As soon as Fall rolls around in many households across North America, jack o’lanterns are carved, skeletons come out of the closet, and searches for horror movies commence in preparation of Halloween in October.
Many people love scary things – so much so, that these things are the inspiration for a lot of tattoos.
Halloween (and the more creepy parts of life) is its own genre in the tattoo world. From the simple and classic sheet ghost outline, to iconic aspects of horror movies (think Freddy Krueger’s claw in Nightmare On Elm Street).
There seems to be very distinct sides when it comes to horror movies – either you love them or you hate them. So, what does it say about you if you love horror movies and things that go bump in the night?
Logically speaking, people should hightail it away from things or situations that induce fear. But, there are a few physiological reasons why some are drawn to the horror genre.
“When we watch a horror movie, it stimulates the brain and the brain responds with the physical and emotional sensations we call fear. Believe it or not, for some people, this is a lot of fun,”Bustle
There is also a feeling of comfort that some people experience after watching a horror movie. Your brain calming itself down is a neuro-chemically pleasurable feeling, and getting through a risky experience unscathed can also make a person feel good.
With the scary season approaching, let’s take a look at some creepy and Halloween-inspired tattoo ideas for those who are looking for some scary, yet symbolic, ink inspiration.
Jack O’Lantern Tattoos
The jack o’lantern is a Halloween decoration staple that was brought to America with Irish immigrants. When the Irish decorated and carved jack o’lanterns in Ireland, turnips and potatoes were used – these veggies 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 which resulted in him not being allowed into heaven and the devil unable to claim his soul for hell.
The story goes that Stingy Jack had a drink with the devil, but when the time came to settle the bill, Jack didn’t want to pay. He convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin for the bill; instead of using this coin, Jack popped it in his pocket next to a silver cross so that the devil couldn’t turn back into his more intimidating form.
Jack did free the devil eventually, but only with the condition that he wouldn’t claim Jack’s soul.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t impressive to those in heaven, so when Jack died, unable to go either up or down, he remained on Earth.
“He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since,”History
Irish people made their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into vegetables, adding candles, and placing them around their houses to keep evil wandering spirits away.
A jack o’lantern tattoo can represent a love for the Halloween season or Irish folklore, or a representation of keeping stingy, unsavoury spirits like Jack away.
Skulls are a popular choice in the tattoo world, with these bones incorporated in many sleeve tattoo designs and ram skull tattoos being a representation of the Aries zodiac sign.
While a skull represents death and decay, Chronic Ink Tattoo points out that positive connotations are associated with skulls, too,
“For the most part, skulls represent some sort of positive aspect that comes from the negative. Because the human skull is the last part of the body to decay after death, it is known to represent consciousness, intellect, and our temporary stay in this physical world.”
There are a ton of variations that you can choose when it comes to a skull tattoo.
A skull and snake tattoo has interesting symbolism. While the skull represents death, a snake represents rebirth because of its ability to shed its skin. A tattoo design with these two elements can be a representation of the next phase after death.
A skull and flower tattoo can create a fascinating juxtaposition of death and hardness against life and softness. Flowers often symbolise the fleeting nature of life – one minute all your petals are blooming, and the next they’ve fallen away.
Roses are a popular choice of flower when it comes to floral tattoos. A rose with a skull in a tattoo design can mean lost love. A skull and flowers tattoo can be a reminder to 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 are a slight deviation from the macabre because of their bright colors. However, sugar skulls aren’t just trendy tattoo designs, they have deep cultural meaning and symbolism.
The Day of the Dead is a multi-day holiday celebrated 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 join their families again for a brief period.
While also seen as part of All Saints Day in Catholic tradition, the Day of the Dead has origins far older than the church, dating back to pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
A sugar skull tattoo (or Calavera) can represent a loved one that has passed.
“They also carry the meaning of rebirth into the next stage of life, which removes the sad and negative aspects of death. To these people, death is just a cessation of this life and the start of another one,”Saved Tattoo
For more about skull tattoos, click here.
Plague Doctor Tattoos
The bubonic plague was a scary time, and was probably made even more frightening with doctors walking around wearing plague masks.
The whole plague doctor getup included the mask with a long beak filled with herbs and perfume, goggles for eyes, and long robes. In the 17th century, it was thought that this getup would purify the air.
