Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

For the last few years, I’ve stopped at the front of my favorite box stores where I search for Halloween supplies to peruse the array of digital and lighting effects. But, little friendly ghosts spinning around on the front of my house didn’t entice me. Then, a few weeks ago I received an invitation to take a gander at AtmosFX’s digital decorations. As I explored atmosfx.com, what came to mind was my childhood trip to Disney’s Haunted Mansion.  But, unlike the cheesy, friendly ghosts there, AtmosFX has created spectacular, realistic effects like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Few deliveries have been met with as much anticipation as my package from AtmosFX containing the 2017 Digital Decorating Kit.  The kit comes with an all-in-one projector, 14 digital decorations, a tripod, a remote, and a screen. It sells for $199.99.

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The setup was very simple.  Just pop the SD card into the back of the projector, screw on the tripod, put batteries in the remote and you are ready to go.  For a quick preview I hung the projection material in a doorway and looked through the included options.  I was surprised what good choices came on the SD card without buying one of the premium packages.  The image below is the “Beckoning Beauty” from the card.

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It even included options for holidays other than Halloween.  I can’t say I’d be likely to use most of those, although I may add fireworks to my front window next Fourth of July and the general floating party balloons would be cool for a kids party

My only complaint with the equipment is that the ball on the tripod is not stiff enough, particularly when the projector is mounted vertically. It wouldn’t take much of a jar for it to come tumbling down.  It is also short, so you need a table to set it on.  Therefore, I swapped it out for an inexpensive standalone tripod that allowed me to easily adjust the height too.

Just a few minutes after opening the box I was ready to go.  I simply hung the included material from two plastic hooks stuck a few inches above the back of the hallway door frame with the projector set up behind it.  I also connected my computer to the television and played one of the selections from Unliving Portraits on it.  The below video shows Unliving Portraits‘ “Withering Heights – Trio” on my television and “Beckoning Beauty” from the included SD card in the hall doorway.

 

Hollusion is AtmosFX’s word for effects projected onto a special material creating the illusion of a hologram such as a ghost floating in the air or passing by a window. And, while they do have some family friendly alternatives like the Boo Crew or Jack-O’-Lantern Jamboree, it was the creepier collections that caught my attention. I choose three to try out. That wasn’t easy with all the cool options. But, hard as it was to pass up Zombie Invasion, Bone Chillers, Macabre Manor and others, I chose Phantasms, Blood Walls and Unliving Portraits to test.  You can also purchase individual scenes from each package.

Phantasms includes variations on four characters: the “Demonic Poltergeist”, the “Seductive Siren”, the “Sinister Spinster” and the “Wicked Wraith”. The siren and the spinster are both humanoid figures while the poltergeist is sort of a demonic skeleton like creature and the wraith more along lines of a reaper.

Each featured creature has clips optimized for different purposes such as using AtmosFX’s 3D form, creating a Hollusion, projecting onto a wall or showing on a television. The TV folders for example show clips from an old movie that becomes staticy and then the phantasm breaks into the scene.

For my cemetery by the pond I chose “Rise of the Wraiths” which features various reaper-like characters floating upward among whisps of glowing smoke as they wail and moan.

Blood Walls includes three options, “Bloody Massacre”, “Dripping Blood” and “Words of Warning”. The first two include blood splatters and drips while the third has various options for writing such as “join us” being written in blood.

joinus

To test how the digital decorations work outdoors, I set up the projector in my workshop projecting the window version of “Bloody Massacre” from Blood Walls onto the material hanging from the inside of the door so it could be seen through the window.

I then hammered two electric fence posts into the ground behind the plants surrounding my small pond and cable-tied a piece of bamboo to each.  I put clips on the projection material and cable-tied them to the bamboo. The video below shows the result. If you listen closely you’ll notice the effects include sound.

Note than the darker it is, the better the effect.  The wraiths in the above video appear to float up from behind my plants and the screen isn’t visible.  The indoor scene in the first video doesn’t appear to blend quite as well, because lights were on in the surrounding room so I could read the directions.  With the lights all off, the effect is amazing.  You can add lighting without showing the screen though.  The tombstones have spotlights on them and I actually forgot to turn the porch light off when filming the massacre inside in the lab, but it still looked good.

ghostlab

All in all, I was very impressed with AtmosFX products and can’t wait to choose a permanent place for them among my displays.  Visit atmosfx.com for some fantastic videos showcasing hollusions in action as well as instructional videos on setup options.

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Burning candles can enhance any Halloween set whether it’s an apothecary case or a grave yard.  To avoid the expense and potential danger of real candles, it is easy to make your own reusable candles that work indoors as well as outdoors.

