Mr. Hyde Halloween Robotic Top Hat




About: I am a theatre designer and technical director. I work at Merely Players, a small non-profit theatre group in Southwest Colorado. Check us out on Facebook: Merely Players-Durango. You can also see some o...

I was inspired by the Mr. Hyde character in Nightmare Before Christmas to make an animated top hat. I also loved the cable control creature that Dug North detailed in last year's Make Halloween edition. I wanted a creature that could pop up partially or fully and also move its head and open its mouth.

I have been learning the Arduino board and so thought it would be a great controller.

The Scary Terry web site <> details using digital sound recorders. I also wanted to have sound with my animated hat.

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Step 1: Create the Head Sculpture

My first step was to create a sculpture of the head. I already had a costume hat, so I measured the approximate size that seemed likely to hide completely inside the had.

I used Roma non-drying clay and made a quick sculpture. I had some costume jewelry around, so I selected a large and medium fake pearl for eyes.

Once the clay looked good, I brushed on a layer of liquid latex. To give it some body and yet keep it from getting too heavy, I added layers of toilet paper onto the wet latex and then brushed on another layer to seal it in.

Next I added Liquitex paint into the latex and brushed on a thin color layer.

After it dried, I powdered it thoroughly (baby powder or makeup powder) to keep it from sticking to itself and destroying the little mask.

Step 2: Create an Underskull

The little mask has no real structure, so I made an underskull out of aluminum roof flashing (available at hardware stores). It is very lightweight, and you can cut it with heavy scissors. I added a little brace in the back to act as a pivot so that the head could turn.

I also created a jaw and upper palette (the silver metal) so that the mouth could open and close. Black duct tape acts as a hinge between the two pieces.

A very little bit of hot glue attached to mask to the underskull.

Step 3: The Lift Mechanism

Dug North used parallel arms to lift his creature's head. I knew that I wanted my hat to be "normal" height so that nothing would give away the effect.

I decided on a scissors lift mechanism to raise it up. After experimenting with cardboard and paper fasteners, I came up with a good size to fit in the hat and yet lift up the head enough to clear the rim of the hat.

I used some vacuumforming styrene plastic I had handy. Anything relatively rigid and yet lightweight will work. I used #6 bolts and nuts along with washers and Loctite to create the pivot points.

The lower part took some working and reworking. I ended up using square brass tubing and creating a channel for the servo arm to slide along. A 1 1/2 inch #6 bolt connected the lower scissor lift arm to the arm attached to the servo. #6 bolts ran through a piece of luan (1/4 inch thick wood) with a spacer so that the long #6 bolt can ride along the length of the brass tubing.

I found a powerful but cheap servo on ebay (133 inch ounces) to run the arm. A standard servo wasn't strong enough to raise it.

I originally used foamcore for the base, but the servo was so powerful that it buckled the foamcore.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

I added some very small cable control sheaths and cable and ran them to two micro-servos. One operated the mouth, and the other moved the head back and forth. I used sewing elastic to pull the parts back into place after the servo released tension.

The Arudino was programmed to control the servos. I got the basic code from the main Arduino page <>. I connected the Arduino to the EFX sound board. Using the simple Macintosh Sound Studio program I recorded sounds and then edited them for the sound I wanted. The EFX chip has the capability to play several different recorded sounds.

The main servo takes a lot of power, so I attached three 9vdc batteries to run all of the electronics.

Finally, I ran a ribbon cable out to a pad of four buttons and an off/off switch. This would run down my sleeve and into my palm.

The Arduino program read the buttons and activated four different routines.

Step 5: It's Done

After a lot of troubleshooting, the hat is ready for Halloween. The only real problem was that the servo drained the batteries after a few dozen activations. When the voltage drops below 8volts the processor behaves erratically.

Otherwise, the hat was a Halloween success!

You can find a video of the Hyde Hat in action on YouTube Mr. Hyde Hat

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    25 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 5

    i want to do this but it looks extremely complicated, this isn't something a novice with electrical components could do?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    As with all projects, that's hard to say. I used a Bare Bones Arduino, which only costs about $10 if you buy a 5 pack. The hat - I've had around for a long time, but it's a cheap felt Halloween costume hat, maybe $12. The Servo I got on eBay sent from Hong Kong - seems like maybe $15 to $20. Clay and liquid latex were left over from various projects. Around Halloween you can find small containers of latex for only a couple of dollars. Plastics, brass, luan base were all just scrap pieces. The voice module seems like it was $30 or so. The best thing is that all of the elements can be taken apart and reused for other fun projects.

    I hope that helped.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Which board did you go with? Is that the one that predates the Duemilanove? Awesome job by the way, I hope my minion turns out with even half the personality of this little fella.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I used a "Bare Bones" Arduino clone. It was of the ATMEL 168 variety and ran the program with no problems.

    Good luck on your creation. I'm sure it will have its own personality and be full of charm!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm so glad you liked my mechanical top hat in MAKE's Halloween special edition and were inspired to take it to the next level! Well done! The scissor lift was a great idea. I wish I thought of that!

    All the best,

    -Dug North


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you - I live in a rather isolated place, and hearing positive feedback is really great!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No problem, I want to live in an isolated place :P
    Your project is just another inspiration for me to get into an arduino


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    THANKS - I really never thought anyone would be looking at it or I would have tried to be more distinguished. Thanks for your comment - I really appreciate it.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    With the batteries it weighs 1 lb 6 oz. I tried using foam core (one of my favorite materials) for the interior base, but the servo bent it in half. I really worked hard to make it lightweight thinking that my head and neck would be grateful.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I live in a little mountain town in Colorado - so seeing it in person is probably not going to happen.

    I hope that the video helped give and idea of how it works.