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Welcome to Acorn's Hallowe'en costume page. These are the costumes I wore between 1985 and 1996. They are in order, so go to the end of the page to see the most recent (Best) costumes. I got interested in Hallowe'en in Kindergarten when my friend Nat told me what it was. Apparently they don't celebrate Hallowe'en in England, where I had lived previously, because I had never heard of it before. My earlier costumes included a pumpkin and a glowing-eyed-monkey, but I really got into halloween when I started making robot costumes which I did exclusively for several years. I had many costumes before 1985, but they are not as elaborate, and I have very few pictures.
Nowadays I generally spend 1 or 2 months (october and september) creating my costumes. The rest of the year is spent thinking up a good idea for the next round, which is always the hardest part. Around Hallowe'en I am not the most social person, and have been known to get very cranky, so look out! My friends in college used to say that "Nathan doesn't have a cow, he has a moose." I also tend to thoroughly trash my room/apartment at Hallowe'en time, as I have no interests other than to finish the creation.
I enjoy dressing up a lot, and you can see some of the other, non Halowe'en costumes that I have worn in the past too.
This costume featured cylon-style eyes (which you cannot easily see in the pictures). The LED's in the red part of the mask sweep back and forth in their blinking pattern. This costume was made before I knew much about integrated circuits. It used a motor which turned a multi-position switch to turn the LED's on and off in a sweeping pattern. The mask is made of cardboard covered with tinfoil.
On a trip out west with my family (in an old VW bus) I found a sheep skull in a field. I decided I had to use it in a "Death" costume. The sheep shull sat on top of my head, so the costume was about 7 feet tall (plus hood). It had glowing eyes and had a camera flash mounted in the mouth. This was the first of many costumes to have a camera flash, which is very effective as a "psyonic blast" or "fire breath" effect on a dark Hallowe'en night.
I don't know what I was thinking with this one. Most of the work went into the 3 fingered claws which the alien had for hands. There were also a number of LED's blinking in various patterns on the face. At the time I created this costume I was pledging a fraternity, AXP, and had very little time on my hands. This costume had lots of paper mache (the whole thing) and was very difficult to move in.
I wanted to be half robot and half human. The hardest thing about making this costume was attatching the mask to my face. I wound up duct-taping velcro to my face in order to acheive this. This costume was the second to have cylon eyes (see 1985), but this time I used TTL instead of a motor and a rotary switch. The circuit had a 555 timer, 75191 counter, and 74154 four to sixteen decoder. It also incorporated a 7 segment LED decoder/driver to create apparently random patterns on the 8x8 array of LED's that made up the robot's square mouth. The mask is paper mache.
The only reason I made this costume was that I wanted to have glowing eyes which looked like real human eyes (I later solved this problem more easily (see 1991)). I found a puppet which had realistic eyes which looked back and forth when a leaver was moved. A light bulb placed behind these eyes would cause them to glow. Since the eyes were bulky I had no way to incorporate them into my own face, so I had to make a false face to put in front of mine. Making the face was the hard part. It is made of cardboard, hot melt glue, and caulking putty. Because the fake eyes prohibited my eyes from seeing through the eye holes, I had to use a periscope to see out the mouth. I had 3 mirrors and 2 binocular lenses to look through. Unfortunately once I got out into the dark night to trick or treat, my breath fogged up the mirrors and lenses, and I couldn't see a thing.
This is possibly my most successful costume (ie the one I am happiest with). I wanted to make a costume that looked non-human. In fact I wanted it to be unearthly. It wasn't enough to just make a non-human face or animal shaped body. I wanted something that was totally unique. I came up with this alien which has a toothy mouth imbedded between 2 large eyes. The original model (which I still have) is a soap carving. I made the eyes out of clear Legg's Panty Hose containers (the plastic egg-shaped thing) painted and glowing with a light bulb in each. The eyes looked back and forth with a leaver system actuated by shaking my head. The mouth opened and closed when I nodded my head.
The arms were a fun part of the costume. The shoulders of the costume were my elbows, and the costume's elbows were my hands. Attatched to each of my hands was the costume's forearm which was a 1" dowel with a 3 fingered hand at the end. The 3 fingers of the hand were actuated with strings running down the forearms (like tendons) to a glove which my hand fit into. I closed my thumb, index, and middle finger to close each of the costume's fingers independantly.
The mask and forearms were made of wood, cardboard, and paper mache. The skin was made of latex rubber. Most of the rest of the costume was just cloth (fake fur and shiny gold material).
I think the main reasons this costume was so successful are (in order)
I had 2 goals for this costume. Firstly I wanted it to breath fire. Secondly I wanted it to be tight-fitting around my face so that it would be easy and light to wear. The first goal did not happen, and I did not have fire breath this year (see 1992, 1994, 1996). I did manage to do fairly well with goal number 2. This costume, made of wood, paper mache, and latex rubber coated cloth, attatched snugly around my head with velcro along the green dorsal fin. The teeth and gums were designed so that the teeth are hidden whan the mouth is completely closed, but are quite visible (in a natural way) when the mouth opens. The mechanism involves hinges, springs, wire, and elastic. The mouth opens and closes when I open and close my mouth.
The trickiest part of the costume was the eyes. Once again (see 1989) I wanted glowing eyes. This time, however, I used fiberoptics to direct red light (from 4 LED's) into the corners of my eyes. So long as I didn't look far left or far right the light did not shine into my pupil. When I was looking ahead the light shone into the whites of my eyes and caused my entire eyeball to glow (Unfortunately this is not visible in the pictures).
I call this costume Tricky Dick because lots of people (and I) think it looks like an evil charicature of Nixon.
This was my first successful fire-breather. I had wanted to breath fire in 1991, but was not able to get it working in time (and I was trying some methods which were not very successful). The Dragon Man costume was designed around fire-breathing from the start. The first thing I designed was the fire mechanism. It consisted of a can of hairspray and a high voltage electric spark.
The spark is generated with a circuit which charges a capacitor to about 400 volts (using a circuit similar to that in a flash charger), and then dumps the charge in the capacitor (using an SCR) into a parallel LC circuit which resonates at a high loop voltage. The L in the circuit has a secondary (higher voltage) coil which is open. The circuit generates about 100,000 volts accross the opening which is enough to create a spark about 1.5 inches long in most weather. The circuit repeatedly charges to 400 volts and then sparks at about 7 Hz.
The hairspray and spark gap are just below my chin. I lower my chin onto a lever. When pushed down a little the lever turns on the sparks. When the lever is depressed further the hairspray valve is pressed and out comes hairspray which is quickly ignited by the spark. There is no danger of a spark going down the hairspray nozzle because the hairspray is coming out of the nozzle too fast. However there is a tendancy for the plastic nozzle to catch fire when the spray is stopped. To keep this from happening I attatched a metal nozzel from a disposable butane cigarette lighter to the hairspray nozzle and built a metal firewall between the end of the nozzle and the hairspray. This keeps the nozzle from ever being exposed to fire.
The mask was completed after the fire mechanism was done. It is wood, cardboard, and paper mache with layers of fireproof cloth and fireproof pipe-sealing compound. I tested a variety of materials for fire-proofness. A friend of mine who works in the construction business got most of them for me, and another friend who is a volunteer fireman got me some fireproof fireman clothing. The mouth closes when my head is tilted back. This means that when my chin is pressing the fire mechanism my head has to be foreward and the mouth must be open (shooting fire while the mouth is closed would be BAD). I played around with using WD-40 which makes a better flame, but in the enclosed space of the mask (near my face) it was just too dangerous. Even just using hairspray I burned the eyelashes off one eye (and many hairs off my arms).
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