Introduction: Severed Torso Photo Op Wall

About: Some of my creations are available for sale on Etsy - I am a certified instructor of Jeet Kune Do concepts and Filipino martial arts. I am a home Halloween haunter with…

Here in Phoenix where I live, there was a big Halloween themed convention scheduled for this year. Since I belong to the group, and our group planned to be a big part of the show, I decided to create a "photo op" where patrons could take a fun picture of themselves to remember the event by.

Alas, the convention was cancelled, but I had still made the wall, and it turned out to be just as much fun for having at a Halloween party!
This project is really 3 in one:

1. The Wall - You can use this to make castle or dungeon walls, or any brick/stone looking walls you need.

2. The "Little Things" - a little extra touch

3. The Photo Op - putting it all together.

Step 1: The Stuff

Here's what I used:

2" 4'x8' Foam insulation board

1/8"x4'x8' luan

Four 1"x4"x8' Furring Strips

A can of expanding foam insulation

A roll of clear packing tape

Strips of paper

White glue

Masking tape

ping pong balls

Dryer Lint

Dollar store "shackles"

An old shirt

Heat gun

hot knife


Electric Drill/screwdriver

Chop saw

a bunch of drywall screws

Miscellaneous latex and acrylic paint

Step 2: The Wall

Here is where I began.

I took my white polystyrene foam insulation and pulled off the annoying silver backing from one side and the clear plastic film from the other.

Then I was able to mark out the stones I wanted. In the interest of time, I went with 1' x 6" rectangles. This made for a decent number of blocks without making the project unnecessarily complicated.

If someone wanted to make the stones more irregular, then they certainly could. Likewise, if one wanted to make a classic "red brick" look, that too could be easily done by making the blocks smaller.

If one wanted to make this wall appear of wood, I would not recommend the white foam. The pink or blue extruded foam insulation works much better for wood grain detail, but we won't be looking at that today.

Step 3: Adding Bricks to the Wall

Once the bricks were drawn on, it was time to make them look real.

First, I took my hot knife and traced all my lines with it, scoring the foam and making it look like there is real space between blocks.

Once the lines were all scored, I used my heat gun.

By applying heat to the scored lines, I created a more stone like texture. It also widened the "grout lines". I went over the whole wall with the heat gun. By applying more heat in some areas and less in others, I got a rough-hewn texture that I believe looks like a dungeon wall.

Step 4: Vines And/or Roots

Using my expanding foam insulation, I drew some vines on the bare foam. Or are they roots? I don't know. They make it look a bit creepier in my opinion, so I put them in.

Step 5: Paint!

Next was painting the base coat. Even after "heat sealing" the foam with a heat gun, spray paint tends to eat through, so I recommend latex paint.

Flat black would have been best, but I had dark gray, so I went with that. Notice it did not much like sticking to the foam vines. Oh, well.

Once the base coat was dry,I dry brushed some of the bricks with a light gray more or less at random. Then I did a few of them over again, so there are a couple different "shades of gray" in there for you.

I also hit a few with a brown dry brush. I painted the vines with gray, and brown, and green, and did a wash with a brown/green mixture to try to get into the cracks.

In some places the white shows through on the stone and on the vines, but considering what they are supposed to be, I'm fine with that.

If all you need is a stone wall, then you now have it! Repeat as necessary to make your set.

However, I wanted more, so, on to the next steps.

Step 6: It's the Little Things

This is kind of a "bonus step". It is completely superfluous, so you can skip it if you're in a hurry to see the rest of the build...

I wanted to put a little something in my wall that some would notice, knowing most would not. In this case, I added eyes. Because of the "hollow face illusion", they appear to be looking at you all the time.

Here's what I did:

I grabbed the last package of ping pong balls at the Dollar Tree. They were badly abused, but it makes no difference to me, so I guess I saved them from the trash?

I cut one in half with an Xacto knife, then I used a Sharpie to create pupils, and crayons to create irises.

I tore out some space in the foam of the wall and placed the eyes in there. I used clear tape to stick them in place from behind. The convex part of the eyes is to the back of the wall.

