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With the right lighting and soundtrack, the most innocuous things in the world are the most sinister. For example, it's dusk and you see a solitary kid rocking slowly on a squeaky swing set. Do you think, "Aww, how cute!" or do you run because you know a Dementor will be there at any moment? Probably the latter. When advertisers created the following ads, they probably had no idea they were actually making horror movie posters.

8
The Future's So Bright, You'll Not Want to Go There

Modern Mechanix

If ad campaigns were people, this one would be sweating profusely, wringing his hands, and yelling, "It's not what it looks like, I swear!" And then he'd commit suicide. Because what it looks like is a nightmare future where children sunbathe in the nude under the intimate supervision of Dr. Horrible ... all thanks to dehydrated milk. For the benefit of our blind friends, let's do a quick breakdown of all that's wrong with this Cocomalt ad. In this one image we have:


  • A flock of topless toddlers.

  • An army line of dark-skinned diaper-clad children marching through the frozen tundra. OR an army line of children wearing black morphsuits.

  • One happy child playing in the surf, tank top askew to reveal a nipple.

  • Two TOTALLY nude boys bathing under a sunlamp and the glare of a grown man staring at their bottom parts.

Next time you're having a heated holiday argument with your grandparents (because you're awful ... who argues with their grandparents?), just remind them how OK past generations were with child nudity and you'll win. After all, Shirley Temple, Jodie Foster, the Olsen twins, and the Ubu dog all started their careers in various states of undress. But even if we sweep the specter of child nakedness into the Things We Dare Not Talk About Containment Unit, there's still a whole lot of scary going on with this ad. Like the fact that every kid minus Happy Nipples looks like an eyeless robot. Or if you look hard enough, the sun lamp isn't a lamp at all, but a giant spiked German helmet from World War I.

It's not until you read the text that you figure out what's going on here. Before our elders discovered the dangers of overexposure to UV rays or pedophilia, winter and sunless days were considered the enemy of good health. As if the season of winter were personally murdering kids on the daily.

No wonder so many kids turned hobo during the Great Depression ... roofs were the worst. Ovaltinish Cocomalt, with its infusion of vitamin D, was the perfect substitute for sunshine and clothes. But they couldn't just show a kid drinking some Cocomalt and being healthy -- they needed to show what Cocomalt represented. Thus the collage of nude sunbathers and Mr. Voyeur. COCOMALT: Just what the most awful pediatrician in town ordered.

7
Roger Sterling Has Got Your Kid

Jon Williamson

Listen up, sweater makers. It's not hard to sell your wares. Illustrate a happy family sitting by the fire, drinking hot cocoa. Draw snow. Better yet, give us Bill Cosby. Our imaginations will do the rest. Here's a quick mock up of a sweater ad I just wrote.

http://www.blackenterprise.com

Try to evoke "cozy" and "warm" and "snuggy huggy." It's not hard. People love sweaters. Do you know what people don't love? Old men creeping at the window. Imagine you're in your living room, you hear a rap on the glass, and this is what you see. Either this man is taunting you as he prepares to steal your child or this is the last thing your eyes behold before these two break into your house and eat your face off.

It's especially bad if you look beyond your future killers to the unearthly sky behind them. It's not black, like the night sky, or light blue, like the day sky. There are no stars, no moon, no streetlights, no passing airplanes. It's an unearthly steel color, as if these two are the harbingers of a new world order, one where up is down and sweaters are the garments of choice for a new race of people eaters. Either that, or that gift behind Junior's back is The Watchtower and you've already made eye contact. You have no choice but to open the door. Again, not the best way to advertise sweaters!

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6
Decapitation Is Sexy

Retronaut

Here's a fun secret: Every little girl wants to play with a giant severed Barbie head. Don't act shocked. Here's one that kids of the '70s played with:

Here's Herbie

YIKES. My bad. That is definitely Cher waiting for someone to work their beauty magic on her face, hair, and clavicle area. Here's what they look like now:

Amazon

When real girls from the '60s and '70s wanted to do their impossibly springy curls, they used actual tape to fasten their hair in place. The same tape could also double as tape for wrapping presents or tightening double chins. When Scotch Tape wanted to advertise their brand of hair-curling tape, they took their cue from decapitated dolls that girls love to play with. Which is how we ended up with a woman's head mounted on a fancy roll of toilet paper. Maybe she represents the consumer, who wants to look like a bodiless doll. Correction: dolly. The ad definitely says "dolly." Do you want to look like a Christmas dolly? Scotch Curling Tape thinks you do, so they took it upon themselves to humanize severed doll heads. It's weird and misguided, but whatever, Scotch Tape. You do what you've got to do to get eyes on your product. We could have done without the extra neck inches, though.

