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Creating a Spooky Mad Science Laboratory

Candace has a broad range of interests that keep her head filled with strange facts, such as experimental cooking, games, and mad science.

Skelebones, the skeleton piano player, is always a hit with kids.

Skelebones, the skeleton piano player, is always a hit with kids.

Not the Usual Trick-or-Treating

If you are having a Halloween party, a mad science-themed birthday party, if you work at a school, have kids, or want new parlor room decor, I’ve got some fun ideas for you.

Blame it on the summer sun addling my brain, but I have a kooky plan to make my front yard a hot spot for trick-or-treating this year.

For the last few years, I haven’t known what to do with myself on Halloween. I am much too old to go door-to-door without being considered loony, and I don’t have any kids to live through vicariously. Being on the other side of the door and passing out candy was enjoyable for about two or three years, but then it started to hit me: I am getting nothing out of this holiday. So, this year I have decided to step out of the usual trick-or-treat candy distribution rut. I have formulated a plan to transform my front yard into a spooky laboratory for the entertainment of would-be trick-or-treaters (insert maniacal laughter here).

Creating the Scene

Mad scientists are known to prefer an environment replete with impenetrable swamps, eerie caves, and other treacherous and perfidious impediments that prohibit the discovery of their surreptitious and peculiar lairs.

To create this environment, I have some tips to turn what would be an otherwise average, ho-hum suburban yard into the sort of place where a kooky scientist might want to hang out.

Creepy fish experiment setup.

Creepy fish experiment setup.

The Laboratory

I don’t know if you’ve price-compared beakers and flasks lately, but I’ll just tell you that they can leave quite a hole in your wallet. If you do happen to have an unlimited budget, you can always order a huge chemistry set. If you are like me and can’t drop a few C-notes on Halloween decorations, there are other ways to set the scene for a laboratory without sending yourself into a fiscal crisis.

Vases and regular bottles can pass for lab equipment. So can many standard kitchen items such as measuring cups, timers, thermometers, and stirring and mixing devices. Just search your house for anything that could be used to mix potions or concoctions.

Some laboratory items can be purchased for relatively cheap. Dollar stores or second-hand stores often have treasures. I found incense packaged in vials in a dollar store in my area. I tossed aside the incense cones (you could use them if you like) and had mad scientist vials for practically nothing.

Another good source for lab stuff is specialty toy stores. They usually have lots of science apparatus. I found droppers and Petri dishes for pocket change.

The plumbing supply section of hardware stores can be full of useful items. They usually carry plastic tubing that can be wrapped, stretched, and coiled from beaker to beaker.

Food coloring is a simple and effective way to make bottles appear as if they contain some vile, toxic chemical that would make toenails melt. Get a box of food coloring, mix various shades with water, and pour it into beakers or test tubes. It looks really cool and is safe and cheap.

With some selective gathering and shopping, a spooktacular laboratory is very feasible.

The Swamp

The key to swamps is creating an oozy, mushy, muddy mess without ruining anyone’s Halloween costumes. It is hard to focus on experiments when angry mobs of disgruntled parents are beating down your door because you turned their beautiful princesses into mud monsters. So, the appearance and feel are much more important than the ground actually being muddy.

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Take a kiddie swimming pool, which is typically on clearance around Halloween, and add a little water. Try to find a shallow wading pool or just barely fill the one you have.

Next, cover the pool with large garbage bags, a tarp, or some kind of plastic material. Black, dark brown, or dark green will give the best swampy appearance.

Add some fake bugs and ferns or other swampy-looking props around it, and presto, you have an instant swamp. As people walk over it, it will feel squishy and muddy underneath them. It works great, especially in the dark at night, when no one can see what it really is.

The Cave

I am fortunate enough to work at a daycare, so I have access to playground equipment. I took the slide part off of our equipment, covered it with dark material, and made an instant cave for the kids to crawl through and explore.

Another way to make a cave is to take a tarp or garbage bags and drape them over something. Be creative. Tie it and hang it between two trees or across your porch. Think about when you were a kid and put a blanket over a table to make an instant tent.

If your project is for kids, don’t worry. Kids have big imaginations. Give a few contextual clues like fake bats attached to the “roof” of the cave, and their imaginations will run with the idea.

Full spooky cart with everyday household items.

Full spooky cart with everyday household items.

