Introduction: Top Hat Box Ghost Costume

About: William Davison Jr lives in the Tucson, Arizona area and works in the satellite defense industry. He keep busy with his many hobbies (old BMW car restorations, LEGO Robotics and Halloween effects/costumes). He…

As one of my favorite rides at Disneyland the Haunted Mansion has been an inspiration to my Halloween effects and costumes.

When I heard that they would be bringing back the Hatbox Ghost* in 2015 I knew I had to make a costume for myself. This Instructable will go through the process of making your very own Hatbox Ghost for your own haunts...

I will be taking artistic liberties and making my own version with similar lighting effects. In this version, I have created my own scary face to mold, so it has a different face and using more of a regular suit and cape so I can be comfortable while out tricks or treating!

Gather up your supplies and your tools! As we make a fun masked Halloween Costume with a cool lighting effects!

* Reference:



  • Vacuum mold
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun
  • Razor
  • pencil
  • soldering iron
  • wire cutter/stripper


  • Plastic sheet
  • hot glue sticks
  • paint
  • qty 2- 9 volt batteries
  • poster board
  • card board
  • LED Lighting strips
  • 2 wire speaker wire or power wire 14 or 16 AWG
  • Silver HVAC Tape
  • Black speaker grill fabric
  • Black silk type fabric
  • paper mache
  • Adjustable Interval Timer Kit: Vellemans PMK111

Step 1: Mask Creation

For the costume effect to work two identical masks should be purchased or made.

Note: if you want to skip making your own mask just buy thin plastic masks that you can paint on and add the other items to them.

In this case I made my own plastic masks by using thin black plastic sheets, a paper mache face with eyes and mouth cut out and a vacuum mold. setting up my vacuum mold base with a towel. Using my ovens broiler setting at 350 degrees and carefully watching the plastic sheet that is attached to a wood frame inside the oven, I watched it until the sheet was sagging and pliable.

Warning: Do not breathe the out gassing fumes from this semi-melted plastic as it is hazardous and toxic, have the oven/stove vent on full or a window open near by to allow fresh air in the work place.

I then carefully lowered the semi-melted sheet onto the base and turned on my attached vacuum, and in a few seconds with the vacuum sucking to let the vacuum pull the plastic over the face mold and letting the plastic cool to the touch I had the first of two masks! Of course, repeating the process I now had two costume custom masks!

Using scissors and a razor I was able to cut out the eyes, mouth and heads from the remaining plastic sheet.

Painting the two masks as close as possible to the same allowed me to put a white base which helps make the face stand out and black paint for contrast when it is lighted with the LEDs in the hatbox and on my face .

Step 2: Top Hatbox Build

Building the base of the 'Hatbox' I used poster board and the remaining black plastic cut into strips.

keeping it all open and covering with speaker grill fabric would allow on lookers to "See Through" the box and see the effects of the lights making the head inside glow through.

Also using the poster board kept the hatbox light weight, as to not fatigue my hand and arm, but strong enough to be carried through out the night with out damage.

Not pictured is the construction of top hat. It was made out of cardboard and covered with a black silk type of fabric. Making this was easy, I took a measurement of my head with a tape measure, making the ring of the rim center slightly larger and the adding a larger circle to make the rim out of cardboard. The stack top part was cut and shaped into a cylinder. Glue the stack to the rim, keeping in mind the direction of facing forward. Add a top on the stack and cover with fabric.

I was going to use a store bought top hat but it didn't seem to add a focal point to the mask and the light so I just made my own.

It was made by hot gluing the rim and the top section and the covering with fabric and hot gluing each cut segment. Not super clean but I wanted it to look like it was very old and ragged.

Step 3: Electronics and LED Lightng

Using hot glue I placed the speaker grill fabric around the box frame, leaving a section in the back to hide the electronics and batteries.

The wire to light the first string of LEDs went into the bottom and as shown in the picture the LED string was hot glued down in front of the mask at the bottom of the hatbox. A second string could be used in the top of the hatbox, but my effects seemed to work just fine in a dimly lit room.

The only wire that goes up to the top hat was to power the second string of LEDs that was glued with a hot glue gun to the rim in the front of the mask that was also glued onto the back of the rim in front of where my face was going to be located. This power wire was easily hidden as it was black and was camouflaged by the black cape.

The schematic was so that you can see it is only using on relay to "toggle" back and forth from one mask string of LEDs to the other string of LEDs in the hatbox. I played with the settings making the effect switch approximately every 10 to 15 seconds and then back again.

Soldering the wires to the LED strings and routing them back to the relay contacts I screwed them in using the positive side into the relay Normally Open (N.O.) and the other one to the Normally Closed (N.C.) with the center tap of the relay being the positive (+) from the batteries. Bringing all the grounds back to the Battery ground.

The top handle was covered in silver HVAC tape to give it a chrome/metal look.

About the Adjustable Interval Timer Kit (solder the kit or make one out of your spare electronic parts!)

Use this timer to control the frequency and length of electrical pulses by switching circuits on and off. You can use the Velleman MK111: Adjustable Interval Timer Minikit for the intermittent operation of blinking lights and slide projections, timing photo and video shoots, and other automated projects. You have the ability to adjust the pulse time between a half second and 5 seconds and pause time between 2.5 seconds and a minute.Features also available as completely mounted module VM136

Specifications output relay with dry switch-over contact: 3A/24V

Pulse time adjustable: between 0.5 and 5 sec.

Pause time adjustable: between 2.5 and 60 sec.

Power supply: 12V DC / 100mA (I was able to use 18VDC (2- 9 Volts in series) to power everything without damage to the circuit)

Dimensions: 1.6 x 3.4"

Step 4: Putting It All Together

A vest, a black cape, a black collared dress shirt and some black slacks allowed a very comfortable dress for the costume. The hatbox and the mask with the top hat could easily be taken off to enjoy Halloween treats or beverages.

I was able to stack my top hat on top of the hatbox so that it could be set on the ground or a table without falling over.

The two nine volt batteries lasted the entire night with no issues and there was many pictures taken by curious party attendees who were interested in learning how the effect was done.

Happy Halloween and enjoy making your own spin off of the classic Hatbox Ghost style costume!

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