Tomorrow brings the 90th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But did you know this proud, family-friendly American tradition started out in a totally creepy and scary way?

Perhaps you’ve seen photos from the parade’s early history before—in 2013, the Atlantic Wire ran a choice selection, noting that:

There was a time when the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade weren’t inflated billboards for terrible movies and cartoons. Eighty years ago, the balloons were instead weird animals and dead-eyed people — suggesting that, for once, the dominance of marketing might have been a good thing.

Truly it was a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of Horrors, most notably in the late 1920s and early 1930s, an extravaganza of alarming balloons crawling along close to the ground like great skittering beasts.

Photo via AP Images.

Please note that, according to Time, in 1927 the balloons were released into the air at the event’s conclusion and many of them immediately popped.

Photos via AP Images.

Things changed, thank goodness, with the addition of the television broadcast in 1948, which encouraged bigger and steadily more spectacular balloons, as per the History Channel. From left to right, here are glimpses at 1948, 1957, and 1959.

Photos via AP Images.

Hm. Maybe not. Let’s check in with 1961.

Okay, definitely not. Maybe if we fast forward to the 1980s the creep factor will have been filtered out?

Photos via AP Images.


Also, what does Garfield know that he’s so smug? What awful secrets lie behind his whiskered face and ravenous taste for lasagna?

Photo via AP Images.

Is this, from the intro to the 1983 broadcast—available in full on YouTube—a promise or a warning?

Surely it was all good, clean fun without the menacing undertones by the turn of the millennium.

American horror stories as far as the eye can see.

Photo via Getty Images. Also: Help?

What truly unnerves me, however, is how dated this 2002 broadcast seems, despite the fact that my brain is pretty sure 2002 was just a couple of years ago. (Please enjoy Anti-Gravity, a sensation from that year’s MTV Music Awards, dancing to “Get The Party Started,” by Pink.) Truly, the relentless passage of time is the most frightening prospect of all!