What U.S. stamps outline three bats, two ghosts (one comic, the other tragic) a frightened cat, an edgy raven and a spider that looks much too predatory for polite company? Say hello to the 2019 Spooky Silhouettes from the U.S. Postal Service, just in time for Halloween 2019.
“The Spooky Silhouettes stamps feature digital illustrations with Halloween motifs rendered as black silhouettes in eerily backlit windows,” according to a USPS press release. “The images include a cat with an arched back beneath a raven perched on a bare tree branch, all against a yellowish-green background; two ghosts against an orange background; a spider and a web against a red background; and three bats against a purple background.”
It was September 26 when the issue date of this frightful quartet was at last revealed as October 11 in the biweekly USPS Postal Bulletin. Vice President of Mail Entry and Payment Technology Marc McCrery was scheduled to preside at the 5 p.m. dedication ceremony for the new stamps at New Hampshire’s Milford Pumpkin Festival, just northwest of Nashua.
“As autumn approaches,” quoth the Postal Service, “these new stamps offer fun, frightful scenes that symbolize Halloween. With customs and traditions that vary widely by community, Halloween now inspires parades and carnivals, corn mazes, haunted houses, neighborhood and school parties, pumpkin festivals, and even pumpkin catapulting. Halloween remains a much anticipated celebration of the macabre in the face of approaching winter.”
All that, yet not so much as a single word about the “free candy!”
Artist Tyler Lang worked with art director and designer Greg Breeding to create these digitally illustrated FOREVER stamps, perpetually valued at the basic first class rate, currently 55¢. According to the U.S. Postal Service’s Fall 2019 USA Philatelic catalog, the stamps were “produced through a special printing process: Beneath the ink of each image lies a layer of iridescent pigment.” The stamps will be issued in a self-adhesive pane of 20 as shown above.
Interestingly, the first of what might be called America’s spooky stamps — the 10¢ Legend of Sleepy Hollow commemorative released 45 years ago in 1974 (Scott 1548) — also used dark silhouettes against a pumpkin-colored moonlit background to add an eerie look to the issue. It is shown along with a 1940 1¢ American Authors stamp for Washington Irving, Scott 859, from the Famous Americans commemoratives. In 1819, Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the remorseless headless horseman, said to have been inspired by a 1783 anthology of folk tales compiled by the German author Karl Musaeus.
Collectors seeking scary subjects on U.S. postage also should consider the 1997 32¢ Classic Movie Monsters stamps, Scott 3172–72, showcasing the Saturday matinee parade of 1920s to 1940s greasepaint gremlins who gave the shivers to countless film fans.
Also worth noting (even if they are not particularly scary) is the 2016 FOREVER (47¢) Jack-o’-Lantern booklet, featuring a quartet of well-rendered carved and illuminated pumpkin-heads, Scott 5140a.
Many other nations have had spooky or Halloween-themed postage stamps, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and France. Indeed, the busy 2004 €0.50 French stamp, Scott 3048, depicts three bats, a witch on a broomstick, a creepy spider and a pumpkin — all traditional decorative motifs of the celebration as held in North America.