Confession: I once punched my mom in the face at a costume shop.
I was seven years old, and she had taken me to look for a Halloween outfit. Some time after entering the store, she decided to put on a mask from the movie Scream—a film I had only seen commercials for, but that struck fear into the very root of my soul.
The worst part is, I knew it was her at the time.
I watched as she slid the mask over her head and leaned down into my face. She shouted, "Boo," and my response was to sock her in the ghoulish mouth region with an involuntary, seven-year-old jab.
It was pure animal reflexes, and I started crying when I realized what I had done. But the sight of the mask scared the living grease out of me and triggered some deep-seated, fight-or-flight mechanism I had never even known existed.
The point is, we all had our childhood hangups. Yours might've been big dogs, hypodermic needles or the bogeyman that hung out behind the shower curtain in your bathroom. Mine was adults in costume, namely clowns and horror movie characters.
I have conquered this fear, but adults in goofy outfits remain one of the most universal phobias for young children. The following are sports mascots making kids cry, and some of us understand their terror all too well.
At the 15- and 22-second marks of this video, you have the privilege of watching as a child's sense of security is destroyed forever.
Granted, as a mascot, Hugo the Hornet is great. He's fun, silly and generally well-liked. To a child, however, this is a turquoise monster—a hulking, bug-eyed invader from space.
Bare in mind, all of these qualities are air-pumped to twice their normal dimensions with "Air Hugo."
Creepiest Aspect: Predator eye slits.
As I've mentioned before, the only time Purdue Pete smiles is when he's lowering a basket into the hole in his basement.
Indeed, the Boilermakers' mascot was so disconcerting for young fans that the university eventually decided to craft a new Purdue Pete mask featuring a happier expression.*
Men who formerly wore the costume have also admitted that they had to take extra care when approaching young fans, as children would often cry or recoil at the sight of the emotionless and sallow-faced man wielding a giant hammer.
Scariest Aspect: The eyes. Dear God, the eyes.
*For the record, this is a picture of the "happier" Purdue Pete.
More air-pump madness!
This is Sly, the former mascot for the New Jersey Nets. Sometime during the 2008 holiday season, Sly stopped by a mall to give children nightmares and potentially finish off a handful of the elderly.
At the one-minute mark in this video, you'll see Sly burden a young girl with a sense of panic that to this day tingles in the back of her mind when she drives past malls and stares into bathroom mirrors.
Scariest Aspects: Slitted eyes, wolfish grin.
Some said it was dumb. Others lauded the bird for its toughness. But no one expected the New Orleans Pelicans' mascot to be this creepy.
As it turns out, "Pierre" the pelican is extremely terrifying—especially for children who find its cavernous crimson beak and dirty yellow plumage off-putting at best.
There's also that "Kids Only" sign it runs around with, which is basically a red flag for the clever youths.
Creepiest Aspect: Gaping blood-maw.
"Come now, Joshua. Take the ball out of this giant carnivore's mouth!"
T.C. Bear isn't terrifying—not even a little bit. Then again, that's my judgement as an adult.
This child, however, could've had a bad experience with bears at an earlier point in his young life. Maybe his older brother swats him with Care Bear dolls when his parents aren't looking. Perhaps he stood by powerless as the neighbor's dog threshed his beloved Build-A-Bear into shreds like a four-legged cotton gin.
We may never know.
Scariest Aspect: The specter of deep childhood trauma looming over this simple interaction.
If you thought Clark the Cub was creepy, you haven't seen the original version of the Cubs' mascot—a being that appears to be half-bear, half-squirrel and 100 percent capable of making a grown man brick in his pants.
I don't care how tough people were in 1908, a toddler is a toddler, and they will not go willingly into the arms of a man wearing a fetid bear pelt.*
Scariest Aspect: Either the dual beaver fangs or the flappy groin area.
*I have no physical proof that this mascot scared children besides the voice screaming "RUN!" inside my skull.
They're called the "Blue Raiders," but Middle Tennessee State presumably went with "ripped horse-man" over "blueberry viking warrior" in the hopes of presenting a more genteel mascot for the kids.
That line of reasoning hasn't panned out, it would appear.
Scariest Aspect: Freakish faux muscles or the furrowed brows.
A perennial "creepy mascot" powerhouse and one of the last boyish faces you ever want to see at the foot of your bed, Rowdy the Cowboy has a talent for bringing out the distrust in young people.
As you can see in this photo, Rowdy managed to make a boy cry while visiting with fans during the Cowboys' 2013 open practices.
It's not his fault kids are scared of wide-eyed man-children in 10-gallon hats.
Scariest Aspect: Uncomfortably large smile.
Another one? What's the matter, kiddos?
Rowdy isn't that scary. He's just super smiley and his disembodied head drifts behind your eyelids every time you blink.
Scariest Aspect: In this picture, the scariest aspect is Rowdy's static expression, which looks less like "jovial mascot" and more like "Ah ha! Got ya!"
Oh COME ON!
We need to talk, Rowdy. Kids are just not picking up what you're laying down. Well, maybe not all the kids—just the ones with enough sense to mistrust a grown man in a boyish, desperado getup.
Scariest Aspect: Rowdy telling the child to wave goodbye to his family.
Oh God! No. How? Why...why would they...how are these kids not wailing in fear in this picture?
This is "Spud," a pustule-covered nightmare who hangs out with young camp goers at a summer rugby camp in Ireland. He's essentially a homicidal orange that didn't make safe decisions when mingling with other oranges on the vine.
Even more terrifying is the fact that someone commissioned this suit to be made for the expressed purpose of entertaining children.
Scariest Aspect: Somewhere along the line, a person looked at this outfit's design and said "Yea, abscesses and murder eyes. Looks right."
What were you scared of as a kid?