The world of non-sports cards is fascinating because the breadth of subjects that can be represented on cardboard is never-ending. Sets featuring movies, music, television shows and superheroes are popular themes that have been revisited many times over the decades, but there are others that are, let’s say, a bit more gritty. Some of the resulting cards can be rather disturbing. It is especially so with vintage material that was produced at a time when the definition of acceptability was much looser than it is today.
Rather than following society’s lead by posting some sort of pumpkin-spiced trading card theme this Halloween season, let’s take a look at some really creepy cards instead!
While I have nothing against primates, snakes give me the creeps. Giant man-eating snakes are even worse, and when they are battling gorillas that can knock over buildings… You get the point. The 1976 Topps King Kong set features action-packed illustrations of the legendary ape, but card #3 is one whose image might just keep you up at night.
This entire set is loaded with cringe-worthy cards, but card #36 is something unto its own. The idea of alien attack is common enough. Heck, small towns in New Mexico earn their livelihood by selling Area 51 tchotchkes. This card takes things a few steps further. The alien is one thing, but zapping the defenseless dog? And take a look at the look on the boy’s face. If he is lucky enough to escape the alien death ray himself, then he is destined for a lifetime of therapy to overcome this ugly scene.
Unlike our first two entries, this set deals with a theme that was all too real in the 1940s and 1950s. The American war against communism was a subject of concern for all age groups. The Ghost City card features the haunting image of a city in ruins after an atom bomb attack. While the overall message on the card back is one of peace, strength and solidarity among our countrymen, all cards in the set display the words “Children’s Crusade Against Communism,” as well as a white star (representing democracy) and a red star (denoting Communism). The idea that such messages were packaged with bubble gum and sold to children is a fascinating glimpse into daily life during the era. And, well, the ghastly face looming over the desolate cityscape is definitely creepy.
Like the 1938 Horrors of War issue, Topps Battle is loaded with shocking scenes of wartime atrocities. Card #21 makes the Creepy Card list due to it’s non-human nature and graphic image that features a wounded soldier being saved from the bite of a vicious snake by the last-second heroics of his fellow soldier. In a set that portrays death on nearly ever card, this one has great squirm-factor and registers highly on the creep-o-meter.
1991 Pro Set Super Stars Musicards – Information Society
We all have our own definition of creepy, and this one checks the boxes for me. The hats, the work gloves, the hair, the roller skates… And what is that hand gesture? Unlike the monsters and wartime depictions above, this one gives me the willies mainly because I lived through a time when this may have been considered cool. What does that say about me and my contemporaries? I shudder to think…