Two good friends of mine love Halloween and are making their own little haunted house this year. Since I love to make Halloween decorations, but have no place to store them after I make them, I was very happy to offer to make them a ghost decoration. My first thoughts naturally was to do some elaborate Scooby-Doo Mysteries grand holographic 3D ghost with sounds and smoke effects that would make Steven Spielberg envious... but alas I was also working on a robot and Halloween cards, so I had to scale my idea back a bit. The other issue was I presently lack the budget of Steven Spielberg, or for that matter even that of the producers of the first Blare Witch Project movie. As someone who does not drive and can't visit the local Halloween shop for spooky supplies, I looked around my house for any items that I could come up with to make an awesome spooky ghost. Then, when I saw a plastic trash bag flying by in the wind, I had an awesome idea for an inflatable trash bag ghost.
This project makes a green glowing inflatable ghost that seems to rise from above a gravestone. The picture above is the ghost before it is inflated.
For this project, you will need the following supplies. Please note, this project is very easily adaptable. If you don't have an item on the supply list, it should be easy to come up with alternatives.
1 all white plastic trash bag- I used a newspaper bag which was the ideal size and shape. If you can't find an all white bag, you might be able to cut out the printed section if your bag is large enough.
1 Dollar store hand held fan- This is one of those cheap fans that you buy at the dollar store that consist of a motor, foam propeller and battery compartment. If you don't have a dollar store fan, a computer fan might work or any small fan.
1 green LED light- Optional - you can also just use a flashlight or any LED light
1 small cardboard box - Can also make your own box from paper or cardboard
Electric wires - I used one of the wires salvaged from taking apart an old electric cord.
1 wire tie - Optional - Can just use wire or twist tie
Card Stock Paper
Black Construction Paper or Black Poster paper or black paint.
2 Copper Brads and small piece of copper -OR- a low voltage switch (optional)
1 Transparent Report Cover OR 1 Transparency OR 1 transparent or semi transparent disposable plastic cup (May be optional, depending on fan)
Black Sharpie Marker
Step 1: Trash Bag
The first step to making a trash bag ghost is finding a suitable trash bag of course. Depending on the type of fan you use, it may not have enough power to inflate a very large bag. In my case, I planned to use a dollar store fan, so I knew that this small fan was not going to be able to inflate a very large bag.
The newspaper bag I found seemed to be the ideal size... not too big, made of very thin plastic, and had only a little writing on it. I cut out the section of the bag that had writing, then made the bag into a ghost like shape by rounding off the top and using plastic remnants to form the ghost hands.
Initially, I had intended to make the ghost like a wind sock kite with a hole at the top and the fan blowing air in at the bottom. Later, I found that the fan was not strong enough to keep the ghost upright like this... so I sealed off the top using transparent tape essentially making it a ghost shaped bag with just a single hole at the bottom. That way the air would not escape out the top of the ghost and it would stay inflated.
Cut the bag according to Illustration 1
Step 2: TAPE
The next step is to use transparent tape to tape the openings of your ghost bag closed such that the head of the ghost has no openings for air to get out. Tape on the arms of the ghost which are made from the remnants of the bottom of the bag. Make sure you do not seal up the bottom of the bag.
Step 3: Draw a Spooky Face
The next step is to draw a spooky face onto your ghost bag using a Sharpie marker. If you have trouble drawing, simply print out a spooky face and trace it onto the bag.
Step 4: The Gravestone
Set your spooky ghost bag aside, and print out the gravestone template onto card-stock paper using an ink jet printer. If you do not have card-stock paper, you can glue the printout onto cardboard or onto poster-board. If you don't have a printer, the shapes are fairly simple to reproduce by hand onto poster-board.
Download and then print the Gravestone front, back and sides. Make sure you don't re-size the images. Cut out the Gravestone cutting tabs along the edge of the tombstone. Fold the tabs over. The side paper strips are glued or taped along the edge of the tombstone using the tabs to attach or glue them on.
Step 5: The Box
Set aside your tombstone and allow the glue to dry. The next step is to prepare the box that will house your small fan and LED light. The best way to proceed would be to spray paint an appropriately sized box with Black spray paint such that all visible parts of the box will be black. The box should be no wider or taller than your tombstone, but tall enough that the ghost will be visible from behind the tombstone when it is attached. In my case, I didn't have time to wait for black paint to dry and I was running low on paint, so I opted instead to cover the visible parts with black poster-board instead.
Set the box such that the open end faces the back of where the tombstone will be attached, and cut a round hole in the top. This round hole is where the fan will blow air up inside of the ghost. I used my roll of tape and a pencil to draw the circular outline of the hole, and then used an exacto knife to cut out the hole.
Next, I traced the top of the box and the hole onto the black poster-board and cut it out with scissors. I taped the bottom end of the ghost to the inside of the hole cut in the poster-board. Next, I glued this poster-board cut out aligned with the hole in the box. If you spray painted your box black, tape the open end of your ghost from inside the box such that the ghost comes out of the hole with the open end of the bag sealing the hole.