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For this project you will need: PVC pipe, something to cut the PVC pipe, a razor or knife, spray paint, a hot glue gun, glue sticks and a piece of thin foam insulation or cardboard.

Start with PVC pipe the circumference you prefer.  In this case I used 1 inch pipe with the thin walls as that was the size that my battery operated tea lights could fit into.

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Cut the pipe into various lengths.  Be careful to make straight cuts so that your candles will stand on their own.  If they do not, use sandpaper to create an even edge.  Next, using a razor or knife, cut scoops out of the top edge so it looks as if the edge has been melted in various locations.  Then sand around your cuts on both the inside and outside to smooth the surface and eliminate any bits of PVC handing on.

Now paint the PVC any color you choose.  Spray paint made for plastic adheres best.

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After the paint has dried, plug in your glue gun and choose your glue sticks.  You can use clear glue sticks and paint your “wax drips” or you can purchase colored glue sticks.  Your candles can be the same color as your “wax” or a contrasting color.  I’ve seen black and red used most commonly for the “wax drips” and white, black or red for the candles.

Carefully run a bead of the glue around the top edge of your candle.  This will hide the PVC. But, don’t let the glue run down the inside or your tea light won’t fit.  Once you’ve completed the top, squeeze out enough glue on the upper, outside edge to cause it to run down the candle.  Repeat around the entire candle, letting the glue run different amounts to create a random look.

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Once you are satisfied with the look of your candle, create a ledge for your tea light to rest on so that the top of it is even with the top of your candle.  Above, scraps of foam insulation were glued into the candle about an inch deep to hold the lights.

You could burn real tea lights, but I chose battery operated lights.  In the top picture you can see the difference in the look of a black tea light and a white tea light.  The black ones are much more expensive.  But, you can easily create your own by putting masking tape on the “flame” and spray painting the base of the tea light with spray paint for plastic.

I liked the contrast created using colored glue sticks.  But, with my first attempt at creating candles I used paint.  You can see the result of that on the supersize candles pictured below.

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witchburnWhether you plan to burn a witch, stage a demon rising from hell or BBQ a corpse, this simple, inexpensive bed of coals can be created with minimal time and effort to make the scene pop.  The resulting prop is also light weight and water resistant.

I began with a piece of corrugated plastic board from an old yard sign.  I also covered it with aluminum foil to hide any of the image on it that might show through. This forms the base of the coals and is sturdy enough to carry the prop.  For this example I cut a hole in the center and took care not to cover it so that I could drive a short piece of rebar into the ground to support a piece of bamboo with a doll tied to it.

Collect a variety of clear plastic bottles.  Cut off the top part of as many bottles as you need to cover your base.  Be sure to cut them into various heights.  Colored bottles could be used, but I chose to stick with clear bottles so the light would be as bright as possible.

coal bottles

Next, place a set of orange or red holiday string lights on the base.  Leave some extra cord on the end with the plug sticking out past the edge of the base.   Push some lights up into the bottle necks.  You can tape or glue them to the inside of the bottle necks if you wish, but it’s not necessary (I did not).

coal foam 2

Once the lights are evenly spread out and the bottles placed, randomly spray expanding foam over the entire thing.  Be sure to leave some holes in the foam for the light to show through.  After the foam has dried completely, spray a combination of red, gray and black paint on it so that it also looks like hot coals during the daylight.  Take care not to spray into the holes too much or you will block the lights from shinning through.

witchburnBelow is an attempt to show the finished product in the dark.  My doll needs some work to show the result of her torturous demise.  But, you get the idea.  And, as you can tell in the above photograph, she actually stands on her own indoors.  Outside she is even more stable as a short piece of rebar is driven into the center hole in the prop to support the bamboo stake to which she is tied.

coal lit dark

 

The recent cold spell, or rather return to traditional Kentucky winter weather forced me from the garage to instead work on some indoor projects last week.  And, the resulting bloody, severed fingers are now one of my favorite creations to date.  This project takes a bit of patience, so a good movie in the background is highly recommended.

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The first step is to mix a small amount of flesh toned paint into Elmer’s white school glue. Pour the glue about a 1/4 inch deep into a small paint container.  Next, squeeze about a 1/2 inch of Portrait Pink acrylic paint into the glue as well as a small dot of Yellow Ochre.  Mix the paint and glue well with a wooden popsicle type stick.  For subsequent batches substitute other colors such as Burnt Umber for the Yellow Ochre if you would like a variety of skin tones.

Once the glue and paint are mixed, simply brush them on your fingers making sure to cover the entire surface.  It will take about 30 minutes for each layer of paint to dry completely, even using a fan or hair dryer.  Take care not to let your fingers touch. When they inevitably do, carefully cut the connection formed and pat it back down against your fingers.

