There are a lot of cool ghosts I’ve seen made by haunters and artists. While I love some of the ones created by chicken wire and cheesecloth, the packaging tape method appeared to be the easiest to create with my limited artistic abilities. And indeed, I was very pleased with the result.
I first started experimenting with smaller versions. My son was so impressed with the creepy baby that resulted, he even pitched in a made one.
The first step is to find a doll and pose it in whatever position you would like your ghost baby to be in. For my life-sized figure I used a dress maker’s form, a hairdresser’s head and a friend’s arms for the forms.
Next, wrap your form or model with plastic cling wrap from the kitchen. The purpose of this step is to keep the tape from sticking to your model, so you only need one layer. Once you have completely covered your model with cling wrap, begin wrapping over it with packaging tape. If you want to get more detail on the face or other places, use small strips of regular cellophane tape for features like eyes and lips. I didn’t worry too much about fine details as my ghosts will be seen from a distance.
I found that a couple of layers of heavy duty Scotch tape sufficed for a fairly sturdy form. But, the thicker tape popped up in a few places, so I went over the entire form a couple of more times with a cheap, thin dollar store brand of packaging tape to smooth all the edges. On my first attempt I tried to continually wrap with the tape, but I found it was much easier to control the shape if I tore off strips of about six inches and placed them. I assume constantly overlapping these also added to the strength of the finished figure. In all, it took one roll of regular sized Scotch tape for each small doll and about six rolls for the adult figure.
Next, simply cut the tape off of your model along whatever route is easiest to maneuver.
You can be quite rough taking the tape off of the model as it is easy to reshape it. Then simply tape the seams, being careful not to overlap the two sides as this makes them more noticeable. In general it’s very easy to cover seams with just a few pieces of tape. I even reopened mine several times as I tweaked my lights without any noticeable effect on the finished product.
One of the main reasons I opted for the packaging tape method was I liked the idea of my ghosts glowing an eerie color. So the next step was to put lights inside of them. After testing several methods I found the easiest for larger figures was to mount the lights with packaging tape right onto the stand. I left about a foot and a half hanging to stuff into the left arm and taped the wire to the top of my piece of PVC. Then I made a loop about the same size for the right arm. The rest of the lights I looped in several circles, taping the top of each circle to the PVC. This spread them out a bit for a more dimensional effect. While they all look about equal at night, you can see from some of the photos that during the day the green wired lights are visible through the figure. So I prefer using lights with white coated wire and plan to replace the green ones for next year. Because white shows more on the ground, I wrapped the wire from the figure to the plug in black electrical tape.
For the small figures I opted to string multiple figures together with the lights. As you can see by the picture, almost as much wire was outside of the ghost babies as was inside, so I had quite a bit of electrical tape wrapping to do. Once I hung them on the tree I tried to hide as much of the wiring as possible behind the tree branches.
The small ghosts were hung using monofilament (fishing line) tied around their necks and the larger figures are just sitting on top of a piece of PVC. For my life-size ghost I used a second shorter piece of PVC and an angled joint so she would be leaning forward a bit. The white PVC doesn’t show at all even by daylight. For my full sized child ghost I joined a white PVC piece that went inside the ghost to a black one to lift her off the ground. At night the black doesn’t show.
On the small one pictured above I didn’t wrap the legs. On the adult life-sized ghost I had no legs. Instead I gave them skirts that could blow in the wind. These were created by cutting up the seams of clear trash bags and taping them a strip at a time around the waist. I did two layers and overlapped each strip a bit. The second layer I started by taping the first strip between two on the first layer.
I used strips half the size to create a veil for the smaller figure. But, I wasn’t totally satisfied with how it came out. Though I think it could be improved by making the strips half the width, I opted to use cheesecloth for the larger figure’s scarf. I taped it down everywhere the cheesecloth touched tape. It doesn’t show and after a week her shaw is still in place.
Mine are very simple versions of packaging tape ghosts. If you have more artistic ability, check out examples by actual artists such as Khalil Chishtee here. Other types of tape sculpture by various artists can be found here.
All of the ghosts I looked at for inspiration can be found on my Pinterest profile in the ghost board, including the chicken wire and cheesecloth ghosts previously mentioned.
And, of course ghosts aren’t the only project for which tape sculpting can be used. Online I saw some seamstresses using a form like mine and layering it with duct tape to create additional dress forms. You could use these to bulk out your armatures for other types of figures in your yard haunt. Sean Bradley has a great example of a life sized articulated mannequin he created with packaging tape on a Halo costuming site here. It is at the bottom of the page below his tutorial on using a tape sculpture of his head and shoulders as a mold for a solid form. He simply created the replica of his head and shoulders and then filled it with expanding foam (i.e. Great Stuff).
As I become more adept at creating these figures I would like to try something for my cemetery inspired by the cast glass sculpture by Christina Bothwell you can find here. I may start by using one of the larger doll tape sculptures without a dress as a ground breaker ghost. But, it would be cool if I could get it to look like it’s rising out of the dolls body as Bothwell did.