Projects: Skeleton Corpse

So this year I requested a Bucky skeleton as my birthday present! My family was only too happy to comply although for a while my father was very disturbed and concerned about it. He understood that Halloween was fun and all but was very concerned that I was proposing to put out human remains on my front lawn. He didn't realize that the skeleton was plastic and thought it was a real "live" human skeleton. I said if that was the case I didn't need to spend $100 and could go and dig up one of my own for nothing!!! LOL! Anyhow I set him straight on that point.

I've followed the excellent Skull and Bone method to "corpsify" him. The instructions are very clear and give amazing results. Below are some step-by-step photos of my progress.

For posing I was giving a lot of thought as to how to make him free-standing but in the end I decided to hang him from a tree marionette style. I got some 60lb. test fishing line - it is actually thin steel wire covered in black nylon. It should be plenty strong enough to support him but will be more or less invisible. I'll hang the main line from the skull to a branch out of sight and that will support the weight of the skeleton and then I'll attach two more lines to each wrist to position the arms.

(By the way, I've come up with a name for him: McCoy. As in "Bones" McCoy, get it? You can tell I'm a trekkie from way back. And oh yes, he is most definitely dead, Jim!)

I started off by hanging the skeleton in the garage - this is a long and smelly process so you'll want to make sure you do it in a place with plenty of ventilation. Next I covered the skeleton with pantyhose - one extra-large full length pair from the feet up and over the ribcage and tucked in at the neck - and two knee-high ones for the arms. I took a variety of sharp implements to the hose to rip and shred it. The idea is to get it looking like tattered and decaying skin. How much you take off is up to you - I went with a pretty extreme look for mine. These photos show the skin in the process of being distressed.

Next step was to glue the hose down and make it a bit more weather resistant. This was accomplished using latex carpet cement. I was lucky and got a big pail of it at a reduced price as the can had been dented. Didn't matter to me! This stuff is extremely sticky - make sure you wear old clothes, gloves and put down a tarp underneath your corpse. I applied the latex using an old brush and put it down over the hose liberally. Not too thick but not really lightly either - you want it to stick. Be careful around the joints if you want to be able to pose your Bucky later. Notice the fake cockroaches I added for additional effect. I also embedded strands of jute and rope for added texture.

Once the latex was dry - which didn't take as long as I thought, given the descriptions on some of the web-sites about protracted drying times. I guess I hadn't put it on that thick or in the oven-like heat of my garage this summer it dried it out like a mummy. Anyhow, once the latex is dry you can go about painting it. I used a regular wood stain (Minwax Early American) and starting at the top brushed it all over, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. While it was still wet (I'm expecting it to stay tacky for a while) I carefully spray-painted flat black paint into the eye sockets, mouth and chest cavity. As per the Skull and Bone tutorial I also sprayed a little in and around the joints to make them more pronounced. I'll let it hang for a few days to set up and fully dry.

I've now gone in and dry-brushed it in a cream coloured off-white. This did two things: it really brought out the details & texture, and it also toned down on the raw, fresh look of the glossy stain. I don't want any of my props to be too gross and avoid any out-and-out gore. I find dry and withered less of a gross-out than the wet, mucky look but still very creepy. I'll leave him to hang a bit longer just to get rid of any lingering smell from the stain but as of now the corpse is finished. Woo Hoo!!

After letting McCoy (I've also taken to calling him "Mr. Creepy-bones") dry for a week and he no longer smells strongly of stain I took him down from the garage to the basement for storage with the other Halloween items - although it's not long now until I start pulling everything out. Before I put him away I hung him up from the tree and took a few pics just to see how he looks and I'm pretty pleased. I suspended it from a tree branch with heavy weight black fishing line marionette style to make it look free-standing. You can just bairly make out the fishing line. I got more than a few looks from the neighbours and one guy in a tow truck drove by, then stopped and backed up to have another look! At night with Halloween lighting it should look pretty creepy.

Here are a few pics from Halloween night. One thing that was great was that because he was suspended from the fishing line he ended up swaying slightly in the breeze. This added a subtle movement to him that was really creepy - you didn't know if he was moving or not!