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Creating Your Own Spooky Laboratory and Mad Science Themes

Updated on July 23, 2013
Skeleton Piano Player
Skeleton Piano Player
Creepy Fish Experiment
Creepy Fish Experiment

Not Trick or Treating As Usual

If you have a yard, if you are having a Halloween party, a mad scientist themed birthday party, if you work at a school, have kids, or want a new theme for your parlor room, 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 is enjoyable about two or three years, but then it starts to hit you. 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).

Spooky Lab Cart
Spooky Lab Cart
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.

Mad Lab Creations

This section describes ways to entice and stimulate the senses of guests or audience. This is mad science that tickles the nose, mesmerizes the eyes, interests the ears, disgusts the fingers, and compels the tongue.

~Explosions and Fizzles~

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 together in a cup with raisins in it and the raisins 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 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. If you are feeling more experimental when it comes to giving fire a dye job, check out this article.

~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. When you shake it, the spring vibrates against the plastic 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.

~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 some kind of bottle with a potent smelling substance in it. The bottle 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 the substance in a cotton ball, then drop the cotton ball into the bottle. Don’t add anything toxic or anything with toxic fumes.

Slime is another gross, but appropriate article found in a spooky laboratory. It can be made 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.

Making Slime

Feely Boxes
Feely Boxes
Fake poop made with a sponge cut into the right shape and dipped into chocolate pudding.
Fake poop made with a sponge cut into the right shape and dipped into chocolate pudding.

~Body Part Factory~

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

To create brains, either buy a brain mold or shape one yourself. If it is to look at and not to be touched, raw hamburger meat has a cerebral look. Shape it to the desired brain size and turn a jar upside down over it. Put an LED pumpkin light with a purple or blue or some other strange hue under the brain or behind it. It will look like the brain is in some kind of machine.

If the brain is for touching, you can make one out of instant mashed potato flakes, sand, and water. The ingredients are mixed together in a Ziploc bag and will be the same weight as a real human brain. Mmm brains.

Guts can be created with Ramen noodles and green food coloring. Linked sausages look like guts too.

Left over bones from dinner can be cleaned and then bleached for a spine-chilling effect in your lab.

Feely boxes are a great idea. Take a shoebox or a box roughly that size, and cut a hole on one end. Painting the box and 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 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.

The Environs

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.

In order 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.

~The Laboratory~

I don’t know if you’ve price compared prices for beakers and flasks lately, but I’ll just tell you that they could leave quite a hole in your wallet. If you do happen to have an unlimited budget, 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 setting yourself into a fiscal crisis.

Vases and regular bottles can pass for lab equipment. So can many normal 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 little. Dollar stores or other stores often have treasures. I found incense that was packaged in vials in a dollar store in my area. I tossed aside the incense cones 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.

Check the plumbing supply section of hardware stores. They usually carry plastic tubing that can be wrapped and stretched and coiled from beaker to beaker.

Food coloring is a simple and effective way to make bottles appear as if they contain some sort of vile and toxic chemical that can 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 nothing more than colored water.

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

~The Swamp~

The key to swamps is oozy, mushy, muddy mess without ruining any 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 is more important than it actually being muddy.

Take a kiddie swimming pool, which, most fortunately, are typically on clearance this time of year, and insert some water. Try to find a shallow wading pool or just barely fill the one you have.

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

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

~The Cave~

I am fortunate enough to work at a daycare and 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, the same things as the swamp, and drape them over something. Be creative. Tie it and drape it between two trees or across your porch. Think about when you were a kid and put a blanket over a table, crawled underneath and made an instant tent.

If your project is for kids, no worries. Kids have big imaginations. Give a few contextual clues like fake bats attached to the “roof” of the cave and they will run with the idea.

Eerie Environment

~General Details That Should Not Be Neglected~

Fog machines. Buy one, rent one, borrow one. Once that fog starts rolling out, you have a creepy environment in a moment.

Sound effects CD’s are usually pretty cheap and are prevalent starting in late September. Playing one of these in the background will give an authentic feel.

Dry ice is another way to add eerie effects. It is available at a lot of grocery stores, especially around Halloween. It is safe to drink, just harmful to direct skin contact. Drop it in punchbowls, into the cups of your guests, in the beakers and flasks, wherever a spooky fog would come in handy. 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 there won’t be any burns on the lips. This is all in fun, not to really hurt the guests, I hope.

Dark materials on everything. Black=goth. ‘Nuff said. Ripped cloth is a good addition also. Buying stock in black trash bags is another good idea. Shred them and hang them from the ceilings, shelves, on plants, anywhere that needs a little creepiness. Spread them under your lab to give an extra touch of eerie.

The story I have created to go along with my spooky laboratory is that it is the mansion of Dr. Wienerscnitzel, a physician who went mad trying to create a robotic man. Yes, it is an obvious Mary Shelley knock-off, but who has time to invent their own monster story?

Using that as a starting point, my laboratory is set in the Victorian era with a few quirky “mad” additions. I have a typical old mansion as the base and have added things you would find in the lair of a scientist gone nuts.

Mad Science

Mad scientist performing experiments for trick or treaters.
Mad scientist performing experiments for trick or treaters.

Mad Scientist Apparel

A white lab coat is ideal—knee length preferably. If it looks dirty, bloody, ripped, or burned, it will look more authentic. Stick a pocket protector in for that extra touch of geekiness. It’s all about the details.

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.

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 wig.

Gloves are highly in fashion with the mad scientist crowd. Rubber gloves will work. Aim for elbow-length. Welding gloves are another choice. They will give a more Dr. Horrible flair.

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 another choice, depending upon what type of mad scientist you are. There is nothing wrong with plain old safety goggles, though.

Respirators, dust masks, and rubber boots will complete the look. Try to rope one of your friends into playing the part of the hunchback lab assistant. Stick a throw pillow up his or her shirt in the back. Tell your assistant to practice dragging one leg around and presto, the mad lab look is complete.

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

Who is your favorite mad scientist?

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Mad Science Toys for Kids


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    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 6 years ago from Far, far away

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

    • profile image

      hannah boo 29 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      JJ 6 years ago

      I like it

    • profile image

      mjk 6 years ago


    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 6 years ago from Far, far away

      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.

    • profile image

      Angel 6 years ago

      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.

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 7 years ago from Far, far away

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

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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!

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 7 years ago from Far, far away

      Thunder tubes do sound creepy. Thanks and Happy Halloween!

    • What's News profile image

      What's News 7 years ago

      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 profile image

      DevLin 7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

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

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 8 years ago from Far, far away

      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 profile image

      Haunty 8 years ago from Hungary

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

    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 8 years ago from Far, far away

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

    • Mindfulness profile image

      Mindfulness 8 years ago

      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!