Death Doctor of Plague




Introduction: Death Doctor of Plague

Halloween is coming again!! Yea baby!! My favorite spooky holiday!

For this year I’m finally starting at the beginning of September, so I hope to be done in time to actually use on the 31st of October!

I’ve been wanting to make a plague doctor mask for years! My mask and costume need a darker and eviler look and feel than the normal plaque doctors around. It’s already freaky, has a dark history, and internationally recognized! It’s perfect!

It’s a pretty elaborated Halloween costume and halfway through making a bunch of props to compliment the costume I realized that a lot of these props can also be used as deco throughout the house, porch, garden and such.

I decided to separate the costume, the deco’s and props into 3 dedicated Instructables.

Be sure to have a look HERE for the props; “5 Awesome Halloween Props”
And for the deco’s, have a look HERE; “7 awesome Halloween Deco’s”


  • Death Doctor of Plague


  • Eyelens
  • Walking staff (with skull)
  • Potion sling
  • Torn hooded cloak (with cape connector)
  • Rope belt


  • Bone windshine
  • Circular saw windshine
  • Small gasmask
  • Book in chains
  • Bag ‘o eyeballs
  • Medieval lantern
  • Twig Voodoo doll

Interwebz gives hundreds of pictures, examples and inspiration for this project. And there has to be given credit to a couple of my inspirational pics;

Main inspiration;;

Google-search pics;

The 2 costumes from Steampunker are definitely AMAZING! Here’s his “show-case instructable”. It isn´t hard to notice I took quite a lot from his design, all his props and details are mindboggling and very nicely worked-out!

Besides showing you how I tackle certain processes of this build, I’ll also refer to other people knowing way better what their doing and were also inspirations for my build.

A useful reference; the ‘leather classes’ hosted here on Instructables!

Where and how to start?!

This isn’t particularly a small project, and does entice a lot of different aspect to a complete build! The mask itself is a big enough project on its own, let alone all the props for a convincing look!

Mine needed to be like a ‘death doctor of plague’, with the emphasis on freaky and scary (its Halloween afterall!). I don’t like the steampunklook too much in this one, and the classics you find on internet everywhere didn’t scream ‘scary’ or ‘freaky’ to me. Since ‘plague doctors’ are an old concept, I really didn’t want to much modern stuff in it either.

Then I found the black and white pictures in the ‘introduction’ and that was the first moment I really could envision mine. That’s when the ball got rolling! Found a couple more pictures that had good ideas in them. Then I found’s 2 builds à wow, done!

So, yea, I got a little overwhelmed after letting my inspiration flow and writing stuff down…

But this is one of the most important things you need to do; have a good idea of the kind of look you’re going for; steampunk, classic, post-apo, freaky, simple. This will dictate a lot for your design already like color, used materials and the sort of props to go with it.

Most props I thought off in advance, some came to me by finding a certain item.

Then again, do you need all those props? Mask only is way more suitable for a lot of gigs… can’t be swinging a staff with skulls and circular saw around on an indoor party! It has to be real-life safe!

That said; I’m going all out on this one! “No” restrictions! Whoohoo!

I’ll give
you guys a quick look into my start-up;

  1. I tore through my crafting supplies! Yanked everything out the closets and asked myself if I could implement this somehow. I’m borderline-hoarder so had a lot of stuff to go through...
  2. Before anything was built or put together I started off with a (morbid) scavenger hunt. I needed bones, a skull, teeth, thorny dries brushes, a walking staff, dirty rags, feathers and maybe a worn patch of leather. I live on a small island where people don’t give a sh*t about nature or animals (sad but true), so driving up the “right” dirtroad yielded everything except enough feathers, enough dirty rag and the worn patch of leather. I found these over the next couple of days not even looking for them, just ran into them.
  3. To get myself into it, I start off with building some smaller props. The book in chains was quickly taking shape, the small gasmask was quite easy and the skull and bones just needed cleaning and a small hole drilled. Finishing these smaller tasks makes you feel more confident about the bigger jobs like the mask, the walking staff and the jacket/ cloak.
  4. Try to stay away from the ‘never-done’ side of the road! There will always be certain things that could be changed/ added or altered, but there has to be a time to say “this (part) is done!”. On a Halloween party at night most your hard work will be unnoticeable anyway… ☹

