Playgrounds usually bring back fond memories of those days when the most important thing on our minds was how to get our swing up so high, it felt like we were flying, or how to master the monkey bars as if we were an Olympic gymnast. For most kids, even the smallest and simplest playground could be the best place in the world—a place to be with friends, run around and just expend that seemingly boundless energy after keeping it pent up at school or at home. But some playgrounds might make you look twice and wonder about odd design choices that make the most basic playground equipment look like they came out of a horror movie set. We present these 15 creepy images from children’s playgrounds.
15. The non-human centipede
It is usually not surprising when animal-like figures make an appearance on playgrounds. After all, many children find all sorts of animals cute, endearing and even fascinating. Shows and games geared towards kids often involve a few animals—usually of the talking kind—as companions or even central characters, so it makes sense that animals would be a common choice for people who design playgrounds. What does not make as much sense to us is why this odd assortment of animals (a dog and a lizard?) would be grouped together (along with some human figures for good measure) in this ring-like arrangement that barely looks safe for adults at work, let alone for the eyes of children. Could somebody please move this playground fixture to one of those oddities museums instead?
14. Watch your step, kids
Depending on where you grew up, you may have heard that you should never step on a person’s grave. Some people believe that it would be disrespectful to the soul of the deceased person whose grave you are walking on; others believe that it would mean bad luck for the living person who stepped on the grave. An old superstition even has it that you could contract a fatal disease called grave-merelles if the person buried there was never baptized or was stillborn. Whether or not you believe in these claims and superstitions, it still seems like an odd choice—to say the least—to put a playground right beside a graveyard, without so much as a fence or a barrier to separate the two. Careful where you walk, kids.
13. Look behind you
Let’s go in a different direction for this next disturbing image from a playground. For the most part, the images we’ve featured are disturbing because of some element in the playground design—whether it’s the use of an oddly phallic shape for a climbing rock, or the presence of two disfigured children as décor. But in this one photo, the freak out factor doesn’t come from the décor or the equipment. In fact, at first glance, you might not even understand why this image could be considered disturbing. Cute children on a trampoline—what’s creepy about that? Look again. What is that vague, blurry figure that seems to be skulking in the background? Oh no—we wonder if those kids realized that there was a ghost behind them.
12. This playground’s got soul(s)
Ghost stories can be weirdly fun. There’s something about scaring yourself silly—to the point that you would jump out of your seat at the slightest sound. That just feels exciting. That’s why most of us liked the occasional exchange of ghost stories around a campfire as kids, or even a series or movie about ghosts when we grew a bit older. What’s a lot less fun, though, is when we experience something that makes us question whether those stories are really just make-believe as we’ve reassured ourselves all these years, or there’s something more to them. Like seeing this picture that looks eerily like a group of ghost-children on an old merry-go-round. Does this playground actually look like this if you go there in person? We’d rather not find out.
11. Where the weird things are
Remember when you were a child and your imagination could make you “see” and believe in practically anything? That’s one of the most enviable things about kids—that wild, freewheeling, vivid imagination that could make anything possible. Kids can be utterly convinced of the existence of Santa and his elves, of a generous tooth fairy and of terrifying monsters lurking under their beds—all without ever even catching the slightest glimpse of any of these creatures. So yes, we can understand why it seems like a good idea to put figures of fantastical-looking creatures (Animals? People? We’re not even sure) in a place like a playground where kids can incorporate them into their play. Unfortunately, this trio of figures in this playground look more freaky than fantastical.
10. Monkeying around
Speaking of the use of animal-like figures in playground designs, how would you feel about seeing some monkey figures in your standard playground fixtures like swing sets and seesaws? It sounds absolutely fitting—kids playing in a playground can sometimes remind one of a group of excited, chattering monkeys, eagerly exploring new ways to interact with their environment. Not to mention, playgrounds usually have structures literally called monkey bars (in some places, more commonly referred to as “jungle gyms”) which kids can climb and swing from and do all sorts of acrobatics on, if they’re the agile and coordinated type. So yes, a cheerful monkey design sounds like a good idea—but somehow the monkey heads in this playground are making us feel less cheerful and more creeped out.
9. Big hard climbing rock
There are kids who would climb just about anything—trees, fences, poles on swings, you name it, they’ll climb it. Why? Maybe because they’re so much smaller than adults that they’d like to make themselves bigger—or at least taller—so they could feel like they’re seeing the world as adults see it. Maybe it’s that element of risk, the challenge of knowing that they could fall but they do it anyway. Whatever the reason, kids are climbers, and they probably get excited to see stuff on playgrounds that are made precisely for climbing. This particular climbing rock, though—well, let’s just say there’s something about the way it’s shaped that makes us feel like it doesn’t belong in a kids’ play area. Maybe for grown-ups, though?