Thea Higgins has a series of YouTube videos showing the process. She suggests at least three coats of glue. I found four to be the minimum. Even with five coats, my first attempt resulted in torn joints which you can see in the insert in the photograph below.

freshfingers

To avoid this, be sure the glue is completely dry in the areas that tend to take the longest such as the inside of the joints, at the base of the fingers and around or under the fingernails.  I found that when each layer is added it re-moistens the previous layer.  So, you can cheat a bit by adding a layer before the previous one is completely dry and spending the longest drying time at the end.  It is fairly easy to tell where the glue is still wet because it becomes translucent as it dries. In the final coats it also begins to stiffen and pull away from your skin on its own.  Anywhere you fail to completely dry the glue there will be tears or disruptions in the imprint.

Once you are satisfied the glue is completely dry, dust each finger completely with baby powder using a soft brush to eliminate the tackiness of the surface.  Gently begin peeling the glue back from the base of each finger and rolling it over itself.  Dust the inside with baby powder as it becomes exposed.  Once you have it started it will easily just pull off of your finger.  But, go slowly with frequent pauses to avoid tearing it or stretching it out of shape.  Once off brush the excess powder away.

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Stuffing the fingers and adding a bone to the end of them is the next step.  If you let the fingers dry overnight they will stiffen substantially, making this part easier to do without damaging them.  For the bones I had a necklace and a skeleton hand garland I picked up during post Halloween sales.  My new dogs had not learned which toys were mine and which were theirs at that time and chewed the skeleton hands a bit before I discovered their transgression.  But, I was glad I kept them as they were perfect for this project.  So, I spent an evening breaking the knuckles apart and trimming them with an X-Acto knife.

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Ms. Higgins stuffed her fingers with plastic. But, I was concerned about the durability of that.  Having recently watched Allen Hopps’ Stiltbeast Studio video on Gorilla Glue foam, I opted to try that.  You simply pour some Gorilla Glue into a small amount of hot water and stir it with a wooden stick as fast as you can until it starts to expand.  You must work very quickly as the more it expands, the more porous and hard to work with the material becomes.  The foam in the cup pictured above is from about a teaspoon of Gorilla Glue.  Once it expands to the volume pictured it is very hard to work with.

The result of this method was actually very nice as those fingers have a more realistic feel to them.  However, it’s a sticky, messy process and it is very easy to accidentally collapse your finger or leave a gap inside of it. There is no correction once this happens, but they did look a bit like mummified or rotting fingers, so I kept them.

Regardless, on future batches I used hot glue to stuff the fingers. These came out very durable.  You still must be careful though because when you add the hot glue the finger becomes very soft.  To avoid having one rupture, I only filled the tip at first. Then I gently cradled it between two of my fingers, holding it upright and used a fan to help cool it down faster.  Once this hardened I could do the rest by holding the tip of the finger.  I stopped the glue just before the place the bone needed to be embedded.

Finally, I glued in the bone and filled the hot glue almost to the top.  Then I mixed some Gorilla Glue the same way as I had before and put very small dabs on top of the hot glue because the foam did look more like mutilated flesh than the smooth hot glue.  Even with tiny dabs I still had to poke it with a small corner of paper several times as it dried to knock the puffiness out of it.

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After the fingers are completely dry you can adorn them with a fingernail. This step can be skipped as your life cast finger will already have an impression of your nail on it.  To add a nail use inexpensive press on type nails or cut the shape out of clear protector sheets used for notebook dividers.  I used fake nails from a drugstore. Trim the nails to fit the fingers. Next, take sharp scissors or a knife or razor blade and put scratches lengthwise down the nail.  On the ends make many scratches, pressing all the way through the nail in some cases.  You can then take the scissors and snip out chips or cut deeply into the nail for a broken fingernail look.  Finally I scratched up the entire nail surface with the coarse side of a emery board and glued it on with Tacky Glue.

As you can see from the above photograph, some fingers were painted before adding the fingernail and others were not.  A bit of blood or blue paint under the nail looks like real bruising.  However, it turned out that this could be achieve just as easily before or after the nail was glued down.

To finish the look, I stained my pieces, finger and nail, with Minwax Red Mahoganey wood stain.  I stain all of my skeletons with this for a cohesive look across displays. Simply apply the stain with a cotton ball or sponge brush and immediately wipe it off with paper towels. This antiquing process leaves a bit of color in the creases to make them stand out and also gives the fingers a bruised and aged look.  The final step is to add blood.  My preferred mix is Allen Hopp’s recipe using clear Elmer’s School Glue with a few drops of red food coloring and one small drop of blue food coloring.  You can mix this straight in the glue bottle to always have some on hand.  The result is a translucent, shiny blood that looks great!  Just dot the fingers with the blood and blotch it around with a brush.

