I’m currently constructing a complete and pretty elaborated Halloween costume.
I decided to separate the costume, the deco’s and props into 3 dedicated Instructables.
And for the deco’s, have a look HERE; “7 awesome Halloween Deco’s”
· Death Doctor of Plague
- Walking staff (with skull)
- Poison sling
- Torn hooded cloak (with cape connector)
- Rope belt with noose
- Bone windshine
- Circular saw windshine
- Small gasmask
- Book in chains
- Bag ‘o eyeballs
- Medieval lantern
- Twig Voodoo doll
All these props have a dark of evil tone to them and would be a perfect add to your dark-themed costume!
Step 1: Eyelens
An intricate part of the mask (on my costume) is the lens-eye, mounted on a gasmask. Detailed and unusual I think it fits my “doctor” well!
It’s a bit of a specific prop, maybe not suitable or hard to apply for some…
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.
- A fitting can to the eyesocket of your mask
- A slightly smaller diameter mason jar top
- A small (plasic) magnifying lens
- A mobile phone clip-on camera lens
- 2 mini screws
- 1 mini-bolt + nut
- Black spraypaint
- Piece of sandpaper
- Electric drill with small drillbit
- Piece of rebar wire
- Plier for shaping rebar wire
- Contact cement/ epoxy/ strong adhesive
Before anything, cut out the bottom, leaving a 5mm rim. I sand the can down and give it a matte black spray. The sides of the glass lid is also sprayed black. The rubber ring is dirtied-up
The magnifying lens is connected with a single mini bolt with nut. I dap the nut with a tiny bit contact cement making sure not to glue them to the can or anything else but eachother!
By the single-screw-mounting I’m able to pivot it out of the way “when needed”. By putting in a miniscrew in the rim I create a contact-point so I can’t over-pivot, it makes it a one-way open and close system. The second miniscrew is just for looks.
You only need the metal closing parts (iron frame) and the top (lid), not the actual jar. So take it apart and you need to turn the glass lid around in the metal holder.
The can needs 4 holes drilled and slightly enlarged for the metal closing parts to fit through. The closure was too small to stick out both sides of the can so I made a replacement out of rebar wire using pliers.
I was a bit lucky for the mechanism to snap-lock on the first try
Simply glued into place is a ‘fish-eye’ clip-on lens for a mobile phone. After spraypainting it black I turned it around so its conically sloping towards the end. To cover up the glue sticking to the ousides I loop around a bit of weathered rope.
For people wondering; No, I can’t see very well through there when its closed!
The other eye
The other eye needs something aswell, less elaborated, but you can’t leave it plain. Something you can actually see something through! So this is what I came up with;
- Medical tape roll cover; fits the eyesocket from the gasmask and has a ribbed texture (at least its not smooth…).
- Ragged piece of cloth; wrapped around the tape cover for layering, effect and bringing in some color
- Ragged piece of burlap; wrapped around the tape cover for layering, effect and cover the red fabric up a bit
- 8x8cm piece of metal mosquito mesh; balling out the end. Will cover people looking in but I can look out!
- Glues; fabricglue and contact adhesive
- Black spraypaint; for spraying the tape-cover
I sprayed the whole thing black to start off with. Stupid me… leave the bottom half centimeter unsprayed so glues will stick. I had to sand and scratch some off again!
I ragged up 2 small pieces of fabric on 1 side.
The red fabric was 4cm wide and after ragging up one side I even cut that half that! I covered only the back of the tape-cover with a little bit of contact adhesive and wrap round the fabric inside the last plastic rim from the tape-cover (see pictures). I cut it off so I have no overlap.
The burlap just needed some plucking, pulling loose some fibers. I wrap I around and only glue where the ends meet (I hope that stuff dries clear… otherwise I’ll take a black permanent marker to it!). when its dried I had the cut the strands that stick over the rim where it will be inserted into the eyesocket of the gasmask.
