Originally Published: October 13, 2017 6:01 a.m.
Films, TV shows and stories, including the current hits “It” and “American Horror Story,” have long imagined a dark side to circuses and side shows. No surprise then that they’re a theme for Halloween decorations.
Vintage imagery of clowns, beasts, scary rides and carnival denizens provide inspiration for seasonal home decor and parties.
Grandin Road, for instance, has a circus tent-style tiered serving dish for treats. A painted resin elephant balances expertly on a stand, a candleholder perched on his back. Vintage-style signs offer palm reading and directions to scary attractions. And there’s a black and white print of a turn-of-the-century fire breather to hang on the wall. (www.grandinroad.com )
Vintage circus and funhouse posters are colorful and eye-catching, and you’ll find a variety of them on Etsy.com. For example: Chicago artist Terry Hoffman’s studio, Parachute 425, offers a gothic art “Freak Show” poster in a palette of carnival hues. (www.etsy.com/shop/parachute425 )
Reproductions of early circus posters with roaring tigers and grinning clowns can be found at www.ringlingonlinestore.com. The designs come from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus archives.
EtsyStudio has vintage circus images you can download and affix to party favors or invitations. (www.etsystudio.com )
At Party City, there’s a carnival sign for the yard inviting visitors to “Step Right Up.” A 12-piece, creepy carnival kit comes with double-sided cardboard images of evil clowns, scary games and sideshow posters. Create a spooky circus tent by wrapping a party room with a 40-foot-long roll of fake-blood-spattered, red-striped plastic. (www.partycity.com )
Or set up a sideshow photo booth under Oriental Trading’s 6-foot-tall Big Top Terror standup display. Vintage-style posters with face cutouts would be fun props for a photo booth; guests can be Crabman, Ringmaster, Strongman, Trapeze Artist or Bearded Lady. (www.orientaltrading.com )
Spirit Halloween has a slightly alarming number of scary clowns from which to choose, including a life-size, animatronic one modeled after the fearsome Pennywise of Stephen King’s horror novel (and recent movie) “It.” (www.spirithalloween.com )
Themed snack bowls, napkins, masks, party games and other props can be ordered from www.darksidedisplays.com .
If you’re ready to take charge of your circus-themed Halloween party, consider outfitting yourself as a ringmaster. An Arizona studio, Cupcake’s Cottage, offers an array of colorful, satin-trimmed men’s jackets. (www.etsy.com/shop/CupcakesCottage )
And for women, Kirsteen Wythe, a costume designer in Norwich, England, hand-crafts sumptuously detailed red and blue velvet corsets embellished with gold detailing. (www.etsy.com/shop/KirsteenWythe )