Record scratch. What is this????

At the altar of the Severed One are two tiny, cowering, fully bodied dolls, clearly terrorized by the head who is now their master. From here, they kind of look Japanese, so I'm not sure if this was some kind of message about American imperialism or nuclear energy turning heads into hot air balloons or what. All I know is that what started as an ill-advised campaign turned into a menacing warning that nobody gets.

5
The Nitty Gritty Dirty Whiskey Ad

Bryandese

Hey, hey you. You there. Come here. You smell nice. What's that? Charlie? Jovan? White Shoulders? Chantilly? Chanel? Soft & Dri? Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. You like whiskey? Sure you do. I said COME CLOSER. Want some of my Dick whiskey? Get it? Get it? Sorry, George DICKEL whiskey. Here, I got you your own glass. This one. Not that one. This one. Here. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it. That's not the glass I fixed special for you. Put it down. Drink this one. This one. Here. This one. No? Then go to hell. Dick Dhiskey.

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4
Dead-Eyed Children Are Coming for You

Retrorama

Once upon a time, the shirt makers at Carter's made a loose connection between "smart" and "black framed glasses." Which is fine -- sitcom writers and hipsters have made the same mistake for decades. Unfortunately, Carter's forgot the other tropes we need to recognize that we're looking at smart kids, specifically pocket protectors, high-waisted pants, and Asian. Instead, Carter's selected five dead-eyed androids and stuck some glasses and shirts on them and hoped for the best. Bad move. Because instead of selling shirts, they end up selling the nagging suspicion that there's a secret nation of soulless kids in ugly clothes roaming among us -- and that's the last thing we need to worry about.

The one in yellow is looking past you to the unseen dickie-clad cyborg coming up behind you. The girl in blue is so scary that her glasses are clamoring to get off her face. Grandma's Blue Wallpaper Shirt is clearly the ringleader, since he's the only one with a hint of emotion on his face, albeit that of simmering rage. And that's the thing about these children. They may be dangerous, but at least there's a spark of life behind their eyes. I can't say the same for the child pictured below.

The Society Pages

According to Trix, breakfast is "ghastly" and 5-year-olds are women who have to be tricked into eating with brightly colored sparkle-balls. This method of feeding is called "applied psychology," not "trickery" or "set up for major food issues in the future." The real question is: Why worry about nourishing this empty husk of a human at all? Knock knock. Who's there? No one. She's empty on the inside.

3
Wranglers Are Hot

The Jumping Frog

Poor woman on the fence. She brought a rope to a red hot branding iron fight. She doesn't even know there's going to be a fight, thus the look of happiness on her face. Faceless Pancake Butt has a blazing hot brand behind his back and there's not a calf in sight. Good job of making us assume a little lady is about to get mutilated, Wrangler.

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2
Devil Redheads

Foodista

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every redhead is either super cute or super uncute. There is no middle ground when it comes to red hair. And for a brief window, American advertisers deliberately sought out the ugliest, creepiest redheaded children they could find to sell their products. It was a really weird time, because all of the models had some very specific traits in common:


  • There's a maniacal gleam in their eyes

  • They're lit with the light from the fires of hell itself

  • Teeth ... off ... somehow

The teeth thing was ominous. Either the child was sporting an unending row of uniform, spaceless, gleaming white tombstones ...

Vintage Ad Browser

... or there were so many gaps, you could drive a double-wide trailer right into their mouths. No one was even trying to get it right.

MsBlueSky

Even when the illustrator wasn't taking liberties with how human faces should look, the real-life models add a touch of WTF to pictures. Such as this kid, who is doing this "come hither" thing, but with his tongue.

Vintage Advertisements

You know how chimps and dogs and '70s game show hosts bare their teeth as a sign of aggression? This is like a whole generation of redheaded children who were bred to do the same, but they also have a touch of fever in their eyes. The perfect combo to sell orange juice and Mace.

1
More Like "HORRORDAY Inn"

Vandelay Design

At first glance, everything looks fine. Here's a family arriving at their vacation destination, the Holiday Inn. There's the welcoming attendant at the front desk. Everyone's laughing, having a great time. There's the little boy holding up his ... WHAT IS THAT?

Is that the head of a lemon yellow lemur stitched onto a baby doll??? Are we looking at its butt crack? Look at its eyes ... they're facing us but GLARING up at the chest of the man welcoming them to his hotel. Oh, dear, sweet, unknowing, innocent man. You will not live through the night, for you have been chosen by the pantsless lemur human gremlin. The child's family is only laughing in relief that they'll survive another day. You, Mr. Holiday Inn, you're No. 1.



Kristi Harrison is No. 1 on Tumblr and No. 5,876 on Twitter. You can read more from her there.

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