Step 1: Tools and Materials


  • Leather working tools; awl, leather punch, sturdy needle, waxed thread, scissor, sharp knife
  • Sewing machine (or threads and needle at least); for sewing the beak, hood and cloak
  • Glue; for connecting cloths to the gasmask, connecting makeshift eyelenses and other decorative items
  • Cutting pliers; for cutting the wire (rebar wire, coat hangers)
  • Hammer; setting grommets and quick rivets, punching holes in leather (if needed)
  • Weathering tools; serrated knife, sanding paper, exacto blade, ironsaw/ jigsaw blade


  • Different kind of cloths; (faux) leather, burlap, canvas, cotton
  • Gasmask; will serve as the base for the mask. I chose one with an enlarged eyebrow for dramatic effects (Dutch WWII- replica).
  • Rebar-wire; to make the frame for the beak (I can’t get crafting foam here), the faux leather isn’t strong enough to keep shape on its own. Iron wire coat hangers would work to.
  • Gripping pliers; for dismantling the gasmask and bending wire (if needed)
  • Weathering agents; latex, rubber or plastic gloves, denatured alcohol and/or acetone, black paint or shoepolish, beeswax, oil, dirt, dust, stones, transparent and black spraypaint
  • Battery operated fairy lights; to make the eyes glow on demand.
  • Decorations; medical equipment, small pouch, leather straps, skull, bones, teeth, buckles, connectors, chains, sea-snail shells, feathers fake blood spray, maggot fishing lures, etc. etc.

Step 2: Mask; Gasmask

The gasmask provides an easy base to work off; it has a good fit, multiple adjustment points and lets me attach stuff onto where needed. It also provides me with eyes or lenses, that just need some decorative touches!

I don’t trust the filters used in the gasmask and besides that it restricts my breathing quite a lot. Let’s open up as much as possible around the mouth so breathing won’t become an issue.

The air-outlet on the side of the mask is unfortunately positioned for my design and would make the beak look weird, so I will have to cut this off and will later be covered with other fabrics.

After removing the filters, the outlet and the nose/ mouth cover I’m left with a big open hole, perfect for breathing!

One downside is I lost a lot of structural strength around this point. I solved this by cutting the fine dustmesh out the plastic insertring of the mask. Inserting this back gives back a lot of sturdiness without sacrificing breathing.

Later in the process I found a peanutbutter jarlid that would fit exactly in the filterspace. I glued this one in solid and will be the connectionplaces for the frame of the beak. I also placed the original iron clasps around the rubber and lid back.

Abit towards the end, when working on the lenses, I decided to remove the actual gasmask-lenses from the mask aswell.

Step 3: Mask; the Beak

THE part of the costume that makes it a plague doctor. If you use the rest with different headgear it could easily be used for a dark sorcerer or a necromancer etc.

I wanted my beak to point more downwards compared to the classic design, also a bit long(er). I didn’t have enough real leather to make the beak out of, so settled for faux leather…

I also wanted the beak to be visually separate from the rest of the mask (like steampunkers mask), so made out of a different material.

The template

I started trying out different patterns. Paper and electric wire, connecting it to the filter-part of the gasmask. There are a lot of templates and patterns out there, but non of them ‘floated my boat’. So I found a nice shape after 3 tries. I traced it on a piece of paper and cut it out trying the fit, size and shape. I tried and cut multiple times, until I was satisfied and certain of the shape size and fit. I didn’t want to waste any fabrics so I’m measuring twice, cutting once! The templates are kinda exact fits, so when cutting out pieces of fabric, give the edges an extra 2cm or so, for the sewing.

I made a frame using rebar-wire (just a tad smaller as the original design so the leather pieces can easily fit over them). I used 2 pieces of faux leather with a seam or an edge near the edge. By sewing these from the inside I get a profound and thicker top seam on my beak. I tried doing this on my sewingmachine, but had to resort to handstitching with waxed thread since my thin threads kept breaking. Also note that the top seam of my beak is straight compared to most other designs, i get my shape by overlapping points or creases.