Since these fingers will be indoors, I won’t need to do anything else to them.  However, if any would be used outside it would be necessary to coat them well with some kind of acrylic or polyurethane finish to make them waterproof.

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demon-specimenNo mad scientist’s lab is complete without a demon specimen.  This project is very similar to several faerie skeletons I’ve seen online and plan to make.  In most cases the faerie wings are made of either leaves or feathers, whereas my demon has bat-like wings and is based on the design found on the Witch Craft blog by doll artist Arley Berryhill.  You can also find a very nice large scale demon over at Davis Graveyard.

Start with the miniature skeletons found in just about every home improvement, craft or dollar store around Halloween.  They usually come in six packs, often on a piece of rope to hang as a garland. They come with various shading and in black.

The wings are made from coffee filters. Arley used tissue paper for his, but I always opt for the most durable version I can think of as they are subject to some wear and tear and possibly even being put outdoors. You can start with brown coffee filters, but they seemed a bit too dark. So, I started with large white filters.  First soak them in water with a tea bag or coffee grounds to darken them.  This also eliminates the folds and flattens them nicely.

Cut each filter in half.  Next fold the halves and cut an arc from corner to corner of the outside edge.  Or you can try a more complex cut for scalloped wings.

demon-filter-cuts

Take a thin piece of wire and attach it to the skeleton.  I wrapped the wire around the spine and formed the top arc of the wings by just sliding my thumb across it pushing up.

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Place the folded edge around the wire.  Next, I watered down Elmer’s School Glue using a 1:1 ratio of water and glue.  I painted this on generously on both the inside and outside of the wings.  This fused them together; made them harden when they dried; and also resulted in a slightly translucent look.  I then hung the skeletons on a cup to dry.

demon-dry

While the wings dried I added several details to the skeletons.  Create horns by adding a small drop of hot glue on their foreheads and quickly shape them into points before it hardens.  I used a small piece of fairly stiff twine for a tail.  I chose a stiff twine so that I could shape it to curl up instead of hanging.  One end of the twine is glued to the tailbone area of the spine and the other is sandwiched between two little triangle pieces which are glued to it.  The triangles were cut from a coffee filter and treated with the same process used on the wings.

Once the wings dried I watered down some acrylic paint and did a quick wash over them with green and brown.  Be sure to do this over newspaper or plastic as they drip considerably.

I placed one inside a cloche which I found at Goodwill and removed the clock.  I found an example of an old specimen label online and customized it with the Frau Mason brand.  As I like to incorporate my love of horror films into all my displays, this specimen was captured in Amityville New York on November 13, 1974, the day that Ronald DeFeo murdered his family.  My laboratory is located in Smiths Grove Sanitarium, where Michael Meyers was held.  Smiths Grove happens to be in the county I live in as this is where John Carpenter grew up.  So, not surprisingly references to his work appear often in my displays.

I also created several more mini demons and hung them from microfilament.  They may be trying to free the specimen.

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A skinned face for your torture chamber is one of the quickest and easiest projects to do.  I first saw an example from Hocus Pocus Customs on eBay and realized it looked very similar to a mask I had picked up for $1 after Halloween.  Choose a mask that has only the face.

You will need: a mask, various colors of paint, something to poke holes through the mask, either an old frame or wood to create a frame and string.

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Using scissors or an Exacto knife, cut out the eyes, nostrils and mouth.  Also, cut around the face so it is not as curved and to give it an uneven edge. Be sure to cut off the holes that the strap went in.  Take a needle or awl and poke a hole at the top, bottom and sides of the mask as well as the diagonal points midway between. You could also use something to burn the holes in the mask.

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I grow bamboo for use in my Halloween projects and my garden.  So, this was an obvious material for creating a frame.   I cut 4 pieces large enough to give a nice border around the mask.  Secured the corners with 2 cable ties on each corner.  Leave some of each end protruding past the square of the frame. Then wrap one cable tie through the inside corner and between the two ends sticking out. Crisscross it with another diagonally across the two protruding ends. Use pliers to pull these very tightly, then snip off the ends.  Repeat on each corner.

Next, wrap string around the corners in every direction until there is no sign of the cable ties. The cable ties are not necessary, but you will find that if you only use string the binding can loosen over time and eventually unravel. I added some Elmer’s glue on the string to prevent it from unraveling.

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Using acrylic paint mix a pale skin color and cover the entire mask. The surface will remain a bit tacky but it did seem to adhere.  Then use various red and black mixes to add shadows and blood to the wrinkles in the mask and along all the edges.  Tie strings through the holes you created and tie the other end to the frame.