“During that period’s outbreaks of the bubonic plague – a pandemic that recurred in Europe for centuries – towns gripped by the disease hired plague doctors who practiced what passed for medicine on rich and poor residents alike. These physicians prescribed what were believed to be protective concoctions and plague antidotes, witnessed wills, and performed autopsies – and some did so while wearing beaked masks,”National Geographic
A plague doctor tattoo is a popular choice among those who learn towards Gothic tales and aesthetics.
This frightening mask tattoo can make an impact as a large, realistic tattoo sleeve done in grayscale.
Bats have been a theme in horror and gothic literature for many years, most notably for their imagined associations with vampires. This story was cemented in western culture in the 1800s with the release of one of the best-loved horror books ever written, Dracula by Bram Bram Stoker.
This story was further immortalized in films, in which the lead would spread his dark cape, leap into the night, and transform into a bat.
Bats, however, aren’t blood thirsty demons ready to cause mass hysteria. It’s only vampire bats that feed on blood (not human blood); they bite an animal and lap up some of its blood, sometimes remaining unnoticed by their prey.
Using echolocation (sounds that can’t be heard by the human ear), bats sense what’s in their environment. This ability has translated into a spiritual meaning, with bats representing the ability to sense what cannot be seen.
“Bats often represent death in the sense of letting go of the old, and bringing in the new. They are symbols of transition, of initiation, and the start of a new beginning,”Pure Spirit
Instead of the more popular flock of simple, black bird tattoos, another option for those who love horror and the nocturnal side of life could be a cloud of bats (yes, cloud is the collective noun for a group of bats). A small bat tattoo can be a great choice for the Dracula fan who wants a minimalistic inking 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. Kids and adults alike avoid this house because of the scary stories associated with it.
Movies such as The Conjuring, Amityville Horror, The Others, and the popular Netflix series, The Haunting Of Hill House, are just some examples of architecture gone awry.
When you think about a haunted house themed tattoo, you may not think of the homes in the above stories, but perhaps a Victorian style house with multiple stories, a graveyard acting as a garden, a leafless tree, and a full moon hanging above.
A haunted house tattoo gives the tattooee and tattooer the opportunity to get creative and dive into the finer details. So, be prepared to sit for a few sessions if you are keen on this Halloween tattoo.
Because of all the aspects of a detailed haunted house tattoo, you may want a larger surface area for the design. The thigh, forearm, and back are all options when it comes to larger tattoo placements.
Of course, you can go the mini tattoo route with a haunted house, too. There are tattoo artists that can take an extremely detailed design and scale it down to fit on a very small portion of skin. However, when it comes to fine line, delicate tattoos, they can fade quicker and become more blurred than traditional tattoos.
Read more about what you should know before getting a fine line tattoo here.
Black Cat Tattoos
Ever heard the rumor that if a black cat crosses your path, bad luck is on the way? This superstition could be partly due to the association black cats have with witchcraft, which was a hot topic in the Middle Ages.
Black cats are seen as the most popular choice when thinking about a witch’s familiar. A familiar is a household pet or companion that acts as a handy helper for spells and other witchy doings.
In the 16th century during the hysteria surrounding possible witches, trials of women would take into account any pets they may have, and if they were, infact, familiars gifted to them by the devil.
Not every culture had this negative view, though.
“In some Scandinavian countries, familiars were associated with spirits of the land and nature. Fairies, dwarves, and other elemental beings were believed to inhabit the physical bodies of animals,”Learn Religions
In shamanistic practices, the idea of a familiar wasn’t physical, but spiritual,
“It often travels astrally or serves as a magical guardian against those who might try to psychically attack the shaman.”
In neo-paganism traditions and Wicca, the practice of having a familiar is still alive and well, but it’s more about feeling a deep connection with a pet instead of believing it to have supernatural powers.
Now, black cats are also a symbol of Halloween.
A black cat tattoo can be a tribute to your own bond with your feline friend, or as a depiction of spirituality and introvertedness.
Black cat tattoos are often done in grayscale (monochromatic with shades of black ink), but there is opportunity to add color to the tattoo design through extra elements or in the cat’s eyes. Black cats often have green eyes, and jewel tones can stand out really well against the cat’s black coat.
As with any tattoo, think long and hard about the design you want to get and whether it’s something you’ll be happy with for years to come. Your favorite horror movie may change. Of course, there are no guarantees that you’ll love your tat forever, but doing your research and taking your time to be as sure as you can be of your design can make all the difference.
For 10 essential points to consider before getting a tattoo, click here.