Let the Ghoul Show You the Way

Let’s just keep the Halloween theme going.  The previous post was driven by our annual Halloween Cookout Party.  While I was gathering up the materials for the fire pit patio, I decided to go ahead and pick up some extra items in order to attempt a new decoration  idea that I had been kicking the tires on for some time.  Each year, we try to add one new decoration to the collection.  Typically these are the latest air blown offerings, but this year we went in a different direction.  Living out in the country, it can be difficult to actually navigate to the house.  This is even more difficult at dark since there is little ambient light in the area.  This makes for a great stargazing, but not so great on the driving.  Oh, and to top it off, the GPS directs everyone to my neighbor’s driveway which is a down the road a bit.  What started as a internal debate on how to ease the difficulty for our guests resulted in this new decoration:

This particular shot was taken before darkness fell making it look a tad less scarier than it did once the guests started arriving.  Not only did this fit the overall theme of the party, but due to the clever hand placement, it also provided a functional role since it was placed at the road as an indicator for drivers to turn left into the correct driveway.  I wanted it to last from year to year, be able to withstand various weather conditions and (most of all) be relatively easy to disassemble and store away.  I don’t know about you, but those types of conditions almost always lead me to PVC.  In the sharing spirit, hit the jump to see how it was built.

First of all, the core of the ghoul is indeed PVC as likely deduced from the picture.  Here is a couple of pictures of the materials used.

For simplicity and ease of transport, I decided to buy 5′ lengths of PVC.  Going the 10′ route and cutting one in half would have been cheaper, but convenience won out while standing in Menards’ plumbing aisle.  I actually built two of these ghosts so purchased two 5′ sections for the body, and two more 5′ sections to cut the arms out of.  The pipes were actually sched40 which was probably overkill for the purpose, but wanted the first attempt to be sturdy enough to handle any wind that may come up.

This shot gives a better angle on how this particular ghost’s arms were put together.  Essentially I tried to use a rough estimate of my physical dimensions to size out the arm lengths.  I had to  make some exaggerations due to the limited connection options that were available and the desire to emphasize it was pointing in a specific direction.  This particular ghost therefore needed a single piece for the right arm, and three smaller pieces to make up the left arm in order to get it to wrap around in the intended direction.  Two 45 degree connectors were required to make the bend.  I literally spent over 45 minutes in the plumbing aisle just trying to find a means to make the base for the head.  The workers were probably secretly laughing at me since it took about 40 different combinations before it looked close to the original concept.

It was pretty easy to determine that a full quad connector section was needed to accommodate the torso, head and arms.    Having dealt with some gutter drains before, I already had the idea to use a drain pipe to hold the head.  The problem was getting a drain big enough to hold an appropriately sized ball, but still be able to connect it up to the torso pipe size.  After trying about every connector in the place, the reducer in the middle was found.  This allowed me to go from the larger diameter drain pipe to the smaller sized quad connector.  The downside of this is I needed a 5′ section of the next sized pipe in order to connect it to the reducer.  During all of this, the larger diameter pipe was accidentally slid over the smaller pipe providing the idea to use the larger one as a sleeve to put into the ground for easy installation.   If you are counting, I now have the following for the two ghosts.

  • 4 small diameter 5′ sections of PVC pipe
  • 1 larger diameter 5′ section of PVC pipe
  • 2 quad-connectors
  • 4 45-degree connectors
  • 2 reducer connectors
  • 2 drain connectors

