Sunday, August 15, 2010

Being EYEd

Have a pair of HAUNTED EYES “keep an eye” on and follow your guests and visitors around! This is a static Halloween Decoration that appears to move. We are NOT going to be making full figure busts in this project (lest you assume that from the pictures below.) Rather, we will use a trick often seen in haunted houses on busts to make our eyes appear to move. First up, two definitions. BTW: You will not need to understand all of this mumbo-jumbo to have great success in this spooky project.

CONCAVE: hollowed or rounded inward like the inside of a bowl.

CONVEX: curved or rounded outward like the exterior of a sphere or ball.

If you’ve ever visited the Disney Haunted Mansion you’ve seen this amazing trick accomplished, and you most likely didn’t even know how they “did it.” And even if you did…this is a super easy, awesome variation on the “trick.” This Halloween decoration and Halloween visual effect uses the same optical illusion as the busts in the hallway of the Haunted Mansion. Several nasty statue heads appear to look toward and face you no matter where you move. They are not actually typical busts at all. Nor are they moving. A “real” bust is a convex object. It “protrudes” outward. Rather, these are concave sculptures. You might think of them as the mold that a bust might be cast in. They are concave figures that you see through a cut-out shape of a head. Although the object is actually facing away from you, your mind recognizes the image and thinks it’s convex. The result is that the seemingly convex object appears to face you when, in fact, it is facing away. The angle is reversed. So as you move away, the object appears to face you.

Categories: Effect/Decoration. Cool.
Skill level: Fairly Easy. Computer & ink-jet or similar printer is needed.
Time needed: 1 hour
Expense: $2 - $12
"Being EYEd"
"Eye Bowls!"

If you don’t understand the above “background,” it does not matter. Since carving a sculpture (a reverse bust) is surely beyond the capability of most every avid Halloween enthusiast (yours truly included), we will focus on the creepiest part of the illusion: The EYES! We can all easily make a pair of concave eyes from a few bowls or the inside of balls. Just as the bust is “inside out” (concave) in the above example, we need to make a pair of eyes that are concave. We will do this with two bowls. The size of the eyes is entirely up to you and what you find to make ‘em with. I went to the “dollar store” and found many bowls and even disposable foil serving and cookware that was perfect. All sizes: Some huge, some small.

- Two plastic bowls (or foil pans, or oval dishes.)
- Cardboard large enough to cover both bowls with some overlap. The cardboard must be corrugated or rigid enough to support the bowl’s weight. (Foam-core can also be used.)
- Red paint or a red marker. (Optional)
- Black spray paint. White spray paint (if bowl used is not white.)
- Tape or spray mount spray adhesive.
- Duct tape OR Hot glue.
- Two pictures of pupils (DOWNLOAD HERE)
- 2 cheap flashlights OR portable Xmas lights (like for door wreathes) OR perhaps 2 C7 “nightlight” lights. (Just something small and NOT HOT to light the eyes with!) The phony flickering tea lights may be bright enough.

The bowls can be either oval (eye shaped) or perfectly round, but try to get bowls that are as round in depth as possible. Most bowls have flat bottoms, that’s okay so long as it has a decent depth.

1)    If the bowls are not white, paint the insides white (or a light color.) If the bowl is translucent (let’s light through) and you will illuminate these with flashlights later, I would either skip the painting or just lightly powder the inside. The flashlights can shine through the plastic later.

2)   OPTIONAL- Use red paint or a red marker and draw radiating “veins” from the center outward. These are for a “bloodshot” effect.

3)    Determine the size of the pupil: If the bowl has a flat bottom, measure out what the diameter is. If the bowl is completely round, simply measure the diameter of the top and divide it by 2 or 3.

4)    You can DOWNLOAD PUPILS here. There are various patterns and, for convenience, sizes. Download the pupil of your taste and closest to your measured size.

5)    If you have the software needed, size the pupil to what you need. Otherwise, use the size you’ve downloaded.

6)    Print the pupil(s) out on photo or matte paper. We suggest a “good quality” print as you want decent color and contrast.

7)    Cut the pupil out using scissors.

8)    Paste the pupil to the inside bottom of the bowl. Use either tape or spray adhesive. Hot glue will also work.

Look! It’s an “Eye Bowl!”

9)    Spray paint your cardboard face black.

10)    You can either leave the cardboard square, or cut it into round shapes (LARGER than the eyes.)

11)    Take your cardboard and place the bowls (eyes) upside down on the cardboard. Place whatever distance you want between them. The distance will depend on the size of the eyes, the amount of cardboard you have, and how “big” you want the “perceived creature” to be. If you want a huge distance between two big eyes, there’s no need to place both bowls on one piece of cardboard. They can be on separate sheets so that they can be separated and placed (perhaps in bushes) in the yard.

12)    Trace the bowl onto the cardboard. DO NOT CUT OUT ANYTHING!

13)    Use the trace as a GUIDE. You do not want holes that are exactly as big as the bowls for several reasons:
a.    You will need to mount the bowl onto the cardboard or foam core.
b.    You will want to hide the light that you use to illuminate your eyes.
c.    You may choose to make a more eye-like oval cut or even add an “expression” like an angry sneer.

14)    Determine openings of the holes to cut into cardboard. Depending on what you are using to illuminate the eyeball, you will want to leave enough “lip” on the cardboard to conceal it. If it’s “wreath lights,” you’ll want to lay them in a ring between the trace and the cut-out opening you will be making. If you are using a single bulb illumination, place it at the bottom of the trace and make sure you leave enough room to conceal it there, but you do not need that much “lip” at the top. If you are using translucent bowls, you can actually tape flashlights under the bowls (on the outside) so that it does not take up any interior space at all.

15)    If you want to make oval eyes or add a little “angry” sneer, draw those cut-out shapes within the boundaries of your bowl tracing and where the light will be.

16)    Cut out the “eye socket.”

17)    If using wreath lights, glue or tape down the lights around the interior of your trace. If you are using other lights, you may want to wait until after you fix the bowls to the cardboard.

18)    Duct tape or hot glue the bowls to the cardboard.

19)    If you have not already placed the light, put it inside the bowl or, if using flashlights on a translucent bowl, duct tape them to the cardboard with the light pressed up against the side of the bowl.

20)    Place your EYEs in strategic locations: under the porch…in the shrubs, under a dark table inside. If the bowls are not attached to a single piece of cardboard, you can put a “monstrous” distance between the eyes. Palcing a single eye in one large window works well. You can also place one eye in two windows that are next to each other!


Aluminum foil pans also work. They must be illuminated from the inside.

If you have ANY artistic talent whatsoever (and can draw a creature of some sort) then you can draw/paint something onto foam core, cut out eye holes, and use the above trick INSIDE the eye sockets of the creature. This is an extra awesome effect!

Draw or paint a creature onto foam-core or cardboard.
Paste “eye bowls” behind socket cut-outs in creature.
It will appear as though the creature is watching you as you move around.

For other crowd-stopping Halloween how-to tips on decorations and effects, please visit!

To see some really awesome and hard-to-find Halloween multi-media products (DVDs, CDs, downloads) please visit!

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic tut! We have been looking for decent instructions to the Haunted Mansion "eyes follow you" trick for 2 Halloween seasons now. Thank for posting it! We are going out to buy supplies to make our own right now!