Spooky Witch Doctor Cooking Up Shrunken Head Illusion Costumes
by Bonnie and Beth
Gryphon the Witch Doctor Cooking Up Shrunken Head Phoenix
Gryphon the Witch Doctor
Phoenix the Shrunken Head
The Shrunken Head's Faux Table
Witch Doctor Costume with Shrunken Heads: Step-By-Step
When we were trying to pick costumes for our golden retrievers Phoenix and Gryphon to wear, we thought it would be fun to create an illusion.
We thought about it for a while, and came up with the idea of a Witch Doctor with a Shrunken Head. We've always loved "The Witch Doctor" song and always play it at Halloween time.
Also, we had seen pictures on cartoons and shows of witch doctors holding up shrunken heads by the hair. We thought that would be very creepy, fun, and in the Halloween spirit to try to recreate.
Creating these costumes involved working out a couple of different illusions. This was very challenging and required a lot of thought and planning.
It took over two months of planning before we even started physically making everything. We started with the Witch Doctor costume. For this, we wanted to create the illusion that Gryphon, the golden retriever, had human arms and was standing upright and tall, like a human.
To create the look of human arms and shoulders, we used a fabric muscle chest and skin colored gloves. We stuffed the shoulders and arms of the chest with stuffing, as well as the gloves, gluing the stuffing in place so it wouldn't fall out while being worn. We attached the gloves onto the ends of the arms.
We then purchased a skull and bones tunic, which we decorated to look more like a witch doctor. We added strands of raffia on the collar and sleeves, to give it a jungle like look. We also glued on small skulls and got plastic teeth and bone jewelry, which we attached to the tunic. The tunic was then worn over the chest.
To make Gryphon look like he was standing on two legs, we got an animal print skirt and a grass skirt. We cut open the grass skirt and attached it so that it wrapped around the waist of the animal print skirt.
To wear it, we had Gryphon sit on a small portable wooden box. We pulled the skirts over the box and onto Gryphon's waist while he was sitting on it. This blocked the box from showing, and gave the illusion that he was standing.
To finish this costume up, we got a crown of bones, and glued on some feathers, to give it the witch doctor look. We placed this on Gryphon's head, atop a voodoo wig, which we cut short and jaggedy.
We used colored tape to create the look of makeup, cutting it into circles and triangles, and sticking it lightly onto his face. This was easily removable, and he didn't notice at all.
We also made him a staff, which was a dowel we painted and wrapped some fabric around. We also added some dangling feathers, and topped it with a plastic shrunken head.
Making The Shrunken Head Costume
For Phoenix's Shrunken Head costume, we needed to create the illusion that he only had a head, and that it was inside a cauldron on a table.
To do this, we had to create a faux table that he could wear comfortably. We made the table out of foam board, cutting a hole in the center for his head. We glued on gray felt for a tablecloth, which would hang down and make it look like there was actually a table, while blocking the rest of Phoenix’s body. We also attached a green grass table skirt around the edges of the "table", to make it look like a witch doctor's workshop.
The cauldron part was a little tricky. We weren’t sure if a regular plastic cauldron would work, and we considered a crocheted cauldron, but didn't think it would look quite right.
We decided to try a plastic cauldron, and found we were able to cut a hole in the bottom with a lot of sawing and poking with a scissor. We took out most of the bottom so that it would fit over Phoenix's head, fitting comfortably, but not show too much of his neck.
We then glued the cauldron over the hole in the "table".
To decorate the table, we added green synthetic leaves, positioning some against the cauldron to hide any gaps, as well as small plastic bones, foam skulls, and bottles of bubbles to look like potions. Phoenix was then able to have the whole table, including the cauldron, slipped over his head, and when he sat, no one could see his body at all.
To finish his outfit off, we put on a samurai wig, which we also cut in a short jagged style. We tied bones onto the hair for an extra creepy factor.
We were able to attach one of Gryphon's gloves to the ponytail on Phoenix's wig, to make it look like he was pulling him up by the hair. We also got a bone through the nose accessory, which we bent to fit Phoenix's snout.
These costumes took several months of work and trial and error to complete. It was exciting, though, getting it all to come together.
When we showed the costumes to our friends and family, they seemed amazed at the illusions. They weren't sure how we had done it at first. Even seeing it in person, it really fooled people. Here is a link to a very brief video of the dogs in costume:
We were definitely happy with how these costumes turned out!