Friday, October 7, 2022

We Made The Haunted Mansion Hitchhiking Ghosts!

Greetings, mischievous mortals! John and I are finally well-rested and back to our Haunted Mansion Halloween builds with high spirits. (If you missed our ghostly ballroom dancers, click here!)

Today I'll walk you through our build of those beloved cling-ons, the Hitchhiking Ghosts.

My favorite reference art of these three is by Doodleman Dan, an indie artist I've featured here before and know from local cons. Unfortunately his art has been stolen and sold by Etsy scammers, so I contacted Dan for permission first to use this, and also purchased his digital files, so he'd be paid. Even if it's just for a personal project, I always want to do right by the indie artists out there - and here's Dan's Etsy shop so you can do the same. (Plus you're really going to want to see his Figment & Slimer stickers, ermergersh. Bet you can tell which ones I already purchased. :D)

Now, on to the build!

First we base-coated a sheet of pink insulation foam in "Tantalizing Teal," a Sherwin Williams color we matched in a cheaper Lowe's paint.

 Next John worked some digital magic to fit all 3 ghosts onto a single 4X8 sheet of foam, as well as extending and detaching their arms:


  I traced all the lines in pencil:


Then John began cutting them out with a large craft blade:

I'm amazed how detailed John got with these cuts; no power tools needed!

Next I painted in the shadows with a darker shade of the same teal:

It's starting to look pretty cool, right?

This is not delicate work; I was fairly sloppy and free with the paint, which was actually quite fun.

And finally, using an even darker shade of the same teal, I painted in all the outlines.

This step made me very happy. Look how they came to life!

Ahhhhh they're just SO FUN.

You'll notice they've all been disarmed, though.

What's up with that?

WELL, I had this idea... and it's one of those ideas that morphed into something much bigger and cooler in the end.

At first I just wanted their arms to rock on a pivot, so you could bop them like a bobble head and get a little motion.

So we did that. John added PVC pipe joints, metal rods, and a little silicone lubricant so the arms rocked rather delightfully when bopped.

But THEN we got to thinking, "What if the arms were motorized, so you don't have to bop them?"

We've never motorized anything, y'all, so I can't tell you how proud we are of the Frankensteined contraption we came up with:


 This was the result of some intense brainstorming, problem-solving, and at least one lightbulb moment when I realized we could speed up a too-slow motor with a gear. So satisfying.

Even better, the only thing we had to purchase was this 3-pack of mini motors for $16, which includes the connectors and electrical plugs. From there John made the wooden gear and twisted aluminum bars, which we already had. The lower hanging bar acts as a counterweight, and later we added even more weight to help fine-tune the rocking speed.

But wait.


In addition to making our ghostly cut-outs move, we also wanted them to transform at night.


My good friend and prop master Kevin sent us some Wild Fire white, which is apparently the only industry paint that glows a true white - and even better, is perfectly clear in daylight. So after a little experimenting and a lot of swatch cards, I used a combo of Wild Fire with a greenish teal we mixed ourselves from cheap glow-in-the-dark paints.

Did you know cheap glow-in-the-dark paints fluoresce under black light? Before this, I didn't!

Because I was sparing with both paints they look the same color here, but in person you can see a variation in the glow from white/blue to green/teal, which I really like.

We've never used glow paint before, so here's something else that's cool: using a combo of both black light and regular light!

This is Gus before I added any glow paint...

And here he is after, same lighting:


But of course the real magic happens when you turn OFF the regular lights:

I thinned out the Wild Fire to a watery consistency and painted in his robe, just for a hint of glowy shading. I used a very light hand with the glow paints, so I can tell you a tiny bit goes a loooong way.

Here's a fun shot of Phineas, aka luggage guy, on the table:

Here you can see the color difference between the white Wild Fire (top right) and our cheaper glow-in-the-dark teal mix (bottom left.) The two colors glow VERY similar on the actual cut-out, but if you look closely you can see them side-by-side on the carpet bag: one more blue, one more green.

Btw, be sure to paint IN black light when using black light paints, so you can see what you're doing. We bought this 4-pack of exterior grade black lights we plan to use around the yard for Halloween, and they're incredible. (And on sale right now for 20% off!)

This is before I painted out the shiny aluminum bars, but you can see it's a SUPER impressive transition from regular to black light:

Like magic!

(Oooh, y'all, I suddenly want to make giant Tamatoa cut-out. Eh? EH? Like a whole undersea Realm of the Monsters vibe?)
(Focus, Jen, focus.)

