Make a Haunted Mansion Arm Torch With Paper and Tape

DIY Featured
Make a lightweight torch inspired by the Haunted Mansion using paper and tape. Image: Lisa Tate

Earlier this month, I shared a DIY based on Marc Davis’s “Vampire” or “Man-Eating” Bat, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction.

Although the bat never made it into the attraction, here’s a DIY that has been featured since the first happy haunt materialized: the “Arm Torch Lights.”

Riders leaving the mansion always notice the hitchhiking ghosts and the “Little Leota,” but frequent riders also notice the skeletal arm sconces lining the chamber. Some fans say these arms may have been influenced by the enchanted castle light seen in Jean Cocteau’s beautiful 1946 French version of Beauty and the Beast. Whether or not they are, they do have a similar feel.

Here’s a way to make a very simplified and lightweight version of these for the home using mainly tape, paper, and cardboard. These will be similar to the popular packing tape ghost project some people make for their outdoor decorations.

First, cut out a foot-long coffin-shaped piece of cardboard and add a paste on pearl embellishment or flat pushpin to each corner and cut a one-inch hole in the center of the wide area. Set this aside for later.

For the arm, use your own arm (or a friend’s) and wrap packing tape around it, sticky side out, from just about the elbow to the wrist. Then go back around it, sticky side out. Don’t make the tape too tight, so it can be cut free with a pair of scissors without getting too near your actual arm. Carefully, cut the tape and pull the cast off your arm. Push it back together, and tape it so it appears more skeletal than a living person’s fleshy arm. Seal it up with more tape. Once it is off the arm, you can shape it like you want. Fill the length of the arm with wadded tissue or newspaper so it says secure.

Wrap tape around your arm and hand, like a cast, to make the basic arm shape.

For the hand, hold your fingers in a shape someone holding a torch and repeat the arm method, but using regular tape. Cut the hand shape from the wrist to the fingers, and gently pull your hand out… the tape may bend a little. Fix the cut area with tape, and use packing tape to attach the hand to the arm.

If it is hard to hold your hand in place, do one finger at a time and assemble the hand afterward with more tape.

For the torch, you will need cardstock paper and a thin plastic cup.

Shape a piece of cardstock into a cone, and glue a jar lid to the top of the wide end. Cut the top of the paper or plastic cup off, and glue it on a circular piece of cardboard. This makes the base of the torch. Cut a zigzag pattern around the opening of the remainder of the cut, so it resembles a little crown. Glue the bottom of the cup to the inside of the base. Add a light plastic or wooden round bead to the torch tip if desired.

Shape a piece of cardstock in a cone, and use a plastic cup for the torch top.

To finish it off, glue or tape the torch to the inside of the hand, making sure all the fingers are secure around it.

Tape or glue the arm to the coffin, where the hole is, and drape some more newspaper or tissue paper over it to look like cloth, as well as to cover where the arm is attached.

Tape the base of the arm to the “coffin” base, and drape tissue paper or tape over it to complete it.

The arm should be pretty light, but if it feels top-heavy, use more tape around the elbow and wrist to shape it like you want. Use a small flameless votive candle to light it, and place it over a large pushpin or nail to hang it.

The arm, including with a small flameless votive, should be light enough to hang anywhere.

For an easier project, this “packing tape arm” method also works well if you want to make simple glowing zombie or ghost arms for your yard. Make the arm with clear tape, and leave them unpainted so they will be transparent. Place them over a cheap, solar walkway light for an eerie, emerging arm.

Ghosts always look better in the proper light.

For an easier “ghost arm” DIY, just wrap the arm and hand in clear tape, and place over a light.
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