If you’re looking to get freaked out this Halloween, there are a lot of options: haunted houses, corn mazes, every third or fourth post on Twitter. Or, you could just look through a microscope.
Yup, a microscope. All due respect to Pennywise, but some things are never as scary as they are when they’re magnified several hundred times. Don’t believe us? Then look at the images from this year’s 43rd annual Nikon Small World competition. The entries include a nightmarish close-up of a tapeworm with a toothy frown; a freaky shot of a daddy longleg’s bulging, lidless eye; and a view of two gangrene-hued weevils getting it on—a bit more ew than boo.
Out of 2,000 entries submitted, those creepy visions all made the top 20 in the Small World competition. Coming from scientists and photographers in 88 countries, the submissions were all shot through a microscope that magnified them up to 200 times—but not all of them are as spooky as they are beautiful. There’s also a weirdly breathtaking shot of a bat fetus skeleton, a closeup of a newborn rat’s spiraling inner ear, and many more surprising views of nature—from pollen to hair to nerve clusters—you’d never otherwise see.
Eerie or not, such images help scientists better understand nature. “In the end, the goal is always to increase our knowledge about how life works,” says Bram Van den Broek, a scientist with the The Netherlands Cancer Institute whose colorful composite image of keratin growing on skin cells nabbed first place in the competition. “The only way to find out (next to genetics) is to zoom in to the microscopical level.”