How to Create an Eerie Environment

  • Fog Machine: Buy one, rent one, borrow one. Once that fog starts rolling out, you have an immediate creepy environment.
  • Sound Effects: CDs with sound effects are usually pretty cheap and are prevalent starting in late September. Playing one of these in the background will give an authentic feel. You can also find playlists on YouTube.
  • Dry Ice: Use dry ice to create even more fog and add to that eerie feel. It is available at a lot of grocery stores, especially around Halloween. It is safe to drink, just harmful if it comes in direct contact with the skin. Drop it in punchbowls, into the cups of your guests, into beakers and flasks, wherever a spooky fog would come in handy. The best advice for drinks is to put a cube in the bottom and then add regular ice on top. Fog will roll out of the glass as the guest sips it, and your guests won’t burn their lips. This is all in fun and does not really hurt the guests, I hope.
  • Dark Decorations: Use dark material on everything. Black equals goth. ‘Nuff said. Ripped up cloth is also a good addition. Buying large black trash bags is another good idea. Shred them and hang them from the ceilings, shelves, on plants, and anywhere that needs a little creepiness. Spread them under your lab to give an extra touch of eerie.
  • Background Story: The story I have created to go along with my spooky laboratory is that it is in the Victorian mansion of Dr. Wienerscnitzel, a physician who went mad trying to create a robotic man. Yes, it is a blatant Mary Shelley knock-off, but who has time to invent their own monster story?

Mad Lab Creations

Entice and stimulate the senses of your guests or audience. This mad science tickles the nose, mesmerizes the eyes, interests the ears, disgusts the fingers, and compels the tongue.

Spooky bubbling concoction made with baking soda, lemon juice, green food coloring, and dry ice.

Spooky bubbling concoction made with baking soda, lemon juice, green food coloring, and dry ice.

Explosions and Fizzies

To make a chemical reaction that looks cool without actually being rocket science, I have four words for you. Baking soda and vinegar. You can use them to make volcanoes. Or you can mix them in a cup and drop a few raisins in it. The raisins will look like they are dancing.

If you want a fizzy brew, just mix baking soda with lemon juice. Another fizzy explosion can be created with Mentos and 2-liter bottles of soda. Be careful. This one causes a massive, messy eruption.

You can also change the color of fire by adding certain chemicals to it. For yellow fire, add table salt. For purple, add lite salt (potassium chloride). For white, add Epsom salt.

Rumbles and Creaks

A thunder tube places the power of thunder in the palm of your hand. It is a plastic tube with a metal spring attached to it. The spring vibrates against the plastic when you shake it, causing a thunder-like sound.

A horrid screaming noise can be created with a latex balloon and a hex nut. Before the balloon is blown up, place the hex nut inside. Blow the balloon up and tie it. Swirl the balloon around to make the hex nut roll around inside. As it rolls, it sounds like screaming.

Spooky lab cart with sniff vials that have random strong odors.

Spooky lab cart with sniff vials that have random strong odors.

Icky and Stinky

A very easy way to make an odorous addition to your mad lab is to make sniff bottles. All it takes is a bottle with a potent smelling substance in it. The container can be as simple as an empty water bottle or as ornate as a glass potion bottle. Drop in something that has a strong odor, such as garlic, vinegar, perfume, or spices. For liquids, soak a cotton ball with the substance, then drop the cotton ball into the bottle. Don’t add anything toxic or with toxic fumes.

Slime is another gross but appropriate addition to any spooky laboratory. You can make it with cornstarch and water. Take about a cup of cornstarch and half a cup of warm water. Add food coloring for the all-important aesthetic appeal. Mix until the slime is at the desired consistency.

Body Part Factory

Mad labs are required to have a least three spare body parts lying around. Here are some choices:

  • Brains: To create brains, either buy a brain mold or shape one yourself. If it is to be looked at and not to be touched, raw hamburger meat has a cerebral look. Shape it to the desired size and turn a jar upside down over it. Put an LED pumpkin light that is purple, blue, or some other strange color underneath the brain or behind it. It will look like the brain is in some kind of machine. If the brain will be touched, you can make one out of mashed potato flakes, sand, and water. The ingredients are mixed in a Ziploc bag and will be the same weight as a real human brain. Mmm brains.
  • Guts: Ramen noodles with green food coloring and linked sausages make great guts.
  • Bones: Left-over bones from dinner can be cleaned and then bleached for a spine-chilling effect in your lab. They have the added benefit of being real bones!
  • Halloween Feely Boxes: These spooky and gross boxes are a great idea. Take a shoebox or a box roughly that size, and cut a hole on one end. Painting the box or decorating it is a nice touch. Then put something inside that feels like a body part. Peeled grapes pass for eyeballs, flour tortillas for skin, cooked noodles for veins, a wet sponge or cooked cauliflower for brains, carrot sticks for fingers, wet sponge for feces, crumbled potato chips for scabs, peeled tomato for the heart, and pumpkin seeds for fingernails. The slime recipe from above will work for snot. Take a big bowl and mix in some tissues with the “snot” for a nasty spectacle.
Mad scientist performing experiments for trick-or-treaters.