Connecting frame to leather

This top seam is fastened to the top wire of the beak-frame. The little sewn-together edges on the inside of the top seam are fastened together with safetypins around the top wire from the frame. This way it can’t move and can’t really change shape. I had to use clothespins for retaining and molding the shape a little, I left these on for about 2 days. You could also dap small dots of glue along the topseam and then place the clothespins, this will hold shape way better.

The shape of the beak is created by wrinkling or folding up pieces of leather on the side of the beak. I fasten these via the inside using safetypins, you can barely see the iron pins sticking through. I intend to cross-stitch these later, using waxed thread and a curved needle.

With the bottom piece of the template the 2 bottom edges are sewn together from the outside with a simple but neat wrap-stitch. Some of the overlapping or folded parts get a wrap-stitch aswell, mostly for looks.

Some of the creases in the beak are quite big and I might close them up a bit more with some stitching, or I might fill up the beak with some light-weight stuff.

Step 4: Mask; the Skin

I’m using strong, old canvas to cover the mask in. I’m not cutting out any patterns cause I want my canvas-skin to be gnarly and deformed looking with a big stitch running in between the eyes.

I started with the beak (while the skin is sitting under the beak), this was not so smart, I’m only making it harder to get the canvas on. I’ll probably have to loosen at least a part of the beak again to be able to connect them together.

I started with a wrap stitch in between the eyes. I balled up a bit of canvas, put some textile glue in the fold and let it dry while some safetypins keep it in place. When it dried I placed the canvas over the gasmask, putting the stitch in between the eyes and secured it with safetypins.

I push the canvas into the eyesockets slightly, mark the center and cut a star-pattern in it.

I wrap stitched the canvas to the beak at the overlapping points. The bridge in between the eyes and the 2 jawlines.

I get a rounded head-shape automatically by the primary stich, the shape of the gasmask and the cutting of the eyesockets. Only at the back of the head I need to pinch the canvas together with some safetypins. Because I’m wearing the hood all the time I left these safetypins instead of sewing the overlapping points at the back.

The bottom edge is folded in and gets a wrap-stitch aswell making it more of a finished product.

All of my stitching is intentionally crooked and not uniform adding to the morbidness of my doctor.

Step 5: Mask; Red Glowing Eyes

By wrapping a small piece of transparent red cellophane around the last 5 lights of the fairy-light-string and gluing them on the inside of the mask I intend to let the eyes glow by the flick of a switch. Alternatively you can cover the lenses with red cellophane and leave the light as they are.

I found a battery-operated fairy-light string with an on- and off-switch. The good thing about it is I can remove any lights I don’t want or need without the whole string not working! The bad thing is it works off of 2 C batteries, which are quite big and heavy. I need to find a way to inconspicuously be able to turn it on and off.

I found spots inside the mask to simply glue the lights onto without them obstructing my view to much. 4 of them actually sit snug fit in between rubber layers, but I glued them into the mask anyway. The wire runs down my neck to a spot on my back where I can turn them on and off.

Only intended for temporal use, wouldn’t be very nice on the eyes having these on all night… so use as a “scare-factor”!

I glued the lights inside the mask bending wire the least amount possible, this makes it easier to hide wires and this way you stress the wire least amount possible.

If you take a look in the pictures, the bottom right light is the first one glued in, the middle one between the eyes is the second, the bottom left is the third connected, the top left is the fourth in line and the top right is the last one to be glued in. I gave some places with wire a dab of glue too, to keep them in place (using clothespins and a Stanley-knife).

The wire after the 5th light needs to be directed down, towards somewhere I can easily reach the on- and off-switch. Just making sure the wire doesn’t run in front of the eyes and that is has enough room so the heavy batterypack doesn’t tug at the last light in the mask.

Step 6: Mask; the Lenses

An intricate part of the mask (on my costume) is the magnifying lens-eye, mounted on a gasmask. Detailed and unusual I think it fits my “doctor” well!

