The Midnight Visitor: Halloween DIY


“Be hole, be dust, be dream, be wind;
Be night, be dark, be wish, be mind;
Now slip, now slide, now move unseen;
Above, beneath, betwixt, between.”
- Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Every year I endeavor to create a piece that's a little different from store bought decorations.  This year, my project was The Midnight Visitor.  At 6 feet tall, this ghostly specter appears to hover, stooped over gravestones in the front garden (oh to have a yard...).  Though part of his cloak is coated and hard (to protect from elements), much of it is left loose to whip around him in the wind.  I find the empty hood more unnerving than if I had added a skeletal or monstrous face.  Likewise, the presence of the lantern and lack of scythe begs the question "Who is this visitor?"  That, my friends, is all up to passing travelers.

Materials Needed

5' of 1.5" PVC
6' of 1x2 wood
Wood Glue 
Chicken Wire
Tin Snips
Lots o' Cheesecloth
Black and Grey Spraypaint
Spray Glue 
Monster Mud (Drywall Compound and Latex Paint)
5' Yard Stake
Battery Operated Lantern

1 Package of Hot Glue Sticks
Glue Gun w/ Additional Hot Glue Sticks
Duct Tape
Plasti-dip Spray Paint

Stand for Ghost Making Process
4 2' Pieces of 2x4 wood
3' Piece of 2.5" PVC

1.  To make a stand for the building process of the full size armature, screw 4 2' pieces of 2x4 into  the 2.5" PVC in a windmill pattern.  Once the stand is complete, slip 1.5" PVC into the 2.5" stand.

2a.  From the 1x2 wood, cut (1) 20" piece, (2) 12" pieces and (2) 13" pieces.  Screw the 20" piece into the very top of the PVC (crossbar formation).

2b.  Before attaching the each of the arm pieces with screws, apply a generous amount of wood glue to the area for added support. (Note: this WILL drip.  Make sure you're on a surface that can get dirty.)  Using 1.5" screws, attach the 13" pieces  at the shoulders, and the 12" pieces as lower arms.  (Feel free to play with proportions if you want your spirit to have longer creepier arms.)\

2c.  Using scrap pieces of 1x2, create angle brackets to strengthen the shoulder crossbar.  Small scrap wood blocks can be used to add strength to shoulder joints.

3.  Once the glue has dried, begin forming a hood with the chicken wire and tin snips.  (I highly recommend wearing work gloves for this part.)  To attach the chicken wire to the form, simply twist wire around the wood and PVC.  (Knowing that it would droop slightly when I applied the monster mud and fabric, I started the hood higher than I actually wanted it.)
Apply a quick coat of black spray paint to frame and allow to dry.

4.  Shred pieces of cheesecloth and begin layering some over the chicken wire and arms.  These will get covered and anchored shortly, but they provide a bottom layer of "flutter" perfect for breezy nights.

5a.  To create Monster Mud, add 5 parts drywall compound and one part paint to a large bucket and mix thoroughly. A drywall mixer attachment on your drill works well.  (Any excess can be stored in a large airtight container for up to 6 months.)
4b.  While wearing gloves and your husband's clothes (kidding - just wear clothes you hate), drag strips of cheesecloth through the monster mud and wring out.  Stretch fabric back into shape and begin layering across your hood.  Be aware that monster mud will weigh the chicken wire down.  You may need to prop up the front of the hood while it dries.

6.  Once the hood is dry, add additional pieces of loose, shredded cheesecloth by either tucking them inside hardened pieces, or spraying them with a quick shot of spray adhesive.  Again, these extra pieces give the finished product an eerie movement.

7.  Screw hands to the end of the arms (hand instructions below), and give the entire piece a thin layer of grey spray paint.  (I gave the inside of the cloak a much more opaque spray and faded the coverage as I moved downward.  This added a hollow quality to the Visitor). 

8.  When your Visitor is completely dry, he can be moved to his final spot outside.  Drive the 5' stake into the ground and then slip the PVC pipe over top.  Add the lantern and wait for dark.  (Note: If you plan to light him, go for over lighting.  Under lighting will advertise the pole under his robe.  And that's just rude, really.)  

Glue Stick Hands How-To

1.  Chop several glue sticks to bone size: you will need four for each finger (3 phalanges, 1 metacarpal), and three for each thumb (2 phalanges, 1 metacarpal).  (A PVC pipe cutter works well for cutting through.)
2.  Working carefully, add hot glue to each phalanx joint and hold "bones" together until mostly set.  Excess hot glue between joints add to the shape.  Allow fingers and thumbs to cool.
3.  While fingers are cooling, position each metacarpal next to one another and use long streams of hot glue to attach at the bottom (the glue here will represent the many wrist bones, so, again, it's okay to have excess.)  Once the glue is dry, flip over and repeat on the other side.

4.  When both the phalanges and metacarpals have dried completely, begin attaching each finger to its corresponding metacarpal.  The process will take a little while (and you may occasionally lose a finger or two.)
5.  Once your hands are pieced together, wrap duct tape around the palms.  In addition to strengthening the lower structure, it adds a bandaged look that I really like. 
6.  Cover each hand with Plasti-Dip spray and allow to dry completely.  Repeat.

Happy Haunting My Friends!!

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