Halloween Crafts: Spook Your Guests With Specimen Jars!

Megan Van Schaick

halloween decorWhat better thing to grace the table of your adults-only Halloween costume party than some truly spooky specimen jars?

Invoke the spirit of the mad (very mad) scientist with just a few supplies. Then sit back and cackle wickedly as your guests round the buffet table and lay eyes on a jar of ... eyes!

The best thing about these jars is that they take almost no time to put together -- and you can do it cheaply, if you choose. This is definitely one instance where buying cheap doesn’t mean looking cheap.

Here’s what you’ll need to put together a few good specimen jars:

Jars, naturally. If you can find spooky-looking apothecary jars, that’s perfect (check for school supply stores that sell Pyrex labware). You can also use old square liquor bottles and even pickle jars! Disguise the lids by painting them and wrapping them in twine aged with a rubber stamp or even just dirt. If you have dry items, like skulls, a cake stand with lid or a cloche is a perfect substitute for a jar.

Specimens. These are super-easy to find at the dollar store, seasonal Halloween store, and even your fridge. At the stores you’ll find eyeballs and other body parts. Be on the lookout for fake lizards and snakes, worms, and bones. Look for shrunken head items and doll parts. Those little toys that expand in water are ideal for this project; you can find everything from brains to tentacled monsters. Certain foods are just natural “specimens” -- cauliflower makes a great brain, carrots make baby fingers, grapes make eyes, and gnarly things like ginger root can be labeled just about anything.

Liquid. Colored liquids are always creepy, especially under the right lighting. Add a little green food coloring to your water for that formaldehyde feel. If you want cloudy water, add a couple of drops of milk to the mix (wait until the party). For jars that don’t have lids, think about adding a couple of chunks of dry ice to a choice specimen -- your guests will wonder why that snake oil is suddenly smoking.

Labels. Here is where you really sell the specimen. Instead of calling your fake lizard “Lizard,” get creative: “Unknown Miniature Hybrid, Lyndwurm Tarakona Draconis. Discovered during exploration of unknown heathen lands, 1897.” Providing a little bit of a story makes the specimens more interesting. Don’t forget to sell the label itself. Using Word, create some text boxes, and then fill them in with your story -- in a spooky or clinical font. Age the labels by crumpling the paper and dunking it in a strong coffee. Once dry, you can cut them out and apply to the bottles using plain glue. Don’t be afraid to distress the labels in other ways -- smear them with dirt or a sinister glow-in-the-dark handprint.


Image via Dave Lowe

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