I sought long and hard for an exact fit, and found a meat-paste can that would fit this purpose! And in the end decided to even take the eyeglasses out of the gasmask. Now it sits in the rubber tightly. Mounted to the can is a small (plastic) magnifying lens, a small mason jar top and a microsized mobile phone clip-on camera lens. All together making a magnifying lens prop.

See my “Props-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 7: Torn Hooded Cloak

The main cape or cloak is going to be quite the important prop. It will cover most of my body and so will get a lot of attention just because of it size. I had a long jacket from my grandma (fugly as hell, didn’t even sell at a porchsale for next to none…) and messed it up completely after trying to dye it black twice… Note to self; 100% polyester doesn’t hold a dye well… (read; at all!)

So instead of a jacket, my costume is getting a cloak. Mainly connected on the shoulders and the hood will be quite big. It can’t cover too much of the front tho, props need to be visible!

I have a couple old curtains (mainly cotton, fairly thick stuff) and one of them, measuring 200x135cm is just about enough for a full length cloak. A piece of a second curtain is used for the hood.

When you have your hood and cloak the super-simple way I connect them is by simply pulling the corners through a bronze, conically shaped, fitting. This is all that creates the shape and connectionpieces for my hooded cloak. These bronze fittings will be connected to a cordura strap that acts as carry-harness.

My cloak is just long enough to be trailing or dragging. Nice effect, not very practical… just saying.

See my “Props-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 8: Walking Staff

A walking staff is a great prop and/ or add-on for a shaman, death-doctor, tribal-chief or any other dark themed character! This one can be a real eyecatcher! You can get very elaborated with your deco’s (and that’s exactly what I intend to do for my complete Halloween costume!). Mine gets a skull mounted on the top. The staff is fairy long, about 2.2m, and will stick out above a crowd!

After searching the woods I had 4 potential staffs. The one I preferred most (the longest, probably because its y-split near the top) didn’t have enough depth, it’s to straight-up. I needed my staff to have a crooked and sudden bend just above shoulderheight, so I can hang extra props off the staff! So I choose the second-choice-staff for functionality.

1 thing I will try to accomplish is making it real-life-safe. I wanted to put a dead, thorny bush along the top, but this might not be the smartest idea considering there’s other people around.

See my “Props-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 9: Bag ´o Eyeballs

This is (in my case) a costume-prop, you should, however, place it as a porch-prop or somewhere around the house. But since I’ll have no access to pockets on my costume and still personal stuff to carry around I decided to give the costume a worn-down small pouch. It’ll also house some spare parts like batteries and spare lights for the glowing eyes, some jute twine, some garbagebag twisters, some tie-rips and maybe some contact adhesive (and my leatherman will be on my belt! preparation is half the game!).

It will also act as my “trophy-bag 'o eyeballs” to make it fit the costume.

See my “Deco’s-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 10: Medieval Lantern

During one of my scavenging-hunts I found a very weathered lantern. This would be an easy conversion to carry-on lightsource for on the staff (or around the house). I also had a pretty weathered oil lamp at home… but for my costume it would be a bit to modern, so I decided to make a “medieval-style” one.

I decided that the best place for this prop would be on my walking staff.

See my “Deco’s-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 11: Poison Sling

For certain costumes, a potion or poison-sling would be a real addition! Small, corked, glass vails with the liquids of a breaklight that give the impression of poison. Some other bottles will contain powders and/ or herbs etc.

If I want to put up a “show”, I can pour some crushed multivitamin (powdered in a bottle) in a glass of water, let sizzle a couple seconds and gulp in front of others. Because it comes from your poison-sling, people will freak out!

I can also pivot my flask filled with breaklight fluids up-side-down, pouring the liquid into a glass or cup and offer it to some smarty-pants!

The bottles will be filled completely on Halloween-night, the flask gets only enough to be able to sway the contents in its flask.

See my “Props-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 12: Rope-belt

I used a very thick (2.2cm diameter) boat-loading rope, found it on the side of the road.

I tied a noose in one side and frayed the last 80cm of the other end. The total length of the rope is almost 4.5meters and after tying the noose I have a little over 2m left for tying around my waste (note that another 80cm is frayed and not used as ‘belt’, so you could do with a shorter rope). The thinner your rope is, the less you need!

