Holidays · Replica Props

Turning our home into the Haunted Mansion – DIY the Hatbox Ghost

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

The Hatbox Ghost has one of the most interesting histories of anything involved with the Haunted Mansion.   The ghost was featured in much of the early promotional material and merchandise.  The animatronic itself was briefly included in the ride in the beginning but promptly removed.  Its sudden removal gave rise to all sorts of scary rumors about why it was removed.  The truth was that it just did not work.  It absence gave the piece an almost mythological folklore component.  It the pre-internet age it was just talked about and with the rise of the internet the legend grew until in 2015 the Imagineers brought back the Hatbox Ghost with an effect that really works well and is a fitting end to a historically classic ride.

history hatbox
images from Disney,, & SoCal Attractions 360

So we are continuing to showcase our ongoing project to turn our house into the Haunted Mansion for our annual Halloween Party.  Previous entries include the Gargoyle Candelabra, the Madam Leota Seance projection, the Madam Leota Tombstone, the 13hr Monster Clock, the Haunted Organ, & miscellaneous touches.



I would love to have made a full size version of the entire ghost but space is a premium and storage is always a considering factor.   So I came up with the idea of just making the head in the hatbox as a kind of end table display piece.  Rather than start from scratch I chose to use an existing skull mask which I got very cheap on eBay.  This was to save on weight, sculpting material, and time.  I trimmed out the eyebrow and chin areas and added some polystyrene to strengthen the openings and give me something to sculpt over.

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

I sculpted over the skull with sheets of Super Sculpey rolled out with a rolling pin to about 1/4″ thickness and carved and shaped the piece until it had the desired look.  I really wanted to try to capture the squinting eye and raised eye, so I over emphasized those features.  I also wanted to get a very creepy smile with those prominent recessed wrinkles on the upper and lower lips. I used 2 wooden half spheres for the eyes as making perfectly round shapes can be tricky.

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

Super Sculpey is an oil-based polymer clay.  Sometimes certain paints, especially spray paints won’t fully dry when applied.  I gave the entire piece multiple coats of cheap white acrylic paint to act as a barrier.  I then gave it a few coats of spray paint to act as a sealant and began to give the face numerous paint applications of various colors using a lot of drybrushing techniques.  I finished it off by gluing it to a piece of Styrofoam that I painted black and added some faux fur to serve as the wild hair.

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

To display the piece, I considered using the EVA foam used by cosplayers but decided I wanted an easier, quicker, and more sturdy solution.  So, I opted to use a planter I got on clearance at Lowe’s.   I added a foam lid, a drawer pull handle, and cut open the square to reveal the face.

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

To finish it of a painted the entire box in a few coats of a custom mixed purple house paint.  I weathered the box with few different washes of diluted darker paints and added a remote-control blue LED light system out of view to showcase the head inside the dark hatbox at night.

The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop

Check back next week for our next Halloween Haunted Mansion DIY project.


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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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