a scary wire man yard decoration for Halloween
Photo: Ian Spanier
Time: 10 hours

Cost: About $20

Difficulty: Moderate. You'll need patience when working with chicken wire, which tends to curl up in the direction it was rolled.

Shopping List:
• 1 25-foot roll of 36-inch-wide chicken wire

Tools List:
• Wire snips
• Needle-nose pliers
• A wig form or head-size vase or bowl
• Tape measure
• Work gloves

Cut List
All pieces are cut from a 36-inch wide, 25-foot-long roll of chicken wire.

• Head and shoulders: one at 36 inches by 36 inches
• Torso and thighs: one at 36 inches by cut to fit (circumference of the shoulders, plus 3 inches)
• Left arm: one at 12 inches by 36 inches
• Right arm and calves: four at 12 inches by 18 inches
• Ax and feet: three at 12 inches by 12 inches

Barely-there chicken wire gives just the right ethereal look to a ghostly apparition. There's a lot of trial and error in the process of pinching and cinching the wire hexes to form a life-like shape, but luckily this malleable medium can be easily reshaped as you go. For this project, you'll work from the top down, starting with the head.

Step 1:
Form the head: Center the wire piece over your wig form, bowl, or vase. Using your hands, press and pinch the wire into a convex shape for the top of the head. As you work your way down, cinch the hexes more tightly and permanently together where needed, using needle-nose pliers to crimp the wire. Keep going until you've got a bell-shaped form that extends to just below the nose.

Step 2:
Form the chin, neck, and face: Start by pinching the hexes to form the pointy part of the chin. Use the wire snips as needed to clip the wire in a curve roughly following the jawline, so that you can fold and overlap the wire underneath to define the chin and neck. For the back of the head and the nape of the neck, clip the wire vertically and overlap the pieces slightly to form a seam to contour and narrow this area. Continue shaping the wire with your fingers to form the nose, lips, chin, and neck. You'll now have a head and neck "emerging" from a somewhat flat base of chicken wire.

Step 3:
Make the shoulders: With the head facing you, snip the wire on each side, where the shoulders will go, to about 6 inches from the head. Make the snips close to the corners of the hexes, which will create longer prongs on the cut sides that can be used for attaching pieces later. Overlap the flaps to form the shoulders and the top of the torso, and secure them using the prongs of the cut wire.

Step 4:
Make the torso and thighs: Form the wire piece into a cylinder, overlapping the ends by about 3 inches. Attach this to the base of the shoulders; snip the wire on the edges if needed to fasten the two pieces together. Eyeball your ghost to decide where the waist should be, and shape the wire by hand to form it. Create the thighs by snipping the wire vertically in the center front and back, along the "inseam"; bend and fasten each side into thighs.

Step 5:
Form the arms: To create the straight left arm, form the wire piece into a cylinder, as you did with the torso, but slightly overlap the piece at an angle, so you'll form a thicker upper arm and thinner lower arm. For the right bent arm, form a bigger cylinder with one piece and a smaller one with the other; fasten them together at a roughly 120-degree angle to form the elbow. Attach each arm to the torso; you may need to clip off a bit of wire near the armpits to do this. With your fingers, contour the wire to look more like arms, with elbows, wrists, and hands. (Bonus points if you create fingers!)

Step 6:
Make the lower legs: Form cylinders from the wire pieces; attach to the thighs at angles to form the knees. Angle the legs so it appears that your ghost is out for a stroll.

Step 7:
Make the feet: Form cylinders from the wire pieces. Flatten the cylinders slightly to make soles on the bottoms, and cinch closed one end of each to form toes. Fasten the feet to the calves.

Step 8:
Make the ax: Fold the wire piece in half so that it measures 12 inches by 6 inches. On the open side of the rectangle, cut out a portion of wire measuring roughly 4 inches by 8 inches, leaving the remainder as an ax-like shape. Overlap the wires along the seams to secure them and to firm up the ax's handle and blade. Attach the handle to the right hand of your ghost, bending and contouring the hand as needed.

Step 9:
Put the ghost on display. To help it stand upright, you may need to attach it with rope or wire to a nearby tree, shrub, or part of your house. Or hang the ghost from a tree limb, using several loops of heavy-duty fishing line just taut enough so that its feet rest on the ground.
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