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Above is my original creation.  However, after it was finished I happened upon Stiltbeast Studio’s video “Blood on the cheap” in which he compares 36 homemade blood formulas.  I immediately mixed up a batch using his Elmer’s clear glue, red food coloring and a touch of blue food coloring recipe.  The thickness and transparency, make it the best blood recipe I’ve used to date.  The first photo in this post was made after I splotched the new blood on it.  Elmer’s is washable, so the prop is no longer safe for outdoors unless it is also covered with acrylic, polyurethane or some other clear, weatherproof coating.

 

jess-dremelMy first Halloween DIY project was a family effort and I treasure the results.  These holiday keepsakes were very simple and allowed each family member to personalize their unique creation.

I started by searching online for epithet ideas. Unfortunately it was long enough ago that I no longer have the links.  But, I searched various terms to cull a list made up of both joke and real epithets.  Several we used were from the old west.  For example one was by a marble cutter who used his wife’s tombstone as a sales pitch for future work. Another of my favorites from a real cemetery was  “She lived with her husband fifty years And died in the confident hope of a better life.”  We each chose an epithet as well as a name from these lists to pair.  Most of the names were jokes, such as Stu Pitt or Claire Voyance.

Next I showed the kids the fonts I had on my computer and everyone picked their favorite.

After the choices were made, we looked a photos of cemeteries and everyone choose their preferred tombstone shape.  I limited the options to simple ones that I could easily draw, either freehand or by using objects of different geometric shapes to get what I needed.  For round tops I used a piece of string and a nail to draw arcs.

foam-with-epithetThe material we used was 1 inch thick foam board insulation. It is easy to cut with a serrated knife, hack saw or box cutter.  It is also very easy to smooth with sandpaper.

After drawing the shapes to get as many as I could fit on a sheet of foam board insulation, we cut them out, measured the space and in an actual size document laid out our names, dates, flourishes and epithets on the computer using the chosen fonts.  I then used tiling in the print options to print them and taped the resulting letter size sheets of paper with the print on them together to form an actual size pattern.

Once the pattern was taped in place we used exacto knives to trace the letters and designs.  These were cleaned up after the pattern was removed using either an exacto knife or Dremel tool to remove the foam.

Once the carving was finished, we highlighted it by painting them with black latex paint.  It is not necessary to stay inside the lines, but it is important to completely cover the foam inside the lines with black paint.

stones-enamelAfter the epithets were highlighted, we treated the foam with enamel spray paint.  The enamel paint reacts with the foam, slowly dissolving it.  The thicker the paint, the more foam was dissolved. This step resulted in giving the surface an aged, worn look similar to stone with water and wind damage. We also sanded the edges to soften them as a weathered tombstone would be.

The last step was simply to spray or use a brush to paint them gray.  The result was a fairly quick, easy family project with a big impact for our Halloween display.

While pleased with the tombstones, there was one ongoing issue – how to make them remain standing in the often windy fall weather. Initially I used some thin metal stakes that I pushed into the stones & the ground.  These were hard to work with and the tombstones would bend over. Next, I tried small rebar spikes in the front and back of the tombstones.  These worked well but were visible and hard to cover as they had to be left high enough the tombstones could fall over them. They also caused pressure points that made an indent in some of the tombstones.

I saw later that some people drilled holes through the bottom of their tombstones and placed them over the rebar.  standWhile this seemed like a good idea, especially if one used a piece of PVC in the drilled holes so that the rebar wouldn’t pop a hole through the front with too much pressure.  But, having used only 1 inch thick foam, I was afraid to do this.  Instead, I created some stands out of furring strips and scrap plywood.

I cut the furring strips just slightly longer than the tombstones and drilled a hole on each end so that I could drive a barn nail or small piece of rebar through them without hitting the tombstone.  I screwed a small piece of plywood on the front side and a larger one on the back to prevent the tombstone from falling.  The front of the stands were very easy to cover with leaves, but unfortunately this stand design does show from the back and therefore won’t be our choice for any future tombstones.  I plan to use slightly thicker foam board and try the drill method with a PVC insert.

Regardless, the entire family had fun with this project and it is one that can be tailored to fit a scary horror scene or a kid friendly, funny Halloween display. Care should be used in storing your tombstones.  Though they are weatherproof and fairly sturdy, it’s very easy to chip off pieces of the foam if they are rubbed together.  You can see the specks of blue showing through in my finished photo as it was taken a couple of years after they were made. It is easy to touch them up if this happens.

original-tombstones

One final note – if one of your tombstone breaks, be very careful what you use to attempt to fix it. Many adhesives will eat through the foam.  Be sure to choose one the specifically mentions foam board on it. Liquid Nails and Gorilla Glue both make versions of construction adhesive that is safe for foam board.

