How to Decorate a Mad Scientist Lab for Halloween


Thunder rumbles and lightning flashes to reveal a frenzied scientist at work in his lab. From the alchemists of the Middle Ages to Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein and Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll, mad scientists have always thought big. Creating a mad scientist lab can add excitement and mystery to your Halloween celebrations. Try these steps for decorating your version, that is, if you dare.

Things You'll Need

  • Glass jars, large and small (to use for "specimens")
  • Glass bottles, large and small
  • Roll of twine
  • Small container of poster paint
  • Box of food coloring
  • 1 lb. of dry ice
  • Flameless candles
  • White men's shirts
  • Metal tongs
  • Pair of rubber or surgical gloves
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tin roasting pan
  • Goggles
  • Colored light bulbs
  • Small LED stick-on lights
  • Picture frames
  • Badge-style labels
  • Parchment-style stationery
  • Toy spiders, bats and rats
  • Cauliflower
  • Coffee grounds
  • Lace curtains or torn cheesecloth
  • Box of tea bags

Plan your layout and prepare your decorations

  • Draw a rough layout of where you want your laboratory decorations to go. If your display will be the centerpiece of a theme party, decide where you will lay out treats, drinks and other foods.

  • Shop dollar, crafts and hardware stores for all sizes and shapes of jars and bottles, as well as old lace curtains or cheesecloth, colored light bulbs and Halloween cobwebs. Shop your kitchen, pantry and closets too. Old olive oil bottles or jars for pickles, relish or spaghetti sauce can work well for "specimens," and men's white tailored shirts can double as lab coats. Check out office supply stores for parchment-style paper, labels and inexpensive picture frames.

  • Type and print the descriptions of your specimens on your labels, for example: "Experiment No. 13 (gone wrong)" or "Amazonian bat." Pick fonts like Gothic, Courier or Script. Select templates on your word-processing program for certificates and diplomas and create one (or many) for your scientist.

  • Dab strong tea that has cooled onto your labels with a cotton swab to give them an antique look. Dry labels, then affix them to your jars and bottles.

  • Fill the jars and bottles with your display items. Toy spiders, sticks, leaves and coffee grounds can mimic botanical and biological samples. Cauliflower can replicate a "brain." Instant coffee creates a muddy color. Food coloring adds brightness. Replace jar lids and disguise any product labeling on them with poster paint or twine.

  • Soak your old curtains or cheesecloth in a strong tea bath to antique them. If using cheesecloth, rip it in places for that look of decay.

Create the atmosphere and add finishing touches

  • Replace ordinary light bulbs with colored ones. Arrange your specimens on tabletops and bookshelves. Back-light display jars that rest against a wall or mantelpiece with your LED stick-on lights. Stick a light behind each jar and press to light. Place flameless candles on tables where there are snacks and drinks, or use them to create a mysterious mood in dark corners.

  • Place tongs, rubber gloves, tin pan, cotton swabs, specimen jars and goggles across a work surface for your scientist. Or scatter them about your space and buffet if your scientist is the careless type.

  • Hang your "diplomas." Don't worry about hanging them straight. Your scientist is preoccupied with his work, so it's all right to hang things askew. Drape a lab coat (or two) over a chair, and place a few strategic drops of red food coloring on it to create artificial bloodstains.

  • Suspend your curtains or torn cheesecloth at windows or archways, and string your cobwebs in corners, between pieces of furniture, and among the jars and bottles.

  • Put a piece of dry ice in hot tap water to create fog. Add 1 lb. dry ice per gallon of hot tap water. Make sure to use a sturdy container that won't crack.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check out eBay and other online sources for inexpensive reproductions of test tubes, beakers and test-tube racks.
  • Think about small details. For instance, you might leave a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles that appear to have been put down casually on a work station. Or, place a notebook with experiment records on a chair. Add a toy spider to a cobweb.
  • Wear protective gloves when handling dry ice, and place your container in a spot away from children and where it won't tip over. Use dry ice only in a well-ventilated area. Avoid leaving your container on surfaces susceptible to cracking by extreme cold. Also avoid overfilling it with water as spillage can occur.

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