How to Make the Head on a Platter Trick


The illusion of a live severed head being served up on a platter is pretty disgusting, and it's not a bad idea for a Halloween costume. This spectacle was first invented by architect Thomas Tobin in the late 1800s. Calling it the "Sphinx," Tobin allowed magician Colonel Joseph Stodare to perform it during his magic shows, where it stunned Victorian audiences, until a shrewd spectator noticed fingerprints on the mirrors that are the basis of the illusion. You can recreate this clever marvel either as a stationary prop or a mobile costume, though walking around in it makes it more funny than convincing.

Go for It

  • To be truly authentic, include the table with mirrors between the legs to create the illusion that people can see under the table, but they can't see your body. Set up a makeshift table, preferably with one corner tucked into a 90-degree seam between two walls. This "table" can have a thick cardboard top with a hole slightly larger than your head in the center. Rest the tabletop on cardboard tubing and super-glue ittogether. Glue or tape two square mirrors in between the visible table legs. They should be at 45-degree angles to reflect an illusion of the floor and walls continuing under the table.

Or Keep It Simple

  • Follow the steps to create the table, but leave the mirrors off if you'd like to keep it simpler. Or, use a large cardboard box with a hole cut out of the top for the head. Drape a tablecloth over the table, making sure to cut an "X" to accommodate the hole. If you're making a mobile costume, use the cardboard tabletop alone. Super-glue foam inserts near the shoulder area to make carrying it comfortable. Drape a tablecloth over it that is long enough to cover most of your legs but not trip you. Affix the tablecloth with glue, as you'll be walking and won't want to dislodge it.

Artificial Yum

  • For the plate, buy a large plastic platter from your local party store and cut a hole out of the center slightly larger than the one on your tabletop. You can also use an aluminum baking tray, plastic serving tray or cardboard cutout covered in aluminum foil. Glue "food" to the tray, making sure not to obscure the collar. Use wheat-colored yarn with bundles of red rubber bands for spaghetti. Make a salad tray out of fake greens. Glue on fake blueberries, grapes and strawberries. Glue down plastic salt and pepper shakers, wine glasses, candlesticks and utensils. You can even add a bowl for candy donations, if it's Halloween.

Additional Touches

  • Paint the "head" to look deceased if you like: sallow complexion, hollowed-out cheekbones, dark around the eyes, and blue lips. Paint on poorly healed wounds held together with black stitches. Add red face paint or food coloring gel for blood. Glue a plastic knife, broken in the middle, to a headband the same color as the person's hair for a ghoulish touch. Make it especially gross with fake spiders, spiderwebs, flies and cockroaches.

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