Flailing Victim




Create you own halloween flailing victim, without harming your friends or siblings!

Step 1: Materials

The body is constructed from different sizes of PVC pipe. The pipe thickness is "Schedule 40" or thicker. Just pick the 'thick pipe' at the store.

PVC comes in 10' lengths, so you will need one 10' piece of 1", 3/4", and 1/2" pipe. And you'll have some left over.

You'll need these PVC fittings:

1" Thickness:
1 - cross tee,
1 - regular tee,
1 - 1"x 1/2" reducing coupling

3/4" Thickness:
2 - ells,
2 tees

1/2" Thickness:
1 - ell,
1 - 45

Also you will need:
-Small bag of 8" zip ties
-Small bag of 4" zip ties
-One foam 'pool play tube'
-One 18" x 36" piece of landscape cloth
-Four U-bolts, 1.5" wide x 2.5" long
-Two 6" pieces of 1/8" x 1" angle steel
-One 6" piece of 1/8" x 2" plate steel
-One 34" piece of 1/4" steel rod
-One double acting air cylinder, 1/2" bore, 2" stroke
-One four way solenoid
-Fittings and pipe for air cylinder and solenoid
-Repeating timer
-on/off switch
-Styrofoam wig head
-latex hands
Clothing:(Buy at yard sales because you won't want to use your clothes)
-Pieces of plastic packing bubble sheets or foam carpet padding (to give shape to the legs)
-PVC glue (or screws)
-PVC pipe cutter (hightly recommended)
-Misc. tools

Step 2: Construction

Construction of the body is straight forward, cutting the pipe and assembling it with the fittings. I'd recommend cutting all the pieces and test fitting them together first to be sure everything goes together BEFORE you glue it together. Once glued, it does not come apart!

Hint: When building a new prop, I test fit everything. Then when it all looks right, I drill small holes into the fittings and through the pipe, then insert a screw to hold it together. This gives lots of flexibility just in case something needs to be taken apart again. I have several props that only have screws holding them together and have worked well for several years.

Step 3: Hips

The hip joint is built by using a single piece of 3/4" pipe that goes through the 1" tee fitting and connects to each leg. Add a 1"x 3" spacer, one on either side of the tee. to keep the legs from flopping from side to side.

The 3/4" pieces are connected firmly together, and pivot inside the 1" spacers.

Step 4: Arms

The arms are made from a foam pool play tube. Cut four 11" pieces, then drill or poke a hole about 1"- 2" from each end.

Drill a hole in the 1" PVC, and run a zip tie through the PVC, then through the pool tube. Leave lots of slack, this lets the arms move.

Then connect the elbows together by drilling/poking a hole 1"- 2" from the ends, then inserting a zip tie to hold them together. Again, leave lots of slack.

Step 5: Bending Knees

The knee joints need to operate similar to real knees, they can't just flop about - it looks too corny... tried it... didn't work! So there has to be a special joint that works like a real knee. Here's the solution I came up with...

Cut two 14" pieces of 3/4" PVC (upper legs), then cut a notch in the pipe about 2" long (see photos).
Cut two 17" pieces of 1/2" PVC (lower legs). Drill holes as shown in the photos, then using a zip tie, attach the upper and lower leg as shown.

This attachment lets the lower leg move freely backward, but keeps it from swinging forward.

If you haven't already done it, attach the upper leg to the pivot joint at the hip.

Cut two 6" pieces of 1/2" PVC and attach to the lower leg using an ell on one leg and a 45 on the other to act as feet.

Step 6: Lights, Camera, Flail

You'll need to make up the brackets for the air cylinder. There are really lots of options to attach the air cylinder, but this is the way I did it. Please feel free to try another way if you think it will be easier.

I welded the pieces shown in the drawings, but a welding shop can fabricate these brackets quickly and inexpensively - and their welding will look much better than mine!

The clevis brackets were purchased from my local hydraulic supply store. I walked in with my air cylinder and asked for parts that fit the cylinder. I have no idea what size they are. (Welding effectively erases any marks on the part. )
If you purchase your cylinder, don't forget to order the clevis parts... it saves lots of time!

Step 7: Air Powered Flailing

Here's photos of the air cylinder assembly. The angle steel pieces are attached to the PVC with U-bolts. No drilling needed.

Depending on the size of the cylinder you have handy, the upper bracket can slide up and down several inches to accommodate the cylinder.

I had a small surplus air cylinder that I bought from C & H, but you can use whatever fits! (that's what I do!)

Adjust the brackets and move the legs up and down to test the movement of the cylinder. Once you're satisfied with the movement, tighten down the brackets.

The idea is to make the hips jump up a few inches, then jump back quickly. This will make the entire body flail about realistically (and disturbingly!)
The lower legs will move independently from each other, and the suspended body will rock about in a most unnerving manner....

