How to Make Dried-Apple Shrunken Heads

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Here's a DIY Halloween decoration project that's so fun and creepy you'll lose your head over it. These shrunken heads are made from carved apples, which are slowly dried in the oven. This tutorial of how to make shrunken apple heads has multiple steps but is quite simple, and the results speak for themselves.

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As the apples shrivel, the spooky facial features become more prominent, and each apple's shrunken head takes on its own personality. Display the shrunken apple heads as decorations or a centerpiece at your next Halloween party or display the dried apples as a garnish in alcoholic beverages.

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Things You'll Need

  • Apples (any variety)

  • Lemon juice

  • Salt

  • Peeler or paring knife

  • Craft knife

  • Small serrated knife

  • Wire

  • Brown permanent marker

  • Pearl beads

  • Craft glue

  • Staples

  • Faux fur trim

  • Pins

  • Skewers

  • Floral foam

  • Empty container

Mix a salt and lemon juice solution

Mix half a cup of salt and half a cup of lemon juice in a half gallon of water. The measurements do not need to be precise. The salt will help draw moisture out of the apples, and the lemon juice will help keep the apple light and uniform in color.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Soak the apples

Select the largest apples you can find. Larger apples are easier to carve, and because they will shrink in size, it's better to start bigger. Granny Smith apples work well, but any variety of apple will work.

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Peel the apples with a peeler or paring knife and place the skinless apples in the salt and lemon solution. Set aside the apples to soak for about 30 minutes. If you leave the top of the apples unpeeled, the shrunken heads will have little hats (or hairpieces). If you leave the bottoms unpeeled, you will have a base to display the heads.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Give your apple shrunken head a face

While the most intimidating part of this project is carving the facial features on the apples, remember that the faces are supposed to be distorted anyway, so don't worry about anatomical accuracy. Start by using a sharp hobby knife to outline the eyebrow line and the nose. Cut deep into the apple with the knife.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Warning

Be careful with the knives when carving the apples. Never let children play with knives.

Carve the eyebrows and nose

Using the outline you've cut as a guide, carve into the apple with a small serrated knife so that the eyebrows and nose become more pronounced. Do not worry about making the features symmetrical. This apple shrunken head is not entering a beauty pageant.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Carve the eye sockets and mouth

Carve deeper under the eyebrows to create eye sockets. Under the nose, create a mouth by leaving a horizontal section of the apple uncarved and then cut a slit in the middle of this section to make lips. When you're finished with each apple, place it back in the lemon and salt mixture.

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Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Dry the apples

Cut 12-inch pieces of wire and poke them through the top of the apples and out the side, twisting the ends together to secure the apples. Then, use the wires to hang the apples from the middle rack of the oven. It is a good idea to put a baking sheet under the apples to keep your oven clean.

Turn the oven to its lowest temperature, about 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and allow the apples to dry out in the oven for a full 24 hours. The oven does not need to be on the entire time. Turn it off when you leave the house or go to bed.

Tip

Instead of drying the apples in the oven, they can dry naturally in a low-moisture area of your home. This process will take at least a week, however, so give yourself plenty of time before you need the shrunken heads.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Accentuate the facial features

After 24 hours in the oven, the faces will be shriveled and bumpy, which is how you want them to look. If your apples are larger and need more shrinking time, that's fine. When your apples have reached the desired shrinkage, remove the apples from the oven and the wires from the apples. The flesh on the apples will be stretchy at this point, so you can use your fingers to accentuate any features.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Embellish the eyes

Color the eye sockets with a brown permanent marker. The marker adds a hollowness to the eyes and makes them look tormented. For the eyeballs, attach a pearl bead in the eye sockets with some craft glue.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Add staples to the mouth

To make it look like the mouth has been sewn shut, insert staples across the mouth. They should just poke right in without the need for any adhesive. While you can use any type of staple, the staples for staple guns are thicker and therefore more visible.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Add some hair

Although the shrunken heads have a little apple peel cap at the top, adding a mop of hair makes them even more lifelike—and sinister. Many elements can look like hair, such as yarn or cotton balls. These heads feature fur trim, which has been pinned onto the apple. Give each of your shrunken heads a different hairstyle.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

Place the heads on skewers

While the shrunken heads can just sit on a table, inserting a skewer through the bottom of each of the heads makes for a creepier display. Place some dry floral foam in a bowl or decorative container and stick the skewers into the foam. You can also insert the skewers into the soil of your houseplants or place them in a vase for display.

Image Credit: Jonathan Fong

For adults only

Try carving apple shrunken heads out of mini apples or crabapples and use them as a garnish for a spooktacular apple martini!

Image Credit: Trisha Sprouse

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