Step 6: Testing
This next step requires you to test to make sure the fan you have will actually inflate your ghost. Depending upon whether or not your fan is capable of inflating your ghost will determine if the next step is necessary. For my ghost, I used a very very cheap dollar store fan. As I was also learning as I went along in this project, I had not sealed the top of my ghost head closed to trap the air, but instead left the top open like a wind sock. I later discovered that by letting air escape out of the top of the ghost bag, the fan was not powerful enough to inflate it. Before I arrived at this conclusion, I found an alternative way to keep the ghost upright. Place your fan inside the box and turn it on to see if the fan is strong enough to inflate your ghost. If it does... congratulations... you can skip the next step. If not... don't worry and follow the next step.
Step 7: If It Not Inflate, Don't Hate
If your ghost inflates with just the fan, you may opt to skip this step although it may be useful if you want to keep your ghost upright even when the fan is off. Initially, I thought the reason my ghost would not inflate was because the bag would not remain open enough to allow the flow of air into the bag. The first idea I had to fix this problem was to find a cheap plastic disposable drinking cup, cut off the bottom of the cup, then push it up from the bottom into the ghost to partially hold the bottom of the bag open. Sadly, the only plastic drinking cup I could find seemed to be made of some mysterious un-cutable substance that would require a chain saw to cut... so I went with plan B. I dug through my drawers looking for a plastic transparency. No plastic transparency... on to plan C. I found an old report cover that consisted of a clear plastic cover and metal brad like attachments intended to hold loose-leaf papers together in a nice report. Since I don't ever plan to do a nice report again... it seemed like the ideal material for fixing my limpy ghost.
Roll your transparent cover into a cup like tube and use transparent tape to hold it in a tube shape. If you have a cup, just go ahead with using a cup and cut off the bottom so the air can flow through. Cut tabs on the bottom of the transparent tube. Next, stuff it up through the hole in the bottom of the box and into your ghost. Tape the tabs of the transparent film onto the bottom of the box. The transparency will hold the ghost upright and open it enough so that it only takes a very small breeze to inflate the ghost. As it is transparent, it is not visible that it is the transparency holding the ghost upright.
Step 8: The Fan
If you plan ahead of time, you can get dollar store fans with fancy LED lights that light up when you turn the switch on. The dollar store I bought my fan from however only had the cheapest kind that consisted of a battery case, a propeller made of that rubbery bendable foam stuff and a switch. Therefore, if I wanted my ghost to glow, I was going to have to make my own light. If I was making this for myself, I would have probably just taken an old flashlight and stuck it inside the box pointing upward into the ghost. Unfortunately, my only flashlight now resides in the head of a partially built malfunctioning disco robot. So, with a bag of LEDs in hand, I decided to wire up my own LED light using the battery of the fan for its power.
After testing several positions of attachment for the LED light, I found that the only place I could position the LED light was in a position such that it would require a second switch to turn on and off the LED light. Unfortunately, I don't have any spare switches laying about, and so I had to make one.
Attach a wire to the negative terminal at the top of the right hand side of the fan's battery compartment and a second wire to the top positive terminal of the left hand side of the fan's battery compartment. Note: If you directly touch the wires of the LED light, it should light up. I simply twisted the wire around the terminals such that no soldering was required. Attach the negative wire to the negative wire of the LED light, and to the positive wire a second longer electrical wire. Cut a tiny piece of copper (or any small bendable piece of conductive metal) and punch a copper brad (or any brads that will conduct electricity) through the copper and the top of the box. Put a second copper brad through the top of the box such that the copper metal piece can be rotated to touch it. On the underside, connect the two wires to complete the circuit. Now, when you turn the copper metal piece such that it makes contact with the two brads, the LED light should light even with the fan off. Rather than soldering the wires, I twisted the wires around the connections and used duct tape where necessary to hold them in place. Its not pretty, but with such a low voltage fan, it should be perfectly safe.
Step 9: Attach Fan to the Box
The next step was to attach the fan to the box such that the fan would blow air upward into the ghost plastic bag. In order to hold the fan in place, I used a combination of tape and a plastic wire tie that went through the top of the box and wrapped around the fan handle. If you plan to run the fan for several days, I would suggest that you only use a plastic wire tie so you only have to remove the wire tie to access the battery compartment.
Step 10: This Doesn't Work... But Could It?
One of the experiments I tried with this project is that I had the idea that the ghost would make an eerie whistling sound when the fan was running. To do this, I punched a hole in the back of the box where air from the fan would be drawn in, and taped a cheap kid's whistle over the hole. Unfortunately I couldn't get the whistle to work, perhaps because the air enters the whistle the wrong way or perhaps because there is not enough force of air to make the whistle sound.
Step 11: To Close Box
In order for the box to close, I needed some sort of latch to hold the back of the box closed yet allow access to turn on the fan. To do this, I attached the binder portion of the report cover I cut apart in step 7. I then made a flap out of black poster board with holes to line up with the binder metal clasps. Alternatively, you can use brads or simply tape the box closed.
Step 12: Attach Tombstone
Once you are certain your ghost inflates properly when the fan is turned on and you have its LED light working, you can attach the tombstone to the front of the box such that the ghost seems to rise above it. Use glue or transparent tape to tape the tombstone to the box. Cover any areas of the box not already covered with either black poster-board or black paint.
Step 13: Your Done!
Now that you have finished your spooky inflatable glowing ghost, all you have to do is turn it on and find a good place for it to spook your guest. I don't know how long the fan will run and I strongly urge that you should not leave it on over-night. Turn it on shortly before guest are to arrive and place it in a relatively dark area. In a dark area, the glowing ghost will appear to float behind the tombstone. Turn on both the fan and the LED light switch.
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