DIY: Easy eviscerated torso

Posted: May 14, 2016 in DIY, Projects

Eviscerated TorsoIt was Friday the 13th today and we’re halfway to Halloween so it seems an appropriate time to kick off the prop building season! This skinned, split open torso is one of my favorite projects so far. It was extremely easy, fairly quick to complete and I loved the result. Plus, it’s lightweight and weather-resistent so there are many staging possibilities.

I recently picked up several hanging manikin torsos for $1 each at the local Habitat ReStore. So, when I saw the garbage bag torso in a blog post on Haunt Nation it, I decided to try it.

Tools: screwdriver, heat gun, scissors, hot glue gun, spray bottle filled with water, paint brush.

Supplies: heat resistant form, black garbage bags, cardboard, glue sticks, acrylic paints.

torso bagged torso moldFirst, put the form into a garbage bag.  I used a thick name brand bag to make a more durable finished product.  Different brands or types of bags will melt differently, but any will work – you just may have to use more of the bags are thinner.

Simply aim the heat gun a few inches from the bag until it shrinks and fits tightly to the form.  Do this over the entire form, a small area at a time.

After just a couple of bags, the plastic is surprisingly rigid, but doesn’t completely cover the edges of the form.

Next, cut two pieces of cardboard the length you would like the cut in the torso to be.  Notch the top by cutting V shapes fairly close together.  These allow the cardboard to curve with the shape of the waist and also allow for bending the “cut flesh” outward and creating a torn, jagged appearance.

I used hot glue to fasten the cardboard to the shrunken garbage bags.  I was quite generous in applying glue and used both hands to hold in in place until it cooled so that it would curve tightly against the form. You could use tape or another type of glue.

torso cardboard

To finish applying the garbage bags cut the bags across into four or five strips. Then, unfold the strips and cut them in half.  Cover any exposed spots on the front of the form by placing and melting the garbage bag strips, overlapping them as you go.  Continue until the entire thing is covered with four or five layers.

Be sure the plastic goes all the way to the bottom edge all around.  In areas that need extra patching, such as where the cardboard meets the plastic on the inside or around the outside seams of the cardboard, twist or fold the strips before applying them for thicker coverage.

Spray the plastic with cold water if it starts shrinking too fast or appears to be getting too hot.  This cools it instantly and freezes it in place.

Once the top and sides of the figure are covered, spray it with water and flip it over.  Cut up the middle of the back side and gently pull the melted plastic off the form so that you can reuse the form again.  If you aren’t concerned with reuse, there is no need for as many layers of garbage bags.

Laying the hollow plastic form you’ve created upside down, push on it anywhere that appears to be misshapen until you are satisfied with the shape.  Then, apply garbage bag strips to the back until you have completely enclosed the figure.  Use extra plastic on the neck if you intend to hang it.

torso gutsOnce you are satisfied with the coverage and thickness of the plastic it’s time to have fun with the details.  Create ligaments and torn skin by using a screwdriver to pull on the plastic as it melts. Alternate melting and spraying with cool water to form various size threads, chunks or ridges.

Add chucks of garbage bags along the bottom of the arms and legs to give them a torn appearance.  Roll up one of the strips and melt it in place near the left breast area to form a heart. Use the screwdriver to push it in place or tweak the shape of it.  Create other organs in the same way. For intestines, simply twist a strip and push it into place with the screwdriver as you melt it onto the form.

torso - sprayedWhen you are satisfied with the thickness, shape and texture of your creation, finish it off by painting it and adding blood.

Just a light coat of a dark read spray paint actually looks very good.  Or you can continue to detail it by making the internal organs different colors, adding skin tones in some areas and highlighting the texture with a light color.

This is an incredibly forgiving project all around.  I used very watered down acrylic paint and several shades of reds, tans and browns. I splotched them around randomly and let them run together.  After it dried I went back over it with a dry brush a light tan lightly on the highest textures.

In addition to paint I used some blood made with a version of Stiltbeast Studio’s blood recipe. Mix about a quarter cup of Elmer’s Clear Schoolhouse Glue, about an inch long string of red gel food coloring and a little drop of blue food coloring.  It is shiny and translucent, much more realistic than any paint mixture I’ve seen and cheaper than nail polish.  With the figure propped upright, I scooped up glops of the blood mixture with a large round brush and generously dribbled it over the darker red areas, particularly inside the cut and let it drip anywhere it wanted to go.

If you plan to put your eviscerated torso outside, spray or brush it with acrylic, polyurethane or some other weather resistant coating.  Marine grade polyurethane is the most durable and non yellowing option according to what I’ve read.  But, it’s also the most expensive and their are a variety of options that will work, particularly if it will be protected from the elements or outdoors for only a short time.

torso - painted

There are a lot of cool ghosts I’ve seen made by haunters and artists. While I love some of the ones created by chicken wire and cheesecloth, the packaging tape method appeared to be the easiest to create with my limited artistic abilities.  And indeed, I was very pleased with the result.

tape_ghost-main

I first started experimenting with smaller versions.  My son was so impressed with the creepy baby that resulted, he even pitched in a made one.