I'm not sure if we'll have this changing lighting effect for Halloween or not; the trick-or-treaters start long before dark here, so most will only see these fellas in daylight. It's nice to have a glowy surprise for the later visitors, though.

Yesterday we did the finishing touches on the bases and bars, and now, at long last, our Hitchhiking Ghosts are ready to follow you home:

One more transition, because it's so dang cool:

I hope you enjoyed seeing our Hitchhikers come together! John and I are already well into our next builds: the Victorian horse-drawn Doom Buggy for the yard, and a glowing ghostly bride for the roof. So stay tuned for progress reports on those, and please keep your suggestions/requests for other Mansion elements coming! (I still don't know what my costume will be. HALP.)


P.S. I have to show you my new Fall pillows, because AHHHHH they make me happy:

I found an Eva pillow!

These are all pillow covers, actually, which means they're cheaper and easier to store later, a win-win.

Here's the other couch:

Can't believe I've never had orange pillows in here before. Or velvet pillows! So soft, so cozy.

Again, they're all pillow covers, so I just covered what we already had. (We also snagged a couple of $3 thrift pillows since the packs gave me extras.) And don't worry, I got you: here come the Amazon links!

- Black Cat & Pumpkins cover

Anything you purchase through my links or the Epbot Amazon shop gives a little back to help fund our Halloween builds and also feeding our cats, so thank you for helping support us while you shop!


  1. This is seriously next level. I hope your neighbors appreciate you! I can't think of a better Halloween theme - love it so much! (And while I'm sure you've got your costumes figured out, an Instagram account I followed did a super clever Grim Grinning Ghosts costume back in 2017. I don't know how to link, but you can search JohnsonFiles Haunted Mansion and I think you'll find their Facebook post.)

  2. We decorated the Halloween tree yesterday. Orange lights in addition to the basic white, and an assortment of ghosts, skulls, spiders, bats and such, plus Doctor Who monsters including a Weeping Angel topper!
    But we never get any Trick or Treaters here.

  3. What if you were to put them in a sort of black box, would the color change effect be a little noticeable in daylight?

  4. Wow, this is wonderful! I wish I was your neighbour! And by the way, I have teal and orange pillow covers - inspired by you from probably years ago. I never thought I was a fan of orange until seeing stuff you had, and I love the pops of colour :-)

  5. Love love love your ghostie hitchikers! And I love your fall pillows so much I copied you and ordered the same ones. Thank you! Liz (For some reason, I am unable to sign in to comment)

  6. Some tips on blacklights from a physics educator and crafter:
    -Tonic water glows turquoise under blacklight
    -Glow sticks will glow brighter under a blacklight, even if they are new and unbroken or have been "used up"
    -Products labeled glow-in-the-dark usually continue glowing a bit after you turn the blacklight off, products that say they glow under blacklight usually stop glowing as soon as you turn the light off
    -Most pink acrylic paints fluoresce orange
    -A lot of household objects will glow under blacklight, but don't look in your bathroom (I swear, however bad you think it is it's much much worse)
    -Tons of stuff at the dollar tree fluoresces, the mesh floral tube stuff usually is pretty vibrant, but a keychain blacklight is good for finding new stuff
    -Dust fluoresces purple (mostly an issue for display cases)
    -The chlorophyll in freshly cut plants fluoresces red for a while after cutting, kale and spinach work best
    -If you are going to be spending a really long time (like several hours) in front of a blacklight, it's a good idea to apply some sunscreen to be safe, blacklights all emit uv light, and the risk of skin damage from most commercial bulbs is extremely low, but if you are spending a lot of time exposed to blacklights it's a good habit to form
    -Keywords if you're looking for more info are fluorescence and phosphorescence, Wikipedia is a great inspiration point

    1. I do a little experimenting with natural dyes from plants and mushrooms, and one of my coolest finds was how many of THEM fluoresce under black light! I was checking a sea glass find to see if it was UV glass, and turned my black light on while it was pointing at my yarn stash. You all may have heard my yell of "HOLY COW! THEY GLOW!" XD Lobster mushroom dye and buckthorn bark dye, among others I forget right now. Good times. :)

  7. Brilliant!! They look so good!

  8. You folks are SO DANG TALENTED!!! I love seeing your brilliant ideas come to life. For costumes, would Haunted Mansion "staff" costumes be a possibility? Elevator operator, housekeeper, etc...

  9. Next should be the ghosts appearing with the visitors. Maybe using a semi mirror. Or just a digital effect (digital photo of visitors with ghost composited in). Could provide a QR code on a monitor for people to download.


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