Circuses have always been places that effortlessly blend surreal wonder with the pure nightmare-scapes lurking in the back of every child’s subconscious. Nothing underscores this point more than old-fashioned circus photos. Not only was there a special kind of neglect for personal safety that existed prior to the 1960s, but as you’ll see in these creepy old photos of circuses, people had a thing for oversized papier-mâché heads. Maybe people thought exaggerated melons were hilarious, or maybe everyone was simply into scaring the muffins out of everyone they met with a four-foot-tall grimace.
Creepy circus pictures give people a glimpse into a world where there was still a sense of mystery of what went on in the dregs of the entertainment industry, before there were reality shows that followed sword-eaters, and polite freak shows traveling the country. These unnerving photos captured people who were living a lifestyle for which they were equally mocked and lauded, depending on the day.
Obviously, some of the most creepy characters that you’ll come across on your journey through these vintage circus photos are clowns, who somehow manage to invade the background of every one of these photos. Are they jumping from picture to picture in order to follow you IRL? Probably. But it’s not just the clowns that you have to look forward to - the unethical treatment of animals and children will definitely give you a case of the heebie jeebies. So step right up and have your ticket ready for these creepy circus photos from the past.
Don't Turn AroundPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
Grotesque Doesn't Even Begin to Describe These Clowns
How Did They Ever Get Him to Leave His Tent?Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare FuelPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
The Family That Dresses Up Like Goofy Devils Together Stays Together
When the President's Fitness Test Goes WrongPhoto: Public Domain / via Wikimedia