The head became an interesting adventure.  The original idea was to be able to put lights into the head to give it some glowing eyes.  This led to the need to have a material that could be easily cut on eliminating the possibility of using a volleyball or basketball.  While picking up some things at Walmart, I stumbled on some battery operated tea lights which looked perfect for use as the eyes – and cheap, $2 for a box of 4.  Figuring they would come in handy in multiple places, 4 packages hit the cart.  The cutout size was known now, the main thing left was to get the head material.  On the way home, I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics to see what they had in foam balls (yep, I was the only guy in there).  Eventually I located the right aisle and located the perfect size for the head.  My excitement was quickly dampened when the price tag said $13 EACH!  You have got to be kidding me.  An internal debate raged on for some time until the inner voice won out and decided I’d come too far to quit now.  Get this, while standing in line a bunch of customers had a coupon giving them 50% off an item not already on sale.  A few of them were not allowed to use it because their main item was discounted already.  In fact the lady ahead of me had to use hers on a spool of thread.  I was about to offer to buy the thread for the lady if she let me use the coupon on one of my balls (a win win in my book).  But the inner voice took over again and decided the clerk is sure to give me an extra coupon knowing how much it was going to save me.  If you recall, my inner voice has a tendency to lie and this was another perfect example.  $26+tax later I walked out of the store with the final elements of the project.  Still kicking myself over that one.

While unpacking some of the Halloween storage containers, I found two glow in the dark hockey masks.  We obtained these items about 10 or so years ago as a free fan item for attending a local hockey game (The Rivermen of Peoria).  Never one to just throw away a potential decoration, we’ve kept them all these years.  Now the gears were turning.  Maybe I wouldn’t need to cut the eyes into the head, they could simply be taped to the inside of the mask instead.  Granted, this reduced the need to have a 13 DOLLAR foam ball, but that wasn’t going to get in the way of my creativity now.

The arms needed to be dealt with next.  If you looked close at the first picture, you may have noticed it had some actual skeleton hands.  Here is a closer look at them.

due to the fact it needed to point in a particular direction, I really wanted it to have some hands.  This warranted another quick look through the  decoration stash.  Sure enough, there was a large plastic skeleton we partially bury in our landscaping.  Those hands were quickly yanked off the body and re-purposed for the decoration.  (I just covered the bottoms of the plastic arms with mulch in order to keep that previous display).

Pretty much a perfect fit in my opinion.  At first I thought it was going to be a battle to get the hands hooked to the pipe.  It was a pretty tight fit to get them into the smaller pipe but then I noticed some discarded pieces of the bigger pipe.  I had originally cut two pieces about 5 inches long thinking I had to make a neck.  These did not end up being needed due to the extra length of the reducer coupler and the length of the connector pieces on the drain and the quad coupler.  The hands fit perfectly in those sections so they were simply slid over and duck taped onto the arms.

This picture shows what the tea cup lights looked like (note I ended up using 4 of them for this ghost since I wanted two for the eyes and two more so it would look like the ghost was holding them in its hands (since I didn’t know how well just the arms would show up in the dark).

The clamp was a late addition.  After it the sheet was put on, the fabric over the front arm tended to slip causing loss of definition between the ghost body and the crossing arm.  A friend of mine had a great idea to simply put the clip on the material between the the body and the arm (on the inside).  This worked perfectly giving the definition to the arm while providing weight to keep it in place.   The ball was then taped to the drain, the sheet situated correctly on the frame, the eyes taped to the inside of the goalie mask and hands, the mask situated on the ball and as an added touch a glow necklace was added around the neck to light it up a bit more and give better definition to the overall head effect.  We then drove a section of the larger pipe into the ground by the entrance to the driveway and slide the new decoration into position.

I must have bumped the hand a little when I installed it, but other than that I think it came out great.  I need to work on some of the material options/prices to get the cost down a little, but definitely expect to see more of these ghosts in next year’s setup.  By the way, in case you are wondering, the other ghost simply had two shoulder  pipes straight out, a 45 connector on each of those arms and then another section of pipe straight out for the forearms – like it was trying to grab you.  Since I only had one set of hands, I ended up just taping a couple of tea lights into the ends of the pipe and then draping the sheet over them.  In pitch dark (it was positioned out in middle of the woods) the lights glowed through the sheet perfectly.

I hope you liked the new decoration and would appreciate any comments or new ideas to make them even better!

The party was a success from our perspective – have a happy Halloween.

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