8. Horseplay, anyone?
So far, we’ve seen playgrounds with figures of creepy-looking dogs, monkeys and ducks. What other adorable animal could possibly make a playground feel disturbing by its mere presence? Surely not a horse, you might think. Horses are graceful, gentle creatures that many children would be excited to have a ride on. Even a playground rocking horse seems like it should be the last thing that would give you the creeps. Yet somehow, there’s something unsettling about this particular image of a rocking horse. Is it the way it seems to pop out from the foggy background, Or how it’s oddly positioned away from the swings and everything else? Or maybe it’s how, if you look closely enough, its eyes seem to be staring at us. Please look away, horsey.
7. She’s not feeling well
Unless you’re looking at a playground in a very well-to-do area or a very disadvantaged one, playgrounds are pretty predictable in terms of what will probably be in them. A swing set or two? Highly likely. A slide? Almost sure. A seesaw? Maybe, maybe not. A jungle gym? If there’s enough space, there’s probably one in there, too. So perhaps the people who designed this playground thought, “Maybe playgrounds are getting too cookie-cutter. What can we do to set this playground apart and make sure those who visit it will never forget what they saw?” Or at least, this is the only explanation we can think of for why someone would put a figure of a lady in blue, weeping blood from her eyes, in a freaking playground.
6. Sculpt and scare
Just like in the previous photo with the children’s souls, there are images that make us feel vaguely disturbed and uncomfortable for reasons that we can’t quite put a finger on. This is not one of those images. It’s not at all difficult to see why someone would find these two figures in a playground just way too creepy, right? Like seriously—look at those oddly posed bodies, seemingly missing all their feet. Look at the way the red paint on the boy figure has faded, making him look blood-spattered. For crying out loud, look at those faces (or lack thereof) and that missing limb. Maybe these figures once looked festive and inviting, but right now, we can’t imagine wanting to play anywhere near these two.
5. Stay away, kids
After the past few pictures of creepy-looking animal figures, humanoid figures and really disturbing figures of children, you may think that a figure of a regular adult man would have no power to unsettle you (although you might still wonder what the hell that figure would be doing in a playground, anyway). Well, think again. Unlike some of the previous photos, this figure of a man in a pink shirt, blue pants, and boots does not appear to be part of the design of any playground equipment. He just sits there on a rock, leaning on a tree, which appears to be…strangling him? Attempting to feed him something? We don’t know what’s going on, we just want to get as far away from this guy as possible.
4. What a joker
After those last few photos featuring creepy human-like figures in playgrounds, you’ll probably be relieved to know that this next photo features no human figures. This time, the unforgettable part of the playground is this figure of a monkey. But it’s not just any monkey—this one is wearing a toothy, ear-to-ear grin that is best described as disturbing—and a harlequin-patterned shirt. We have so many questions. Why a monkey, and why this particular monkey? Is the monkey’s outfit supposed to be of any significance? Is there any reason behind that grin that makes us feel like this monkey would like nothing more than to bite into the next human being that makes the mistake of coming too close? Who knows—but we wouldn’t risk it anyway.
3. What the duck?
Now ducks—those are sure to be cute no matter what, right? After all, that’s why we put rubber duckies in the tub with kids to keep them happy during baths. It’s probably why humanity has displayed giant rubber duck sculptures in locations as varied as Amsterdam, Osaka and Sydney Harbor and proudly called them art. Yes, ducks should be cute, especially if they are reminiscent of those bright yellow rubber duckies we used to bathe with. But somehow this particular playground duck missed the mark on “cute” and landed on—“terrifying.” Maybe it’s the oddly discolored eye, or those little nubs at the sides of its head which make you think it’s growing horns. Whatever the reason, this is not the comforting rubber duckie of your childhood.
And then there’s this thing, which we don’t even know where to begin in describing. It’s a figure of a witch, that much we can be sure of. But what is it for? Are children supposed to play on it, climbing its hair and sliding off its nose? Or are they expected to play inside it, crawling within and peeping at the world through its nostrils? Is it intended as a purely decorative object for children to admire (or, more accurately, encounter in their nightmares)? And the most important question of all: What is that thing it’s holding in its right hand supposed to be? We’re sure there are answers to all these questions—we’re just not quite sure if we want to find out what they are.
1. La vie golem
In and of itself, the concept of a golem is fascinating. In medieval and Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated human-like creature that is magically created from inanimate matter like clay or mud. There are numerous legends about golems being made and then commanded to do all sorts of things like work for their creators, protect Jewish communities from anti-Semitic attacks or even turning uncooperative or downright murderous against their creators. With such colorful stories behind golems, we can see why people might think that children would find it interesting to learn about them. What is not so clear to us is why someone would choose to design some parts of a playground—which children are meant to play in—to look eerily like a golem awaiting its master/victim.
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