin nose" and arched nostrils, but the eyebrows, described as "massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion," can be drawn on fairly easy. And the distinctive sharp, white teeth are available at every costume shop.
The minotaur in Greek mythology is part man and part bull, which is creepy enough. But considering it exists because of the unholy union of man and beast, and it feeds on humans, it's definitely a monster worthy of Halloween. The minotaur appears in Ovid's Ars Amatoria and many other works, perhaps most famously as having been slain by Theseus.
Luckily, he's normally described with the head of a bull and a body of a man, so a mask and a bare chest should do the trick. If you're feeling fancy, you can even include the tail.
One of the three Gorgon sisters of Greek mythology, Medusa is described in some versions as hideous, but other authors emphasize that she once had a beautiful face to contrast it with her later less beautiful and more terrifying features. In 490 BC, Pindar describes her as "fair-cheeked Medusa," and Ovid said no one "did trace more moving features in a sweeter face".
But of course, Medusa's distinctive feature is her head (which is eventually cut off by Perseus, as the myth goes) and her hair made of snakes. Oh, and her face can turn people to stone. Some creative ponytail or braid work, or maybe even a wig and some toy snakes, should help you with this one.
Voldemort and Professor Quirrell
There are a lot of creatures from the Harry Potter universe scary enough for Halloween, but unless you have a professional makeup team on your hands, the basilisk or Fluffy the three-headed dog are going to be pretty difficult to pull off. But disembodied, evil Lord Voldemort living as Professor Quirrell is doable, and scary enough to qualify as monstrous.
The easy version is just wearing Quirrell's signature turban, with everyone knowing what's under there. Feeling more ambitious? Use a bald head or a mask to capture Voldemort's face: "chalk white with glaring red eyes and slits for nostrils, like a snake," on the back of your head.
Any of Macbeth's three witches will make for a terrifying Halloween costume. Witch paraphernalia is available at every costume shop - just remember that Banquo comments that they are "so wither'd and so wild in their attire/That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth," so there's a lot of room to go as scraggly as you like. You can get the wrinkly finger and "skinny lips" look with a bit of makeup.
The best part? You can include the weird props and mutter goose-bump-worthy lines like "Here I have a pilot's thumb/Wreck'd as homeward he did come," just to add some extra witchy-ness.