It is amazing that some of the scariest masks are part of real history. Knowing the dark story behind each mask brings us back to the grim and haunting facts that surround each one.
Mickey Mouse Gas Mask
Designed during the WW2, the Mickey Mouse gas mask was produced by the Sun Rubber Company to protect children and civilians from chemical warfare. Out of the need to reduce the fear of wearing gas masks, T.W. Smith Jr. and Dietrich Rempel presented the design to Major General William N. Porter of the Chemical Warfare Service. It was later approved and it even got the thumbs up from Walt Disney himself. Only 1,000 units of this eerie-looking mask with dead-blank eyes of these masks were produced. It is now a rare and collectible item which could cost a collector over $2,000 just to own one.
Before sunblock was a regular thing, noblewomen of the 16th to 17th century wore visards. These were masks made of cardboard with soft lining. The earlier version of this mask was normally covered in black velvet on the outside and pig skin or sild on the inside. It has holes for the eyes and the nose, and a slit for the mouth. Commonly worn during travel to protect a woman’s face against the sun, it was not unusual to see women riding carriages with covered faces as if they were off to a Halloween masquerade. The wearer of the visard had to bite a button to keep the mask in place.
Beauty Masks of the Past
Because the achieving the social ideals of beauty have always been and will always be a profitable venture, various masks were also invented to cater to this need.
This device was invented by Max Factor in 1930 to help makeup artists determine where to correctly apply the makeup.
This mask may make you look like a fish mascot, but this was actually a skin stimulator back in the 1940s. Powered by electricity, it heats up the head and the face to aid in blood circulation to keep the skin looking fresh.
These women from the 1920s wore rubber masks to get rid of wrinkles.
Scold’s Bridle or Branks Mask
The Scold’s Bridle also known as the Branks Mask was used since the 16th and 17th in Scotland, Germany and England as a form of punishment through tortuous public humiliation for nagging and transgressing women.
This is an actual reference to the saying “hold your tongue.” The branks, which was generally made of metal, has a feature that is placed on the tongue of the woman to restrain speech. Some have spikes, blades, and multiple studs to inflict further punishment. To make it more humiliating, some masks were fashioned with donkey’s ears or a pig snout.
Dirt Eater Mask
The dirt eater mask was a symbol of one historical barbaric practice among some people who owned African slaves during 17th and 18th century in the North America. To “protect their property,” slave owners require their laborers to wear these masks to prevent them from consuming soil. This dirt eating practice was also widespread among Negroes from West Africa. Aside from cultural reasons, slaves were known to eat soil for various reasons including, suicide, mental illness, hunger, or gold theft. Another reason for outfitting masks on slaves was to prevent them from eating the crops. This dirt eating practice is called geophagy.
Worn by soldiers or tank crews for the purpose of protection against lead paint fragments inside a war tank while under fire, the Splatter Mask was an essential part of the soldiers’ gears during World Wars I and II. The secondary function of this mask was to help protect a soldier’s face from shrapnel while peeking through the view port. The mask was made of leather. The eye areas were made of metal. Chainmail was used as a skirt to protect the mouth and chin of the wearer. Introduced in 1917, authentic splatter masks are now among the rare collectible items.
Plague Doctor’s Mask
The plague doctor’s mask was probably the most terrifying symbol of the 1600s. A mask was designed by Charles de l’Orme, a doctor of the famous Medici family in Italy, to protect him from infection when visiting infirmed individuals during era of the bubonic plague. Soon after, many doctors all over Europe adopted this medical costume. Plague doctors were sighted walking the streets of Europe either heading towards a patient or were making themselves available to families in need of medical service. This mask was originally made of leather. The eye holes were covered with glass domes while the beak shaped area of the mask held aromatic herbs and fragrant substances to overpower the plague odorsvia my-globe.net
via wissen-im-museum.de Plague Doctor’s Mask from around 1700. German Museum of Medical History in Ingolstadt.
The calico hood was a used a torture device. This type of head gear was worn by prisoners of the Melbourne Gaol who were under solitary confinement. The Pentonville system of reform used the calico hoods to prevent any form of interaction among inmates. Prisoners who were convicted of heinous crimes such as murder, burglary, arson, shooting, and rape were forbidden to interact with others for 23 hours in a day. Melbourne Gaol was considered as one of the most notorious prisons on Australia. The prison was in operation from 1842 and 1929. The place is now a museum and a tourist attraction.
Alexander Peden Mask
This mask belonged to a field preacher and minister named Alexander Peden of Scotland. The Restoration of Charles II marked the beginning of the persecution of ministers. Peden had to wear this mask while traveling to keep him unrecognizable by the soldiers. He continued to preach in the fields and was never ashamed of his religious stand. His cover was eventually blown and the authorities caught up with him. After spending four years in prison, he continued to preach and pray for the members of the Church of Scotland. He died in 1686.
Iroquois False Face Society Mask
Worn by a special group of healers belonging to the Iroquois tribe called the False Face Society, these masks with grotesque features represent powerful spirits. These wooden masks are recognizable by the common features including a crooked nose, deep-set eyes, and other distorted facial expressions. These are often painted in red and black colors and adorned with horse hair. Members of the medicinal society uphold a tradition to perform two community rituals each year, wearing these masks while going around the villages and entering houses to drive away illness and evil spirits. False Face masks are considered sacred by the Iroquois tribe who condemn the peddling of these masks.