I used masking tape to secure the eyes from the front, and to create lids so they kind of look like eyes

I decided to add a skin of just dryer lint. Yep. Dryer lint. Just lay some glue down over the masking tape and gently cover with the lint. I like the look. Just what is that thing watching you?

I used to do a very similar thing in the front window of my home. Instead of ping pong balls I'd use clear salad bowls from Dollar Tree, add irises, and tape them to black poster board. I had cut large eye shapes in the poster board ahead of time. Then I put them in the window and the interior lights illuminated the eyes nicely. They "watched" anyone standing in the yard.

And now, on with the program!

Step 7: The Body

OK, at this point, I needed a body form.

I simply used your standard "packing tape ghost" process:
1. Recruit a victim.

2. Put a garbage bag over said victim, cutting holes for head and arms

3. Wrap the body in packing tape

4. Cut the newly made form off.

Once I had the basic form, I reinforced it with strips of newspaper dipped in a water/white glue mixture. You know, paper mache.

It is important to note than I only needed the front half of the form. I wasn't sure about that, so I started with both halves. It became necessary to cut the back half off to make the form fit the wall properly for the illusion.

Once I had the form, I laid it on the wall and marked where the arm and head holes would go. Then I cut out the holes and painted the newly exposed foam.

Step 8: Adding the Wood

OK. Remember when I said this was intended for a Halloween themed convention in Phoenix? Well, the convention center is a good 30 miles from my house. I had no way to transport a 4'x8' photo wall to the convention center.

So, I cut it in half. I cut the foam into two 4'x4' squares. I cut the luan into matching squares.

If you can get away with NOT cutting your project in half, then you should probably skip that bit.

I lined up 1 of the luan squares with the top half of the foam - the part with the holes cut out. Then I traced the holes onto the luan.

After cutting matching holes in the luan with a jigsaw, I covered all the edges with masking tape. I'm sure there is a more sophisticated way to make those edges safe. I used tape. Then, it was ready to glue to the foam.

What I chose to do was to use the spray foam and spray it on the luan. Then I put the foam wall on top. When everything was properly aligned, I weighted down the wall and let the foam cure overnight. I did this for the top and bottom halves.

Step 9: Dressing the Body

At this point I put a tattered and appropriately stained Salvation Army T-shirt on the body. I cut the back off the T-shirt so I could glue the body form to the wall.

After the body was glued to the shirt, I used spray foam to glue the body to the wall, being careful to align it with the arm and head holes.

I also cut holes in the back of the sleeves and glued those over the arm holes. That way, people could stick their arms through the arm holes and still appear to be "wearing" the shirt.

Step 10: We All Need a Little Support

With everything painted and dried, I made the supports to stand it up.

Two 8' furring strips became the uprights.

Two more 8' furring strips got cut in half.

I attached one 4' piece to the bottom of the 8' piece, so that 6" stuck out in front. I thought this would make it more stable.
The other 4' section I attached diagonally between the bottom piece and the upright piece.

Then, I used drywall screws to attach them to the back of the wall.

IF this piece was not made to me moved around, I would have:
A) NOT cut the wall in half and

B) GLUED the supports on as well as screwing them on.

However, this was always meant to be mobile, so no glue.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

With everything assembled, I just needed to touch up the paint that got damaged during building and add a little black cloth to the back of the head hole. This black cloth I painted a bit with gray paint so it kind of matched the bricks and the illusion would be a bit more convincing. This step is not necessary, of course.

I cut the dollar store shackles in half and glued them to the wall (using spray foam), then painted and put them over the body form arms to "explain" how the body was just hanging there.

I used a stepladder for people to get high enough to stick their head through the hole convincingly. I have one friend who is tall enough to skip the ladder.

I may have done a bit of photoshop magic with a couple of the pictures taken so the hole behind the head completely disappeared. However, even if I did, I only did it to a few. With the cloth in back, and with hats/hair, it usually looked pretty good with no touchup.

There you have it!
I hope it was useful.

Halloween Contest 2017

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Halloween Contest 2017