As detailing I used a bronze fitting where the fraying starts and 4 round clip-rings to hang accessories on.

See my “Props-‘ible” for the how-to (link in intro)

Step 13: Additional Clothing/ Base Layers

Most of my body is covered already by the costume. To cover up the showing parts I’ll wear;

  • a thin, black longsleeve (turtleneck would be best)
  • black gloves; cheap $2,- cotton work-type gloves
  • black Meindl outdoors-boots
  • thin long black socks (the toes cut open to act like “shin-socks”, to cover my legs under the torn pants)
  • black jogging pants (ripped, torn and ragged below the knee)

Looking at my 'photoshoot-session', the black of the base layers definitely need to be weathered and brought closer to the cloak and hood color. Now the differ way to much!

after your base layers you might want to cover your neck with some black bodypaint.

  • the poison-sling is dressed first;
  • the rope belt passes throught the poison-sling and is tied onto itself
  • connected the bag 'o eyeballs to the rope belt
  • put on the hooded cloak
  • now would be the time for the mask
  • and don't forget to grab your walking staff!

Optinals/ think abouts

  • Black bodypaint; in neck, around eyes, wrists, ankles etc. All skin-showing areas.
  • White contactlenses; another detailing effect and scare-factor
  • Humpback; heighten the shoulders making him even more misformed
  • Staff loosely suspended on rope; inconspicuous strong fishing line connecting staff to belt. Gently let your grip slide off the staff while the line holds it in place; MAGIC!

Finishing up/ last detailing

  • Fishbait maggots; spreaded throughout the costume and props - i had some silicone maggots spreadout through the costume, but the glue didn't stick to any of them.
  • Bloodstain splatter; at appropriate places (bottom walking staff, pants, cloak) - the blackness of the pants doesn't show any bloodstaining and the draining the bottom of the cloak would use up too much of my fake blood spray.
  • Voodoo-charms; canines i've got left can be made to 'simple' charms and hung or strapped onto the costume or walking staff.

Step 14: After the Party

I’ll share a couple thoughts in all honesty after a night fully dressed and completely tricked out!

  • Lets start off with saying I won the costume contest in my local area! Yay! Nafl.200,- which amounts to about $120,-. The total costs in my costume were about $35,- so that’s a nice reward!
  • Its bloody hot in there! With temperatures around 29C outside (129C inside!)I was sweating quickly, a lot!
  • This is not a party outfit! Its more of a showpiece. Make a dramatic entry, get the ‘wow-effect’ and then downscale a bit.
  • The mask offers limited sight. Opening up the magnifying lens does help a lot.
  • The walking staff held up great, did catch a lot of eyes but was a bit of a hassle to carry around all the time.
  • Dragging or trailing cloaks suck in crowds! It got stepped on a lot! And probably a couple times on purpose too!
  • I should have poked a hole in the bottom of the beak to fit a long straw through for drinking.
  • The crafting jars with the breaklightfluids are not intended for liquids… at least the corks aren’t! they started soaking up the fluids and started leaking through. Luckily I had the non-poisonous stuff but at the end of the day I ended up with a little mess. I should have made my own corks out of old winebottle corks.
  • Cutting the breaklights and filling the jars is a damn messy job! Make sure you do this outside or somewhere easily cleaned (tiles or vinyl).
  • Because I weathered the base clothing hours before the party I expected it to go itching real soon. Luckily it didn’t and the look is way better as the pure black from the first photosession
  • I got mixed reactions on the costume. I live on a very religious small island where Halloween doesn’t really live. So I got some screams, some people didn’t want to look at me and some tough-guys scooted off as I came close! Hahahhah job well done in my eyes!
  • I got some free drinks from impressed americans on vacation! :D
  • I got some drinks on the house by impressed bar-peoples! :D
  • Oh yea, and I lost 1 eyeball…

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    4 years ago

    You have spooked me so I am officially a fan. Well done!

    Brian M V
    Brian M V

    Reply 4 years ago

    :D :D Thank you!
    never done anything like this before, so means a lot to me!