Jack-in-the-Box Costume (Halloween 2011)




Introduction: Jack-in-the-Box Costume (Halloween 2011)

Concept and process instructable for my Halloween 2011 Jack-in-the Box Costume!

ALIVE! Induce nightmares in your friends and family by becoming an unnatural toy come to life!
SEE! how I built a box that was harnessed to me and floated almost imperceptibly off the ground!
DAZZLE! at the working box hand-crank, and stretchy accordion middle!

If you'd like to see a short video of how I was actually able to move in this costume, please check this out:

I hope this instructable will be informative and entertaining. Like what you see? Well then please vote for me in the instructables Halloween contest! It'd be much appreciated! :)

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Step 1: Concepting

I always, ALWAYS, begin my halloween costume planning with sketches to determine what look I want to achieve. Plus I always find it entertaining to see in which ways I deviate from my initial ideas, and which ways I improve upon my initial ideas. For instance, I originally thought I was going to do the whole eye-mask (I bought one) and ruffled collar thing (i made one) as per the sketches above -- but in the end felt these items didn't look right with the actual costume. Anyway, keep these sketches in mind as we go through the process of building this bad boy and i hope it's as fun for you as it is for me to compare with the finished product :)

In full disclosure, I had the idea for this costume several years ago (2009 perhaps?) and was about ready to set out to make it happen when my fickle-ness got the better of me and i changed my mind to do something else. With that being said, this sketch was made at the beginning of October 2011 and all of the work was done this year for this year's costume (even working through a terrible cold... how's that for devotion!).

Step 2: Box Building

The box begins its humble construction with canvas stretcher frames (I happened to have a bunch laying around...perks of being a former art major and a pack rat!), that I pieced together, then backed with flat cardboard (attached first using masking tape, then reinforced with staples). I figure that this will allow me the look and feel of an actual wood box, without the weight -- the stretcher frames, while made of wood, are very light almost like a balsa wood.

Because I wanted some mobility for the costume, I decided to make the front and back panel so that they kicked outward on hinges, allowing my legs to have some movement.

Step 3: Decorative Elements

Halfway through the box construction, it dawned on me that an actual Jack-in-the-Box would have a hand crank. This wasn't part of my original plan or my original sketches. So i rummaged through random crap I have in a closet that I pick up and have no use for at the time, and found these pieces that I will use to construct a workable hand-crank. It pays to go to thriftstores and pick up the weirdest shit possible and keep it around for a rainy day, i guess. Your mileage may vary.

I also found a plastic ornamental trim during one of my thrift store runs at Goodwill. I bought up 4 pieces with a rounded edge, and 4 pieces that were straight, that i needed to cut in half with a hacksaw to extend its use. These pieces were a great score, because they gave the box the decorative look i wanted to achieve -- kind of an old Victorian hand carved look.

Step 4: Painting the Box

With the box construction complete and all ornamental attachments attached, I was ready to paint this bad boy. i unattached the hand crank mechanism since it would have gotten in the way too much, and masked some of the eyelet/wire parts. I purchased two types of spray paint. One dark brown for the first coat, one light reddish brown texture for the second coat.

Step 5: Box Harness & "Accordion" Support Structure

With the box completed, now was the tricky part. My intent with the costume was to have the box float about an inch off the ground, to give the impression that i was an actual Jack-in-the-Box. There are store-bought J-i-t-B costumes i have seen where the 'box' is basically suspended around your waist with your legs dangling below. Personally i think this looks a little stupid, so my challenge was to try to make the costume/box appear as though i had no legs, but still be mobile.

I originally was going to use elastic and buckles for the harness to allow the box to float...i was going to create an underlying suspender structure, but because I started getting sick towards the later parts of the project and I am a very slow hand sewer, I decided to use picture wire instead due to its relative strength and ease of which to hide under the accordion frame.

With the 4 eyelets, I wove the picture frame through each anchor point of the eyelet and attached the picture wire to a cheapo canvas belt I found at Goodwill ($3) that had grommets punched throughout the belt which allowed me to wrap the wire into the belt itself. I had to make adjustments on the tightness of the wire from all sides (the back wire required a bit more support and pull due to the weight of the box lid) to achieve a uniform lift on all sides of the box.

Once the wire was adjusted and wrapped sufficiently, I attached 2 of the wreath frame rings/hoops to the wire harness with a smaller gauge wire to keep the accordion frame in place.

Step 6: Wardrobe Adjustment

I was pretty intent on having a conical type clown hat, as opposed to the more traditional, and easier to find jester hat (you know the kind, that has three points and has jingle bells on it). Anyway, I had to order this hat online, but it wasn't quite what i wanted...

See, unfortunately for me, this hat only came in two color options: Yellow/Red or Yellow/Blue. Since the color scheme for the rest of my costume wardrobe was green, gold, and brown-hues, the blue was not gonna work. So i masked off the yellow portion and spray painted the blue felt side with a coat of dark green, then a coat of bright green spray paint i had floating around from a previous project.


Step 7: Makeup Testing

I was starting to come down with a major cold about three days out from Halloween, so i was a bit out of it at this point. But I do like to do a test-run of the makeup to make sure I know what looks good (or bad!) so i can more quickly apply the techniques on the night of the party. I am not very skilled with makeup by any stretch of the imagination, but i try... it helps for halloween that messiness and crappy application actually works for creepy costumes :)

Step 8: Last Minute Adjustment

As I was testing out the costume and walking around in the box for a test run, i noticed that the hinged front and back panel clanked a lot, and LOUDLY as they kicked out and fell back and hit the stationary part of the box. So I dug around and saw I had some of this weather sealant foam strip for doors in my Box o' Random Stuff (TM) that I decided to attach to help muffle and soften the panel kickback.

Once applied, it was considerably less noisy, and bonus, the foam was pretty much the same color as the box, so it was totally camouflaged. and now i'm ready to actually get into costume...

Step 9: Done!

... and here is the finished project! A few billowy victorian style shirts, a strange gold belt found at a thrift store, some more carefully applied makeup, a weird vest, and a ripped up bit of yellow fabric tied to my elbows, and the whole thing came together in the end! I was worried that the wire harness wouldn't hold the box off the floor all night, but I was able to move and dance in the box (although i was unable to sit, but i knew that ahead of time). All in all, I consider it a success!

Thanks for letting me walk you through this instructable! I hope it was informative!

Happy Halloween!

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    8 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great idea
    The makeup on your mouth nicely added to the inanimate look to the costume - was that latex?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction


    for the mouth effect i used this stuff: http://www.mehron.com/Scarring_Liquid_p/204.htm for subtle underlying facial structure, i found it to be a bit less messy and more controllable than liquid latex.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    When i first saw this incredible photo, I thought it was Jack White and I was drawn in on the spot. Jack White in a box...Beyond cool!
    Very original. I really like the sketches and the props in photo too. Great Job!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the kind words :) Jack-White-in-the-Box would be an awesome twist to this costume :D good thinking!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much! The conceptual drawings are always so fun to compare afterwards!