Best pic of the Death costume Cool eyes
Grim Reaper

This is Tony in the Grim Reaper costume. Tony's eyes look so cool in the mask because he has black makeup around them. The mask is store-bought, the hooded robe was sewn by Tony's mom, and the skeletal hand is an elaborate hand-made articulated mechanism strapped to the back of Tony's forearm.

The fingers are made of carved wooden dowels. They're pulled back by fishing lines leading to springs in the forearm. Each finger has two nylon hinges each with its own spring so the joints move separately. (Nylon hinges are used in radio-controlled airplanes and can be found in hobby stores.) The fingers are pulled down by lines attached to Tony's fingers in a black glove underneath.

The thumb wire runs through a tube (actually a long spring) over the back of Tony's hand so when he moves his thumb down, the fake thumb also moves down. There's a 1.5 inch boom sticking out sideways from the hand over the operator's thumb. The wire runs from the operator's thumb into the tube on the boom and then over the back of the hand to the palm of the skeletal hand where it exits the tube and runs to the fake thumb. The thumb has a single, tiny metal hinge rather than two nylon hinges like the fingers. It's pulled back by a lever spring at the hinge.
Cool lighting

The fingers are screwed to a 90 degree metal plate which is screwed to the end of a foot-long, 2 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick plywood strip which is strapped with velcro to the back (or top) of the forearm. The 8 straight springs pulling the fingers back are on this plywood strip.

The design of the turning points for the four finger pull cords is important. I first used little staples pushed in with pliers, but the metal wore out the fishing line cords and they broke. I then covered the staples (with the wires still passing through) with little beads of epoxy. After it hardened, I was able to break the fishing line away from the epoxy by pulling on the line gently from both sides. The epoxy then formed gently curving turning points which don't wear out the fishing line. If I made a new one, I'd just leave out the staples. We still grease the lines to keep the fingers moving smoothly.

Real and fake hands Close-up of hand showing wires

Tony actually handed out the candy with the skeletal hand. You can image how the kids reacted to having candy handed to them with a moving skeleton hand!


Our skeletal hand was the inspiration for a pair of continuously-moving crank-driven skeletal hands on Tom Marchak's complex organ-playing animatronic Baron von Riptopen described on Doug's Phantasmechanics site. Nice work, Tom!

You'll need to install the free RealPlayer on your computer to hear these audio clips. This clip sounds weird because it's heavily filtered. A 747 or something was flying overhead.

Responsible parents always teach their kids good manners.


Download say_thank_you.ra directly, 28k.



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