I tried to pre-shape the mosquito mesh a bit before sticking it in the tape-cover. Just making sure it balls out enough and isn’t crooked or gapped somewhere. With just a couple dots of contact adhesive its glued to the inside.
Mounting inside the gasmask
Since both my can and the tape rollcover are exactly fitting in the rubber eyesockets I had an easy job. The tape cover gets a good glue line on the rim (which we cut free from cloth and strands). Work the rubber around the rim carefully to not smear glue all over the place. When the glue set a bit, I went round gluing at a couple more connecting spots.
The lensprop is a little heavier and is conically shaped so after a lot of wiggling it pops inside the eyesocket. I could (and will) glue this up aswell, but for a bit more ‘peace of mind’ and hopefully a little bit angling possibilities, I’ll first connect the can with 3 mini bolts and nuts to the rubber from the eyesocket.
Step 2: 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.
- Wooden stick; preferably: crooked and at least shoulder height
- Bunch of feathers
- Hot glue and/or textile glue
- Handful of fine twigs
- A couple of dirty rags
- 3 garlic cloves
- Jute twine
- Patch of leather 25x15cm
For extra comfort and detail I decided to put a leather handle on the walking staff. It used to be a handbag, found during one of my scavenger-hunts. I intentionally cut it off at a bit of an angle and left the bottom thick band on. After ripping it up a bit more using a serrated kitchenknife, I wrapped it round the staff and glued it onto itself using textileglue, securing it for drying with those garbagebag-twisters.
As you can see I put the thick edge of the bag as the bottom of the handle. This creates a hand-rest and gives me space to stick a bunch of feathers in the bottom using a bit of hot-glue. To cover up/ add to the detail I cover the bottom edge with fine-as-birdsnests twigs and such (you’ll have to first pull the handle up a bit and glue and stick some birdsnest material into place and then a drop of glue on the pointy tip of the feather and stick it through the birdsnest material).
For extra detail I dirtied-up some burlap and rags and ripped them up in about 4cm wide strips. Like the leather strap from the handle, I ripped up one side of the strap. I put a little textile glue to stick the rag onto itself when wrapped around the staff and already inserted another rag (another color) before the end of the first rag. Some rags have their tail-ends hanging loose (the red and black burlap).
Garlic cloves suspended on jute twine
Yeah, I mean, DUH!
I’ll suspend a couple on a bare part of the staff. Using a leather working tool (no idea of the name) I pull jute twine through the top of a clove and wrap it around at least a couple times so it will stick in place. Because jute twine isn’t that strong I decided to tie them to the staff, instead of letting them dangle.
FunFact; The plague doctors back in the 16th and 17th century chewed raw garlic all day! They believed it helped them prevent getting the disease.
Bells and whistles
The work is in the details! So add some bells, bones, skull, teeth, thorny brush, barbed wire, etc. etc. Scratch it up like you fought off a bear, stain it up with fake bloodsplatter like you knocked out 25 plague-victims, carve it up with strange “spell symbols” or paint pretty little hearts on it!
I added a skull with a piece of spine, some smaller teeth woven into the jute twine suspended below the leather handle, some frayed ends of rope and some blood-staining to the bottom 20cm of the staff.
I will say its pretty easy overdoing it! Also stick to your theme; for a steampunk/ cyberlook you could add bunches of electrical wire and sharpened circuitboards as props, but this would not match with a witch-doctor offcourse!
Step 3: Skull, Bones and Teeth Preperation
Cleaning your skull, bones and teeth
If you, like me, went on a (morbid) scavenger-hunt for the walking staff and bones you have some cleaning up to do. I used a very weak hydrogen peroxide solution to clean and whiten my (already pretty clean) skull and bones.
$1.50,- and straight out of the bottle (3%) I submerged the skull and bones for about 15 – 24 hours.
Now with a scrubby pad and a dishwashing bristle I simply brush all leftover goo off.
If your bones are dirtier (or fresher) as mine, you might have a couple of additional steps. Check out here (momgoescamping) on how to!
