The banshee is a spectral, female fantasy creature from Irish mythology. While the banshee has been imagined in many different forms, her image is nearly always associated with fear and ill omens, making her a perfect choice for a horrifying Halloween or fantasy play costume. A good banshee costume requires only a few simple elements but allows for a good deal of creativity in how they are combined.
Nearly every artist's depiction of a banshee, both old and new, features long, wild, unkempt hair. The hair is most commonly white, black or gray, but it is also occasionally seen in other colors. Wear a wig if you don't have long hair. Distress the hair by ratting it with a comb, then give it extra body and gnarl by bending at the waist and spraying it liberally with a strong hair spray. Try to arrange and spray some of the hair so that it partially obscures your face, as this will make your appearance more mysterious.
Before you start your banshee makeup, decide whether you want a young, beautiful maiden or a wrinkled hag face (both are acceptable according to tradition). If you want to create wrinkles, use wrinkle lines or stippling. Lines look more dramatic and are better when viewed from long distance or in dim light, while stippling creates realistic-looking wrinkles that stand up to close scrutiny. Do wrinkle lines in dark makeup over foundation coats by emphasizing the natural lines that form on your face when you smile or frown. For stippling, apply a thin coat of liquid latex to clean skin after stretching it between your fingers, then release the skin once the latex is dry. Do this before applying any other makeup.
Whether old or young, banshees typically have pale faces and dark, haunted eyes and mouths. Use pale or white foundation to cover your face, then cover your lips with a dark color and put dry dark circles around your eyes. Be creative with your makeup design and don't be afraid to make it look extreme. Black on white is a common look for banshees, and you can choose any combination of hauntingly beautiful or downright horrifying and corpselike elements you want. Some ideas might include blackening your mouth with food coloring, shading the hollows of your cheeks to make them appear gaunt, using sharp prosthetic teeth, or applying a partial or full skeletal/corpse mask or makeup.
Apply pale makeup to your hands and feet as well, depending on how much of them will be visible. You also may want to apply long, black fake fingernails.
Typically, banshees are portrayed as wearing long, flowing dresses in period styles (Victorian or earlier) or something with a timeless look, such as a nightgown or robe. White is the most common color for a banshee dress but isn't necessary. Whatever you choose, it should be heavily distressed. Cut the bottom of the dress into ragged edges and create small holes in the fabric. Fray the fabric using sandpaper or a cheese grater.
- "The Halloween Handbook: 447 Costumes"; Bridie Clark, Ashley Dodd and Janette Beckman; 2004
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.