As autumn hits homes across North America, jack-o-lanterns are being carved, skeletons are being taken out of closets, and horror movie searches begin in preparation for Halloween in October. Lots of people love scary things – so much so that these things are the inspiration for many tattoos. Halloween (and the creepier parts of life) is a genre of its own in the tattoo world. From the simple and classic leaf ghost outline to iconic aspects of horror movies (think Freddy Krueger’s Claw in Nightmare On Elm Street). There seem to be very different sides to horror movies – either you love them or you hate them. What does it say about you if you love horror movies and things that rumble in the night?
Logically, people should stay away from things or situations that cause fear. But there are a couple of physiological reasons some might be drawn to the horror genre. There is also a sense of comfort that some people experience after watching a horror movie. Calming your brain is a neurochemically pleasurable feeling, and a person can feel good too when they get through a risky experience unscathed.
As the scary season approaches, let’s take a look at some spooky and Halloween-inspired tattoo ideas for those looking for creepy but symbolic ink inspiration.
Jack O’Lantern Tattoos
The Jack O’Lantern is a Halloween staple that was brought to America with Irish immigrants. When the Irish used decorated and carved jack-o-lanterns in Ireland, beets and potatoes were used – these vegetables were replaced by the pumpkin when America adopted this tradition. The name Jack o’lantern is actually a shortened version of Jack of the Lantern, a man who tricked the devil, an action that resulted in him not being allowed to go to heaven and the devil not claiming his soul for hell could.
He convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin for the bill; Instead of using this coin, Jack put it in his pocket next to a silver cross so that the devil would not revert to his more intimidating form. Jack eventually freed the devil, but only on the condition that he didn’t claim Jack’s soul.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t impressive to those in heaven. When Jack died he could not go up or down and stayed on the ground.
The Irish made their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving creepy faces in vegetables, adding candles, and placing them in their homes to keep evil wandering spirits away. A jack-o’-lantern tattoo can represent a love for the Halloween season or Irish folklore, or an illustration to keep stingy, unsavory ghosts like Jack away.
Skulls are a popular choice in the tattoo world, with these bones incorporated into many sleeve tattoo designs and Aries skull tattoos depicting the Aries zodiac sign . While a skull represents death and decay, Chronic Ink Tattoo suggests that skulls have positive connotations as well.
There are a multitude of variations that you can choose from with a skull tattoo.While the skull represents death, a snake stands for rebirth because it can shed its skin. A tattoo design with these two elements can be a representation of the next stage after death. Flowers often symbolize the volatility of life – one minute all of your petals are blooming and the next they have fallen off; a rose with a skull in a tattoo design can mean lost love. A skull flower tattoo can remind the wearer that life is short so you must appreciate the beauty of it while you can.
Another option is a sugar skull tattoo. These designs deviate slightly from the macabre due to their bright colors. However, sugar skulls are not just trendy tattoo designs, they have deep cultural meaning and symbolism. Day of the Dead is a multi-day holiday in Mexico that begins on Halloween and celebrates life and death. During this celebration, the gates of heaven are opened and the spirits of loved ones can rejoin their families for a short time. Although the day of the dead is also seen as part of All Saints’ Day in Catholic tradition, it has much older origins than the Church and goes back to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
A sugar skull tattoo (or calavera) can represent a deceased loved one.
Plague Doctor Tattoos
The bubonic plague was a scary time and probably got even more scary when doctors walked around wearing plague masks. The whole plague doctor outfit included the mask with a long beak filled with herbs and perfume, protective goggles for the eyes and a long cloak. In the 17th century it was thought that this presentation would purify the air.
A plague doctor tattoo is a popular choice among those familiar with Gothic stories and aesthetics.
This terrifying mask tattoo can act as a large, realistic tattoo sleeve in grayscale.
Bats have been a topic in horror and gothic literature for many years, mainly because of their imaginary associations with vampires. That story was pinned into Western culture in the 19th century with the publication of one of the most popular horror books of all time, Dracula by Bram Bram Stoker. This story was further immortalized in films in which the main character spread his dark cloak, jumped into the night and transformed into a bat.
Bats, however, are not bloodthirsty demons ready to cause mass hysteria. Only vampire bats feed on blood (not human blood); they bite an animal and lick some of its blood, sometimes going unnoticed by their prey. With the help of echolocation (sounds that the human ear cannot hear), bats sense what is in their environment. This ability has translated into a spiritual meaning, with bats representing the ability to sense what cannot be seen.
Instead of the more popular swarm of simple, black bird tattoos, another option for those who love horror and the nocturnal side of life might be a cloud of bats (yes, cloud is the catchphrase for a group of Bats). A small bat tattoo can be a great choice for the Dracula fan who wants a minimalist ink on the wrist, finger, or behind the ear.
Haunted House Tattoos
So many horror stories include a creepy house as one of the main features. Children and adults alike avoid this house because of the creepy stories that come with it.
When you think of a haunted house tattoo, you might not think of the houses in the stories above, but perhaps a multi-story Victorian house, a graveyard that doubles as a garden, a leafless tree with a full moon hanging over it. A haunted house tattoo gives the tattoo artist and tattoo artist the opportunity to get creative and delve into the finer details. So be ready to sit down for a few sessions if you’re interested in this Halloween tattoo.
Because of all aspects of a detailed haunted house tattoo, you may want a larger surface area for the design. Of course, you can also go the mini tattoo route with a haunted house. There are tattoo artists who can take an extremely detailed design and shrink it down to fit a very small part of the skin. However, when it comes to fine lines and delicate tattoos, they can fade and blur faster than traditional tattoos.
Black Cat Tattoos
Ever heard the rumor that bad luck is on the way when a black cat crosses your path? This superstition may be due in part to black cats’ association with witchcraft, which was a hot topic in the Middle Ages.
Black cats are considered the most popular choice when thinking of familiar witches. A confidante is a pet or companion who acts as a handy helper with spells and other witchcraft. In the sixteenth century, during the witch hysteria, trials against women took into account any domestic animal they could have, even if it was actually a confidante given by the devil. However, not every culture had this negative view.
In Neo-Pagan traditions and in Wicca, the practice of having a confidante is still alive and well, but it is more about feeling a deep connection with a pet, rather than to believe that it has supernatural powers.
Black cats are now a symbol of Halloween too. A black cat tattoo can be a tribute to your own bond with your feline friend or as a representation of spirituality and introversion. Black cat tattoos are often done in grayscale (monochromatic with shades of black ink), but there is an option to add color to the tattoo design through additional elements or in the cat’s eyes. Black cats often have green eyes, and jewel tones can really stand out against the cat’s black fur.
As with any tattoo, you should think twice about which design you want and whether you will be satisfied with it for years. Your favorite horror movie may change. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will love your tattoo forever, but your research and time to be as confident as possible about your design can make all the difference.