One extra step I take before handling the skull too much is giving all the teeth a dap of instant contact adhesive (on the inside of the jaw so it doesn’t show!). Some of the tooth-sockets are in pretty bad shape.
Connecting the halves of the lower jaw
I joined the 2 halves of lower jaw bones together after glueing all the teeth. By laying the skull upside down I could lay the 2 separate lower halves of jaws into the correct position. You can check the alignment on 4 spots to get a perfect fit (see picture);
1. The jawsockets; when the jaw is closed these should have a complementary shape to eachother and fit perfectly on/ into one another.
2. The corinoid; the big flat part at the beginning of the jawbone needs to sit straight and in the middle of the (eye/muscle) cavity.
3. The teeth; they should fit eachother quite tightly, SNAP-fit! The k-9’s lock-up through eachother.
4. Split-jaw; when you lay the separate jaws into the skull, they meet up in the middle by leaning against eachother. This used to be filled up with ligaments or tissue, which I substitute with a piece of wooden coffee-stirrer. The split needed to be separated just a tad.
So I dropped a bunch of glue in the split with the small piece of wooden coffee-stirrer and with the rest of that stirrer I bridged in between je back part of its jaws. Once dried I turned it around gently and glued it from the inside aswell (not my prettiest gluing-job…).
Step 4: Skull on a Staff
A real eyecatcher, mounted on the top of tall stick using iron wire. To cover up any showing wire and such I set the skull on a handful of very fine, dead brush, you can also stick some feathers in for additional coolness!
- 1 animal skull
- A stick or staff
- Electric drill with small drill
- Iron wire (garbagebag twisters and thicker rebar-wire)
- Painters tape
- Contact adhesive
- 1 fake eyeball (optional)
- 1 animal spine (optional)
I was pretty lucky with the shape of the top part of the walking staff, the little piece sticking out on top fits perfectly in the eyesocket while the mouth closes perfectly around the other end! Even with a little painters tape it is already pretty solid on there!
I’ll try to use as much natural holes in the skull for connecting the lower jaw, around the top of the staff, onto the skull. Painters tape still holding it in place temporary so I can check for connection-options!
The holes of the nose will be perfect for connecting the front parts together. Ill do this with 2 garbagebag-twisters.
Bend them in the middle, sticking the loops up through the nostril-cavity and using a small burlap-sack-staple to hook though the loops. You can simply tie the twisters off around the lower jaws now. Note that I drilled 2 small holes around half way down the lower jaw so less wire is showing.
The back part gets connected together by drilling a tiny hole in the jaw socket-bone, and then wrapping it around the thin, outsticking bone-loop on the side (pff dog-anatomy…)
Since these garbagebag-twisters aren’t that strong, I wrapped a couple extra twisters around the popsickle stick and staff. Then I hung the whole thing up-side-down and glued it together onto the top of the staff. I used silicone painters chalk for this, any other glue wasn’t thick enough and would run.
Now I’m pretty sure I can swing this staff like a baseballbat without it coming off!
I took one of the eyeballs from the “Bag ‘o Eyeballs” (a deco piece I made) and glued a 8cm piece of frayed rope to the back. I drenched the rope in the commercial fake blood spray I had and let it dry completely. It turned stiff and a bit pale, like a dried-out sinew. I stuck the loose end of rope in one of the natural holes in the back of the skull. Use good contact cement and a wooden BBQ-skewer. By leaving the rope just long enough the eyeball will hang out of the eyesocket!
I was very lucky to find a decomposed spine which still had all spinal bones connected to one another! Note that I didn’t clean this spine at all, I didn’t want to risk the connecting tissue coming off or falling apart. With a little wiggling and pre-shaping a long piece of rebar-wire I’m able to stick the wire all the way through the spine, top to bottom, all pieces!
The top is jammed up against the skull and right where the beginning sits, I drill a small hole through the walking staff. The top wire on the spine get passed through this hole and bend 90 degrees, tightly against the staff.
