Holidays · Replica Props

Turning our home into the Haunted Mansion – DIY Gargoyle Candelabra

It’s that time of year again.  Halloween is upon us and I will be dedicating each blog between now and October 31st to our annual Halloween party that we hold for friends and family.  We have been slowly transforming our home in the Haunted Mansion for this event each year.  The ride has the perfect balance of scares and fun that is just right for some of our younger guests.  It also gives you a nice Disney fix if you have not been able to go to the parks for a while.  We have written many blogs on our love of one of them most classic and beloved attractions at the parks.  It has created an entire subculture and virtually every aspect from the wallpaper to each ride element is famous.   We recently posted our Lego Microscale Haunted Mansion where I attempt to explain the rides fascination.  Last year we posted many of our builds as seen below.  Each can be found under the Holidays tab at the top.


This year we will be kicking off the series with one of the first things that greet you when you enter the mansion.  I plan on posting one a week, usually on the weekends.

On the Haunted Mansion as you enter the first dark antechamber you are escorted into one of two identical rooms.  At Disneyland you are being lowered to a tunnel that allows you to walk under the train tracks to enter the ride.  At Disney World the room simply stretches up and simulates it’s west coast counterpart.   No matter what park or which room you are put in one of the first things you notice as you look up to the streching paintings that are above you is a serious of ominous Gothic gargoyles that peer down onto as they lean forward and down greatly.  Each gargoyle clutches in each hand a candle with wax running down the sides.


The Haunted mansion has a fascinating and disjointed history.  The building sat empty for years in Disneyland as Walt’s attention went to things like the World’s Fair.  After his death 2 imagineers had very distinctly different views.  One of those views was Marc Davis who was one of the Nine Old Men and a famed imagineer whose work influenced virtually every ride in the original Disneyland park.  He worked on everything from the Jungle Cruise and the Tiki Room to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.  Rolly Crump, a genius in his own right, had a darker more macabre vision as opposed to Marc Davis had a more fun and playful design.  Eventually both elements were combined giving you the spookier beginning of the ride and the more playful end of the ride in the cemetery.  According to early sketches by  In one of Marc’s early sketches he had the gargoyles in the antechamber where the portrait of Mr. Gracey hangs.  These sketches are more Griffin-like and stare blankly and directly out.   The change to this very unusual creature, that is different from the European gargoyles that inspired it, and the slight change to having many of them surround you and loom down over you as they stare at you unflinchingly as if they are about to pounce greatly increases the creepiness of the journey you are about to begin.

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My goal with all the Haunted Mansion builds is to approach them from a DIY approach.  I could use my professional sculpting compounds and epoxies, mold them in silicone, and cast them in resin but that would not really help the average Disney fan and home crafter who might want to try making it themselves.  So, I used readily available materials, with simple methods, and with as many pre-made shortcuts as possible.  Also, I am not using professional grade paints and airbrushes, rather I opt for paints available at retail and craft stores.  I considered weight and tried to use lightweight materials for safety.  Also, I did give some consideration to size as these will have to be stored and transported up and down various levels of stair cases.


I started by using left over PVC pipes and joints to approximate the skeleton.  I looked at a photo of the gargoyle and approximated the lengths using the depth of my mantle as the scale.  This was very simple and went together in about 5 minutes.


I then filled out the skeleton using foam to get the basic shape of his head and body. I wanted to make the head as light as possible to avoid a balance issue as he is perched leaning far out.


I think bulked up the pipes using tin foil as muscles.  This is a simple trick that lets you use cheap foil while you conserve the more expensive sculpting material.


I then sculpted the head using Super Sculpey a product that is super easy to work with, available in most any craft sections or stores and is cured by being cooked in your home oven, although I don’t use the one we cook in.

Super Sculpey modeling compound by Polyform


I filled in the mass of the body and the musculature using a product by Smooth On called Free Form Air.  I used it with some of the builds last year.  I have a love / hate relationship with it.  It is very hard to work with and has the consistency pushing around firm oatmeal.   But, it is so light and can be reshaped as it air hardens.


I then filled in and smoothed any seems and areas with wood filler.  It is cheap available everywhere, very durable, and easily sanded.


I then gave the whole thing a base coat in black paint.


I then drybrushed the entire thing in gold using a brush to only lightly apply the gold paint to raised areas.


Finally, I gave it a variety of dirty washes of diluted paints to weather it.

gargoyle 9 done

One of the best parts of the build are the candles.  They are actually wax but battery powered using a flickering led.  They simply rest in the PVC coupling joint and you just have to twist each candle and they light up. I added thin foam strips under the legs to protect my mantle and also prevent slipping.



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Until next time…


The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.






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