You can go ahead and connect up the air cylinder to the solenoid and test the action to be sure the frame works the way its intended.
Be careful, the frame itself is very light, so even a small motion is very, very fast!

Step 8: Forming a Body

Note: When working with wire mesh, be sure to wear gloves!

I attached a 34" piece of steel rod to the front of the upper bracket to make a waist and help define the upper body shape, but after I was done, I think the landscape cloth alone can serve to handle this... So its your option, rod or no rod! If no rod, be sure to zip tie the landscape cloth to the shoulders and to the front of the upper bracket.

Cut a 2" hole in the center of the piece of landscape cloth, and fold it over the body (see the photo). use zip ties to attach the landscape cloth together at the sides and bottom. Bend and adjust the wire until it resembles a body shape.

Step 9: Setting Up the Circuit

Connect the air cylinder, solenoid and timer as shown. There are dozens of styles of solenoids, timers, and triggers - each combination affecting the details of connections. So without supplying specific parts which may be expensive or hard to obtain, its nearly impossible to describe details.

I buy pneumatic parts from Ebay, McMaster Carr, C & H, Surplus Center, junkyards, and my local hydraulic supply. When I start a project, I see what I have, and to some extent, build around the parts I've got!

If you're not sure about air fittings, look in your yellow pages and find a local hydraulic supply. I've got a great relationship with a small supply shop. They are happy to answer my dumb questions and help me find the right combination of parts to hook up most anything I've brought in. I'm sure there's a supply near you that will be happy to help you sort out the details.

What little I've learned about pneumatics has been by trial and error, and just trying to make it work. You can do it!

Remember SAFETY when working with air...

ALWAYS start testing with very, very low pressure - then work up to normal operating pressure.

For a first attempt, start with 10 PSI, then work up in 10 PSI increments. Starting with low pressure lets you find and fix the air leaks and loose parts BEFORE slamming 60-100 PSI to the mechanics, potentially causing the mechanism to fly apart and harm to yourself or others.

Step 10: Add Realism

Pad the legs to give them some thickness and add realism. I had some packing bubble sheets lying around that I duct taped to the PVC leg pieces. Be sure to leave lots of room around the knees so the padding doesn't get caught in the knee joint.

You may need to pad the buttocks area, too.

Attach the pants using zip ties looped through the belt loops and through the landscape cloth.

NOTE: do not attach the pants directly in the front. You'll need access to the inside to work on the moving parts. Its simple enough to open the front of the pants to get in. (no jokes, please!)

Its hard to see, but the solenoid and fittings are held in the body with zip ties.

The photo shows my test air connections. The finished body will use 3/8" black nylon tubing to supply air to the solenoid.
Fit the reducing coupling into the neck, and fit the 8" piece of 1/2 PVC to make the neck joint.

Step 11: Finished Product

Attach the Styrofoam wig head to the 1/2" pipe. Cover the head with whatever cloth you might have lying around (I had an old towel). I used a belt to wrap around the neck to hold the towel on. Attach hands (with zip ties, of course!).

I screwed the heels of the shoes into the back of the 1/2" fittings on the foot. Then using zip ties, I tied the bottom of the pants leg to the tops of the shoes to keep the PVC hidden.

The finished body is quite realistic in its movement. The body here has been flailing for as long as an hour continuously without a problem.

I needed to 'sprinkle' watered down paint to add some 'funkiness' to the clothes - after all, its been hanging out a long, long time!

And there you have it an awesome prop for your Haunted House, or just for scaring some friends



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    10 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I'd have to say that it is awesome. A way to make the flailing more pronounced would be to mount air bladder style actuators and use eye loops and zip ties between them to attach the body, legs and head.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Video! I tried this for my yard haunt this year. I was quite happy with the lifelike movement. Check out the video

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    you should've put a motion detector on it so that when someone walks in front of it... AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    How much cheaper is this compared to one you could buy? I have seen one for about $4,000 (too much).

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Oh WOW! There's NO WAY I'd spend $4k on this rig. I already had the compressor. Solenoids, pneumatics, and pistons for the movement were a bit pricey ($325 tops?) I used a wireless motion sensor across my driveway to trigger ($25) I sunk a bucket of concrete to keep it mounted ($22 with bucket) - otherwise it was all hardware (PVC, wood, connections) and old clothes.


    11 years ago on Step 7

    hmmm, what does that look like to you. For shame


    12 years ago

    Kids these days are far to weak to handle such terror. I'll try it next year.


    12 years ago

    Oooooooh......I wanna see a video.....

    Bad Donut

    12 years ago

    Kewl. Always wanted a way to make a test dummy for some of my ideas :D