I broke the 4th and 5th sinew-connection of the spine (cracked it, not snapped it!) so it would shape more like the staff.
The bottom wire, coming out its ‘tail’, is tightly wrapped once around the staff keeping everything in place!
Step 5: Potion/ 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.
I’m using 2 old leather belts, one with and one without a buckle. The one without the buckle is connected to (looped around) my actual ‘belt’ (the thick rope with the noose).
The end of one belt is looped through the side of the buckle from the other belt and connected onto itself using a screw-into-eachother screw and two washers. This will be the backside; the buckle is a too modern item for my costume.
The front is looped around the other belt aswell and also connected using a screw-into-eachother screw. To cover this up I used an old leather bracelet with a gemstone, wrapped it around, and riveted it closed (the pop button was broken). Don’t forget to cut off the excess belt!
I bought some clear crafting jars that already came with a cork. These will be for the glowing stuff! In the pictures you see an example, I’ll fill them up half way on the 31st!
The brown vails are nose-spray bottles and I cut fitting corks out of wine-bottle-corks. I’ll put some crushed multivitamin tablet in, the ones that sizzle.
To clean the labelresidue off I use some nailpolish-remover.
I happen to find a very small terracotta vail wit a cork! Nice addition!
I intend to let my poison-bottles glow, so I want to cover the bottles the least amount possible. They will be non-removable, so no ‘funny-business’ will happen!
Vails will be laying in the same direction of belt; the necks will be faux-leather-cord-wrapped and stuck through the belt, securing it to the belt. I punch 2 holes per bottle in the belt. The top one is on neck-height and the bottom one about 5mm up from the bottom of the bottle. My belt isn’t wide enough for straight-up standing bottles, so I’m mounting them horizontally (with the belt).
I loop the thin cord around the neck 3 times and knot it off leaving some cord sticking out. Work both cords through the top hole, the longer piece goes through the bottom hole, loops around the bottom of the bottle and goed back through the hole again. Now tie it off to the shorter piece still sticking out the top hole. This holds 3 bottles on the belt.
Hanging on twine from the other belt are a couple of brown bottles dangling through a single punched hole and separated from them a small terracotta vail.
I saw this awesome chemistry-style glass vase at a friend’s house and asked if I could borrow it. What a nice add-on this would make for my poison-sling! Also half filled with breaklight fluids!
I made a holder for it using 4 straps 20cm of leather, 1 push-button and 1 screw-into-eachother screw and a piece of jute twine.
2 small pieces of rebar-wire are optional, highly recommended tho….
The straps are salvaged from a woman’s purse. It has holes on one side already and the length is just right! I use one of the holes to connect all straps together with the screw-into-eachtother screw. A (quick)rivet would do the same trick! The ends of the bottom straps are connected together (at approx. 90degrees) with the bottom part of a push-button and the ends of the top straps are connected together with, you guessed it, the top part of a push-button!
To make sure the bottle doesn’t fall out of the bottom I connect the bottom straps using rebar-wire, at the bottom of the bottle. This way the bottom straps can’t slide anywhere!
I’m using 2 additional holes (already in mine) at the back for a quick and easy hanging rope.
If you make this rope just long enough to fit the neck of the bottle through, it will sway less when walking.
With 1 other small piece of strap I give the neck a ‘collar’, just detailing.
If I want to put up a “show”, I can pour the crushed multivitamin 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 wiseass!
Step 6: 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.
So, first things first, it needed to be black, ripped up and dirty as if I’ve been wearing it longer as Santa Claus has been around!
I removed the rod-rings by cutting off the entire strip. From another one I cut out the pattern for a hood (google searched on images; pattern hooded cloak to get a basic idea). I bought some black fabric dye and went into the kitchen!
I couldn’t find a big enough pot to boil 8L of water in, so I boiled the fist 4L, threw it in a 5GL bucket, put on the next 4L, mixed the dye in the first 4L, mixed the second 4L of boiling water through the dye-mix and then put the curtains in. Offcourse it didn’t want to stay submerged, so after stirring and turning over the cloth meticulously, making sure dye would reach everywhere, I grabbed an old BBQ-grill and used it to push the cloth under water.
