Introduction: Tapey - the Tale of a Haunted Ventriloquist Dummy / Doll
A few years ago, I wrote a book on haunted places in Kent called “Ghosts In The Garden of England”. The book is a collection of true ghost stories told to me over many years of performing the role of a paranormal investigator. This Instructable refers to one of the stories told to me about 12 years ago
In the story (attached), it tells the tale of a haunted ventriloquist dummy, given to a child at a boot fair in Kent, England, who affectionately named the dummy ‘Tapey’. Have a read of the story to understand why he was called Tapey, what happened to him and how he came into my possession.
I should clarify, this Instructable details how I made the body for the existing head; it's not an Instructable for making a complete ventriloquist dummy, nor is it an Instructable detailing how to make the dummy haunted / possessed!
- A suitable dummy / doll head (preferably haunted!)
- 2 x wooden art hands; small size with both left and right. I bought these from Amazon
- Gorilla Duct Tape – this tape is ultra-sturdy and sticky, but has its limitations for moulding around shapes
- Pipe lagging foam – I used 2 at a thin size (for the arms and legs) and 1 at the large size (for the torso)
- Sharp knife to cut the foam (I initially tried a tool that is designed to cut foam, but this type was too dense). I used a carving / bread knife.
- Baby / toddler shoes and clothes. Easy to get from a second-hand shop, Amazon or eBay. Based on the size of Tapey, I bought 6-9 month clothes and shoes that were for a 3-6 month baby.
- Strong glue or a glue gun (I used Gorilla glue purely as it was the first I came to in the drawer)
Step 1: The Arms
Taking one of the thinner tubes, measure out the upper and lower arm. The measurements of mine were:
Upper arm = 7 inches
Lower arm = 6 inches
At the end of one end of these, cut through at a 45% angle; when the two cuts are put together, this will enable them to bend at the elbow easily.
Using the duct tape, affix the two parts of the arms together. This can be done anyway you like, but I opted to affix only one side with the tape, then reinforce – the tape is strong enough not to get pulled and by doing it this way, the arm moves in a more realistic way.
Other options would be to put a dowelling rod / plastic pipe into the foam tube and then putting a hinge at the elbow. I don’t think this is necessary though, the duct tape is sturdy enough for the job.
Step 2: The Hands
Simply attach the hands to the end of each arm using the duct tape. I used thinner strips to secure the two together and then a longer strip to wrap round the join to make it stronger.
The hands have quite a bit of wood at the wrist to help attach them, but I wouldn’t put the tape right up to the palms as otherwise it’ll be seen once the dummy is dressed.
Step 3: The Legs
This step is simple enough, just copy step 1 with the different lengths!
Upper leg / thigh = 7 inches
Lower leg / calf = 8 inches
Step 4: The Torso
Using the thicker tubes of foam now, measure out 5 lengths and cut using the knife. Mine measured:
Torso = 13 inches x 5
Using the duct tape, stick 3 of the lengths in a line at the back, with the other 2 at the front in the grooves of the others.
I opted to tape around the middle for this part as there is some ‘carving’ to do shortly. Using the knife, cut both the top and the bottoms so the torso sits upright.
Step 5: Carving the Torso
The human torso isn’t vertical, particularly for male dummies. They are broader at the shoulders and (usually!) thinner at the waist. What we are looking to do here is taper the vertical foam pipes, trying to bring it slightly in at the waist and keep it broader at the shoulders.
Look down at the front of the torso and using the knife, cut a rough V shape. Theres no specific guide here, so just base it on the type of head you have, it it’s a little portly, then that’s absolutely OK and you don’t need to cut much off. Perhaps just curve the bottom of the tubes to make a shapely bottom!
Don’t forget to measure the bottom of the pipes to make sure you don’t cut off more than the width of the 2 legs together. However, this design is forgiving, and if you take too much off, just stick some back on using tape and try again.
Step 6: Attaching the Head
Tapey is a ventriloquist dummy, and as such, has a long neck with eye and mouth controls. I wanted to still be able to use the controls so I could terrify my wife, so I measured how far down the controls were on the neck and cut a rectangle out of the central foam tube at the back.
I was lucky, it was a snug fit for the neck to slide into the hole in the tube. You may have to cut more foam out to get yours to fit. Alternatively, if your head doesn’t have a neck, such as a normal dolls head, just tape it down onto the top, or use the glue to stick it on if you don’t want tape showing.
I didn’t permanently fix the head into the torso, as this was only a test body, and I intend to make a better one in the future.
Step 7: Carve the Shoulders
Although we have already done some carving with the tapering of the torso, you’ll notice the upper shoulders and neck are a bit square and unrealistic. Using the carving knife with the head in place, shave off as much foam as you think is necessary to take any square edges off, and give the dummy a bit of a neck and curvature around the shoulders.
Remember, you will need a neck particularly if you are putting a shirt on, otherwise the collar will look strange and may cover part of the chin!
Step 8: Attaching the Arms
Decide what angle you want to attach the upper part of the arm to the torso, and using the duct tape, fix it in place. Although you won’t be able to move the upper arm, the lower arm will dangle and flail around due to the weight of the wooden hands.
Step 9: Reinforce the Upper Body
Now we have the head in situ and the arms attached, its time to make the upper body stronger. Using the duct tape, reinforce anything that is loose, or that you feel needs attention. Don’t worry if it looks a bit of a mess with all the tape, once you have some clothes on your creation, you won’t be able to see it.
Step 10: Attaching the Legs
Using the same principle of the knee and elbow joints, we want to cut the legs at a 45 degree angle. Tape them together in the same way as before.
In the torso, cut a square out from the front 2 tubes, wide enough to fit both of the legs. Doing this step will allow the dummy to sit as the upper legs will fold up into the torso.
Cut the 45 degree angle into the upper legs and attach them at the back of the square you just cut into the torso.
Step 11: The Feet / Shoes
With Tapey, I didn’t bother shaping feet for him as I knew you wouldn’t be able to see then when he had shoes on. All I did, was to use the glue to stick the foam directly into the shoes.
If you are going to do this method, make sure you dress the dummy before gluing the shoes on, otherwise you may struggle getting the trousers over the shoes!
If when your dummy is in a seated position, the trouser legs may recede and you could see the foam tubing. If this is the case, just put socks on! They should help cover anything.
If you’ve already glued the foam tubing into the shoes, just cut the ends of the socks and slide them over the shoes onto the legs. Add some glue inside the shoes and stick the socks down.
Step 12: Accessories
No haunted doll would be complete without some type of accessory. Whether that be an amulet, plastic knife, hammer, axe or something of that nature. As we have used the articulated art hands, it can easily grab items.
I decided to make a 'Death Rattle' out of a cigarette holder and a rattlesnake rattle. You can see a separate Instructable showing how I made this - just search 'Death Rattle', Its the perfect accessory for your haunted dummy to use to wake you up in the middle of the night.
Step 13: In Conclusion
Now you are complete, you have created your (hopefully) terrifying haunted dummy. If you have followed this Instructable, please post pictures of your creations!
All you need to do now is move him around the house when your kids aren’t looking and plead ignorance when the screaming begins.
This instructable was created for the 2020 Halloween Competition. Please vote, like, share or comment!
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