Don’t have nightmares!

It’s that time of year again, when the supernatural starts to stir and everything gets a little bit spookier. To get you in the mood for some trick or treating, we’ve been down to the crypt and dug up some terrifyingly ghoulish items from the collections.

Let’s ease ourselves in with something that’s not too scary.

Count Duckula, toy, unknown maker, 1990 - 1991. Museumn no. B.94-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

As anyone who grew up in the 1990s will know, Count Duckula (the eponymous star of the classic Cosgrove Hall animation) may look scary, but he is in fact a vegetarian vampire.

However, you can’t think of vampires without also thinking of bats.

Vase, Emile Gallé, about 1904. Museum no. C.53-1992. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This fittingly orange and black vase was designed by French Art Nouveau artist Emile Gallé. In his words, the bat motif evokes:  “…the darkness of a night in the forest, the vague distress which takes unawares the walker who finds himself in the evening at the edge of the woods. There, strange lights hover in the darkness, the rustle, the whispering and mysterious activity of things which are unseen, but which watch, and go about their business in secret”.

Vampires and bats may be the stuff of nightmares, but it wouldn’t be Halloween without a coven of wicked witches.

Witches' Sabbath, oil painting, Frans Francken, 1606. Museum no. DYCE.3. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

This painting by Frans Francken titled Witches’ Sabbath features demons practicing magical rituals, a cauldron and two elegantly dressed ladies practicing evils spells with skulls, knives and a candle.

If witchcraft has got you in the mood for something a little spookier, this ghostly Punch and Judy puppet might provide a few scares.

Puppet, unknown maker, 1937. Museum no. S.537-2012. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

It is in fact the ghost of Judy, and if her skull head and ragged clothes weren’t frightening enough, the puppeteer could ramp up the terror by extending her bony neck.

Puppet, unknown maker, 1937. Museum no. S.537-2012. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Many people will be heading out to Halloween parties tonight, but if you are not a fan of elaborate costumes, this skeleton dress by Elsa Schiaparelli might provide some inspiration. Co-designed by master of Surrealism Salvador Dali, the Skeleton Dress was considered scandalous when it was made in 1938, due to its figure hugging cut and exaggerated anatomical details.

The Skeleton Dress, Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí, 1938. Museum no. T.394&A-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

And finally, we leave you with a truly terrifying tale from the Museum’s past. According to V&A legend, years ago a warder by the name of Clinch committed suicide in a basement room of the Museum. This has been known ever since as ‘Clinch’s Hole’, as is believed by some that Clinch’s ghost still haunts the room.

Happy Halloween! Don’t have nightmares…

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