Mad scientist performing experiments for trick-or-treaters.

Mad Scientist Apparel

  • Lab Coat: A white lab coat is ideal—preferably knee-length. If it looks dirty, bloody, ripped, or burned, it will look more authentic. Stick a pocket protector in for an extra touch of geekiness. It’s all about the details.
  • Hazmat Suit: A hazmat suit would work as well. A white, black, or silver sauna suit can pass as one. Check the fitness section of department stores. You might shed a few pounds during the party as well.
  • Hairstyle: Hair should be wacky. If your hair can stand on end like you just stuck your finger in a light socket, then you are good to go. If not, look for a crazy, messy wig.
  • Gloves: Gloves are high-fashion with the mad scientist crowd. Rubber gloves will work. Aim for elbow-length. Welding gloves are another excellent choice. They will give a more Dr. Horrible flair.
  • Eyewear: Goggles are a must. Welding goggles have a certain je ne sais quoi, especially the ones that have flip-up lenses. Welding helmets and hoods are other options, depending upon what type of mad scientist you want to be. Although, there is nothing wrong with plain old safety goggles.
  • Masks: Respirators and dust masks look extra creepy.
  • Footwear: Rubber boots complete the look, although black dress shoes are another option that works.
  • Assistant: Try to rope one of your friends into playing the part of the hunchback lab assistant. Stick a throw pillow up their shirt in the back. Tell your assistant to practice dragging one leg around, and presto, the mad lab look is complete.

As for you, mad scientist, practice your maniacal laugh as you plot to take over the world!

Giant cookies are always a great option instead of making a cake for a Halloween party, not for trick-or-treaters.

Giant cookies are always a great option instead of making a cake for a Halloween party, not for trick-or-treaters.

Dry Ice Concoctions

  • Making Drinks with Dry Ice
    Using dry ice to make drinks is easy and entertaining. You can use dry ice to make root beer, sodas, spooky punches, and mysterious fogging drinks.

Experiment Resources

© 2009 Candace Bacon


Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on December 20, 2011:

hannah boo - You must love Halloween as much as I do if you are already planning for next year.

hannah boo 29 on December 16, 2011:

wellll i got some great ideas butt still looking 4 more 4 next year

JJ on October 29, 2011:

I like it

mjk on October 23, 2011:


Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on September 21, 2011:

Angel - I am glad that my kooky obsession has helped you out. I hope your son's party is madly fun. Thanks for the fabulous comment.

Angel on September 21, 2011:

Thank you for sharing! I am planning on a "Mad Scientist" Birthday party for my 7 year old son, but I was much too worried to spend so much and thought of making a D.I.Y Mad Scientist like party. I came upon this post and I am glad for people who like to share their brains with with teh rest of the "boos and ghouls". Thank you.

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on November 07, 2010:

You are right. Kids love mad science experiments. Even adults do. Hope you had a great Halloween and that next year is even better.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 06, 2010:

Your hub contains some great ideas. I've bookmarked it so that I look at it before next Halloween. I know from my experience as a teacher that students love mad science activities!

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on August 21, 2010:

Thunder tubes do sound creepy. Thanks and Happy Halloween!

What's News on August 21, 2010:

The Thunder tube sounds like the perfect tool for a haunted house. Nothing makes me jump out of my skin more at a Haunted House than an unexpected clap of thunder. Good hub great ideas.

DevLin from Phoenix, Arizona on May 22, 2010:

Now I have plans for the 4th of July! Thanks! I'm getting my brother to read this. He does his yard every year.

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on December 29, 2009:

Halloween was fantastic. Even though it rained I had hundreds of trick or treaters. They were all amazed with the mad scientist and his experiments.

Haunty from Hungary on December 29, 2009:

Wow, spooky! :) I have to look into some of these in future. How was your Halloween?

Candace Bacon (author) from Far, far away on October 22, 2009:

I have had fun preparing the experiments and can't wait to try the whole thing out on Halloween!

Mindfulness on October 21, 2009:

How fun! I will try out some of your recommendations. Sounds like it'll be just as fun for me as my visitors to participate in this Halloween!

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