The first step is to find a doll and pose it in whatever position you would like your ghost baby to be in. For my life-sized figure I used a dress maker’s form, a hairdresser’s head and a friend’s arms for the forms.

forms

Next, wrap your form or model with plastic cling wrap from the kitchen. The purpose of this step is to keep the tape from sticking to your model, so you only need one layer.  Once you have completely covered your model with cling wrap, begin wrapping over it with packaging tape.  If you want to get more detail on the face or other places, use small strips of regular cellophane tape for features like eyes and lips.  I didn’t worry too much about fine details as my ghosts will be seen from a distance.

I found that a couple of layers of heavy duty Scotch tape sufficed for a fairly sturdy form.  But, the thicker tape popped up in a few places, so I went over the entire form a couple of more times with a cheap, thin dollar store brand of packaging tape to smooth all the edges.  On my first attempt I tried to continually wrap with the tape, but I found it was much easier to control the shape if I tore off strips of about six inches and placed them. I assume constantly overlapping these also added to the strength of the finished figure. In all, it took one roll of regular sized Scotch tape for each small doll and about six rolls for the adult figure.

Next, simply cut the tape off of your model along whatever route is easiest to maneuver.

ghost_baby-cut

You can be quite rough taking the tape off of the model as it is easy to reshape it.  Then simply tape the seams, being careful not to overlap the two sides as this makes them more noticeable.  In general it’s very easy to cover seams with just a few pieces of tape.  I even reopened mine several times as I tweaked my lights without any noticeable effect on the finished product.

One of the main reasons I opted for the packaging tape method was I liked the idea of my ghosts glowing an eerie color.  So the next step was to put lights inside of them.  After testing several methods I found the easiest for larger figures was to mount the lights with packaging tape right onto the stand.  I left about a foot and a half hanging to stuff into the left arm and taped the wire to the top of my piece of PVC.  Then I made a loop about the same size for the right arm.  The rest of the lights I looped in several circles, taping the top of each circle to the PVC.  This spread them out a bit for a more dimensional effect.  While they all look about equal at night, you can see from some of the photos that during the day the green wired lights are visible through the figure.  So I prefer using lights with white coated wire and plan to replace the green ones for next year.  Because white shows more on the ground, I wrapped the wire from the figure to the plug in black electrical tape.

tape_ghost-cords

For the small figures I opted to string multiple figures together with the lights.  As you can see by the picture, almost as much wire was outside of the ghost babies as was inside, so I had quite a bit of electrical tape wrapping to do.  Once I hung them on the tree I tried to hide as much of the wiring as possible behind the tree branches.

The small ghosts were hung using monofilament (fishing line) tied around their necks and the larger figures are just sitting on top of a piece of PVC.  For my life-size ghost I used a second shorter piece of PVC and an angled joint so she would be leaning forward a bit.  The white PVC doesn’t show at all even by daylight.  For my full sized child ghost I joined a white PVC piece that went inside the ghost to a black one to lift her off the ground.  At night the black doesn’t show.

stands

On the small one pictured above I didn’t wrap the legs.  On the adult life-sized ghost I had no legs.  Instead I gave them skirts that could blow in the wind.  These were created by cutting up the seams of clear trash bags and taping them a strip at a time around the waist. I did two layers and overlapped each strip a bit.  The second layer I started by taping the first strip between two on the first layer.

tape_ghost-dress

I used strips half the size to create a veil for the smaller figure.  But, I wasn’t totally satisfied with how it came out.  Though I think it could be improved by making the strips half the width, I opted to use cheesecloth for the larger figure’s scarf.  I taped it down everywhere the cheesecloth touched tape.  It doesn’t show and after a week her shaw is still in place.

tape_ghost-group

Mine are very simple versions of packaging tape ghosts.  If you have more artistic ability, check out examples by actual artists such as Khalil Chishtee here. Other types of tape sculpture by various artists can be found here.

All of the ghosts I looked at for inspiration can be found on my Pinterest profile in the ghost board, including the chicken wire and cheesecloth ghosts previously mentioned.

And, of course ghosts aren’t the only project for which tape sculpting can be used.  Online I saw some seamstresses using a form like mine and layering it with duct tape to create additional dress forms.  You could use these to bulk out your armatures for other types of figures in your yard haunt.  Sean Bradley has a great example of a life sized articulated mannequin he created with packaging tape on a Halo costuming site here.  It is at the bottom of the page below his tutorial on using a tape sculpture of his head and shoulders as a mold for a solid form.  He simply created the replica of his head and shoulders and then filled it with expanding foam (i.e. Great Stuff).

