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.
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.
Reproductions of early circus posters with roaring tigers and grinning clowns can be found here. 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.
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.
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.
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."
Themed snack bowls, napkins, masks, party games and other props can be ordered here.
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.
And for women, Kirsteen Wythe, a costume designer in Norwich, England, hand-crafts sumptuously detailed red and blue velvet corsets embellished with gold detailing.