I’m leaving it in longer as the instruction say to. I can’t keep heating the water like the instruction want, so I hope a bit more time will achieve the same effect.
After about 4 hours of saturating, a rinse, a wash, another fail! Too much fabric, I guess… until I found out this isn’t 100% cotton either… probably 50/50.
I’ll have to get away with it under the weathering-excuse; “it’s just old and sunbleached!” being more grey as black…
Distressing and grunging
Distressing means to tear it up, rip holes and make your gear look worn, old and ragged.
Grunging simply means dirting it up! Make it look used, aged, weathered and worn.
I overthought this step way too much and didn’t get myself to actually do it for quite some time! Watching video after video on how-to’s, they all basically use the same techniques; serrated knifes, saw blades, exacto blades and sandpaper for ripping and tearing. Spray paints, dirt and babypowder for the staining and aging.
So instead of trying to explain how and what exactly I’m doing, would be confusing to say the least! Instead check out “Nuclear Snail Studios” grunge tutorial. A German guy who makes the awesomest post-apocalyptic gear!
I used a scissor to put in some initial cuts and get the straight bottom edge a bit less straight! A couple cuts mid-way using a Stanley-knife and then the ragging-up starts (all the cuts so far are way too straight, too made). I used a reciprocal wood saw blade to begin my ripping but switched to a reciprocal iron saw quite fast because the wood saw was way too aggressive.
The bottom is very ragged and is gradually less torn the more I go up.
I tried to leave the hood a little more intact, at least no BIG holes! The edge is weathered all the way.
The hood is pretty straightforward. Turn it inside out and sew along the back-line. When done lay ‘the hem’ onto the topside of the cloak. Find the middle and sew this point to the middle of the hood.
The hood is shorter as the cloak, you’ll have to ball up or double up on the cloak at a couple of spots before you sew them together. I put on one of my bronze fittings temporary so I can find the right spots to secure the hood to the cloak with pins. This creates wrikles, or overlap in your cloak and will also make it drape over the shoulders nicely.
I take it side by side. First the right side of the hood, seen from the middlepoint. Then the left.
I decided to make a quick and easy harness for the cloak. This so I can easily put it on and it will have a fixed position with the costume. The picture shows a cordura strap of 1.30m with a fitting buckle. It was a carpenters-belt.
I’m fastening the cylindrical bronze fittings (that hold the corners of the cloak and hood together) to the cordura belt using those screw-into-eachother screws.
The hooded cloak is connected only by the bronze fittings, you could connect it to the cordura strap if you like, sewing, small rivets with washers, small screw/into/eachother screws are all options. Because cordura against bare skin doesn’t feel that nice, I’ve sewn a small strap (leftover cotton from the hood) around the strap.
In between the bronze fittings I’ll hang a small chain with a pendant and 4 pieces of scavenged spinebones. The pendant is an old wire broch and will “signify my medical training” (FunFact; normally signified by a wide brimmed hat, they often carried something like a pendant or broch, like sheriffs had a star in ‘the wild west’).
To hold everything in place I’m tying the bones and broch with garbagebag twisters onto the chain.
I’m using a piece of rebar-wire with a small hook at the end to pull the chain through the bronze fitting while the cloths are already in. lining up the shackle with the hole I screw in the tiny bolt and using a pliers holding the nut at the back (the bronze fitting had this threaded hole already). I screw it tight onto the fabric from the cloak and hood.
Step 7: Rope-belt With Noose
This is a real noose, used to, well you know… DON’T mess around with this!
As a prop in my case, or as a deco to be hung all over the place!! Real easy to do deco that gets the vibe going for sure!
Use paracord and hang dolls and/ or stuffed animals across the yard, or a little thicker rope as a door-prop etc.
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.
How to tie