As I become more adept at creating these figures I would like to try something for my cemetery inspired by the cast glass sculpture by Christina Bothwell you can find here.  I may start by using one of the larger doll tape sculptures without a dress as a ground breaker ghost.  But, it would be cool if I could get it to look like it’s rising out of the dolls body as Bothwell did.

 

 

 

 

 

bookshelf-finalI’m working on adding a mad scientist’s lab to my Halloween displays and figured some good reading material would be a necessity in any lab.  This small project was created to hang on my fireplace mantel, but it could also be made as a facade in front of regular books on a shelf or is light weight enough to hang a much larger version on a wall.

To begin the project I cut my pieces of cardboard into different sizes for my books.  In this case I cut them into various widths, but left them all close to the same height so the fireplace wouldn’t show behind them.

Using a metal ruler as a guide, I scored the cardboard at even intervals about a quarter of the way through the cardboard so that the book spines could be rounded.  It’s important that the last score lines on each side are equal distances from the outer edges of the cardboard so the book sticks out evenly on both sides from the shelf.  I actually made these two cuts on all of the books first so that I could plan for various books protruding from the shelves in different amounts.

bookshelf-1-cuts

I then gathered my spine covers that I had printed and glued them to the cardboard using a brush and glue watered down 50/50.  That proportion is for Elmer’s school glue.  If you use a cheap brand, don’t water it down as it already is watered down about that much.

bookshelf-2-spines

My printed spines came from various location.  There are many sites with free printable book cover textures available to create them from scratch.  I wound up finding actual pictures of old libraries and choosing the book spines I liked the best.  Then I used Photoshop to erase the actual titles on the books (if they had them).  Using the clone stamp I filled texture back in where I had erased and then I wrote in my own titles and credit.

Since I like to incorporate horror movies into my displays whenever possible I paid tribute to some of my favorite scientists with the titles including: Robotics by Miles Dyson (Terminator), Tissue Regeneration by Herbert Best (Re-Animator), Teleportation by Seth Brundle (The Fly), Pharmakeia by Henry Jekyll (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde), How I Did it by Victor Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein), Herbal Remedies by Hershel Greene (The Walking Dead), Genetics by Dr. Moreau (The Island of Dr. Moreau), Concerning Black Holes by Jack Torrence (The Shining), Ancient Egyptian Artifacts by Ardath Bey (The Mummy), Parasites by Warren Chapin (The Tingler), Optical Density by Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man), Comparative Alien Physiology by Leonard McCoy (Star Trek) and Homunculi by Septimus Pretorius (The Bride of Frankenstein). I actually wound up with a bit of space at the end and plan to add Body Modification by Mary Mason (American Mary) to represent the ladies.

Using the printed spines as guides I glued strips of craft foam onto my books to give them more depth.

bookshelf-3-foam

I then brushed large brown coffee filters with glue and put several overlapping layers over the foam strips to blend them into the spine.  I brushed more glue over the top of the filters to fully attach them to the spines and also to wet them enough to be able to brush out any wrinkles I didn’t want. I put a few layers of filters so that the strips of foam would appear to have rounded edges.

bookshelf-4-filters

When finished I glued a second copy of the spines over them, carefully lining it up with the first copy so that all the foam pieces would protrude in the correct places. I then squeezed by books into shape and put loose fitting rubber bands on them so that they would dry in the shape of the ends of books.

bookshelf-5-topspine

Once they dried I lined them up in the order I wanted them and measured them to create my shelf.

bookshelf-6-glueFor the backing I cut a piece of cardboard the width of my books and slightly shorter than the height of the shortest one so that it wouldn’t show.  I glued two small strips of wood to the top of it and used them to screw in eye hooks for my hanging wire.  I also added wood strips to the sides and bottom so it would lay evenly flat against the mantel.

bookshelf-10-back

Once my backing was done I measured it and cut four pieces of 1/2 inch foam insulation to create my wooden shelf.  To make the foam look like wood I used an awl to scratch some grain marks and knots into the foam. I then painted all the indentations with black paint without much worry about getting too much on.  Then I used a greyish brown paint to cover the entire pieces.  For this I used a sponge brush and painted lightly over the surface so that the black that was inside the indentations I made was not covered. I did the wood grain and paint on both sides of the foam as well as the sides and ends of each piece as some of them would be visible around the books.

bookshelf-9-foamwood

Finally, I put full strength Elmer’s glue on the sides of each book and on the bottom half of the back edges and glued them to the front of my backboard.  Around them I glued my foam pieces. The top piece is just glued to the top ends of the side foam pieces.

bookshelf-final