With an unrelenting pandemic, coupled with the rest of the world’s chaos, how could I not think of, The Upside Down World, of Stranger Things? It seemed like the most appropriate idea for our 2021 Halloween yard.
After mulling over the size of the Mind Flayer, the next consideration was how to get it on the roof. I’ve seen a few folks have one stand in their yard, and thought, NOT BIG ENOUGH! My husband said, “Build it, and we’ll figure a way to get it up.” Also, it couldn’t just be a Mind Flayer, but the whole yard had to be an Upside Down World.
I knew whatever material I used, it had to be lightweight, be able to withstand the elements, and not cost an arm and a leg, to make. The order of how I built the Upside Down World is as follows: The Mind Flayer, Vines, Alphabet wall ( with computer generated messages) and Flashing lamps, Nancy’s hand coming out of the Upside Down portal from the tree, the Gate, Will Byer’s Castle, and Eleven. I wanted more characters, but finding teen mannequins was like pulling teeth.
Because of length of directions/images, The Mind Flayer tutorial will take at least two, if not three parts. I’ll try to complete all parts to the Mind Flayer, in a close time frame. If someone is trying to make this, and you need directions faster, please email me directly.
Mind Flayer Prop Tutorial Part 1:
I started with measuring out the space between my window gables, distance from gutter to roof top, length over the gables, and length between gables, to various gutter lines. I knew it was ten feet from gutter to ground, and planned on attaching the last 10 feet of leg, to the hanging legs reaching the gutter line. What your measurements will be, all depends on where you will place it.
Each section had to be made so it could be attached to the main body torso ( which ended up being close to 10′ x 28″ . The Head: 5.5′ x 1.7 – 3′. Each of the legs had to be a minimum of 35′-42′, in order to reach the gutter line ( where I could then attach the separate 10 foot pieces, and 5 foot pieces). I say “close to” because that was the size before adding the layers of plastic. Keep in mind, along with your PVC measurements, add a few inches to compensate for the extra layers of sheeting or filling.
Before I go into supplies, I want to mention:
What I’d Do Different
Although I’m pretty proud of the monstrosity I made, there are a few things I might redo next year: make the body narrower, OR make the head front bigger. I’d make the corners of the PVC pipe rounded more tightly in sync with the head width, instead of the rectangle. The rectangle seems less life-like. But it works. Change the measurements, according to your space, or liking. *Also, see cautionary tale below in red, before making supply purchases.
Supplies Split into Body Part Sections
- 3 pieces of 10′ long 3/4″ PVC pipes
- T and 90 degree PVC couplers ( 4 of each)
- A PVC Cutter, Dremel, or Saw
- One Step PVC Glue ( Oatey Yellow All-Weather works well)
- Cardboard (Flat for bottom of PVC frame)
- Filler that is waterproof/very lightweight : Thin, cheap, empty, plant pots, various plastic or foam inserts from packaging, 2 liter plastic bottles, bunches of 16 or 32 oz. drinking bottles, etc.
- Duct or Packing Tape
- 1 Can of rubber spray, such as Plastic Dip or Flex Seal ( Black)
- Dust Mask(optional, depending on cutting method)
- 100 pound metal galvanized wire
- Black zip ties
- Black 6 ml Sheeting (Buy the 10′ x 100′ roll, (you’re gonna need it for the whole Mind Flayer)*
- 1500 Watt Heat Gun, preferably with two settings – Drill Master is cheapest
* CAUNTIONARY TALE: If you choose to buy the black sheeting in smaller quantities, you might regret it. Since I started using part of a 6 ml black sheeting roll for landscaping, I started using the leftover black, to start this project. When I needed more, I bought the same brand, thickness, and package of black sheeting. But after I started using it, I realized the black from the first batch didn’t match the black from the earlier roll. It was a deeper black, whereas, the previous roll was more grey, even though it said black on the package. So, I ended up buying another can or two of Black Plastic Dip, and spraying parts that didn’t match, which was about a third of the monster.
After measuring the area for placement, cut the PVC pipe to your dimensions, or mine. My measurements were 10 ft. long (both cut in equal parts of 5′), and 4 horizontal 28″ pieces. Remember, if you are using an electric saw or Dremel, you’ll also need a dust mask. The PVC dust is seriously bad to get into your lungs.
Once you have your pieces cut, attach the T and elbow couplers to make a frame like the image below.
After ensuring the PVC frame is the correct size for your use, get the sandpaper or Dremel, and the PVC Glue out. For best results, sand both connecting parts of the PVC pipe, and couplers. I saved time by using my sanding disc on my Dremel. But if you don’t have a power tool, use coarse sandpaper, and sand all connecting parts. The glue will bind together better, if you do so.
While drying, get your sheet or sheets of cardboard, that should be a bit bigger (1″-2″), than the bottom of frame. Poke holes into the cardboard, and zip tie the cardboard around the bottom PVC frame. Take Plastic Dip or Rubber spray, and coat the top and bottom of the cardboard. Even though we’ll be covering the torso mostly with plastic, there will be holes needed for legs and head supports.
While that’s drying, find your filling. This could be empty milk jugs, 2 liter soda bottles, Styrofoam or plastic inserts that come in TV boxes, etc. Use your imagination, and maybe look in your recycle bin. The two things most important: Waterproof and super lightweight. Because trying to climb a roof with a 10 foot long torso, will be no easy task. (We ended up getting our gutter guys to help us place it on the roof).
Tape all pieces of filling to the bottom piece of cardboard. (Yes, some will melt while using heat gun, but it will stay, once it’s all shrink-wrapped).
Cut a piece of plastic sheeting to fit under the frame/cardboard, and big enough to wrap completely around the filling, and over the top. Once the plastic is in position underneath, Cut approx. 1.5′ slits towards the frame, but stopping about two inches before PVC. This way it will allow shrinkage along frame, without leaving too many gaps.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you begin melting one strip at a time (across the torso), mark where you plan to add your wire anchors for legs, and the wire to attach the head. All wires will be attached around the PVC. If you forget to do this step, you’ll be cutting through layers of plastic, and having to reheat to reseal. Cut wire longer for the head,(about 2 yards) and wide loops approx. 9″ wide, for attaching legs later. Let the wires hang out and away from the melted plastic areas, butting up to the plastic closely, but not sticking to it. Otherwise, the movement of joining the pieces, might loosen the shrink wrap seal.
Using the Heat Gun
*Warning, Heat guns can burn the heck out of you. So always focus on the task, because even brushing up against a hand or bare leg, can make a nasty burn.
If you’re familiar with using a heat gun, and shrink wrapping, go straight to high on the heat gun settings. If not, start low to get an idea how to melt plastic to shrink, but not to melt into holes. Even if you do put a hole into the plastic, just cut a patch double the size of hole, and melt/shrink over it.
Don’t panic if you get ripples of melted sheeting. It adds to the character. When you’re on your second layer, a hole and ripple here and there, gives a better effect on the creature. So, again: shrink wrap enough to make a good seal, then add a second layer, adding interesting textures, with ripples, and holes.
You will need to melt the plastic enough to adhere to the foam/plastic fillings, but not melt them down significantly. If the strips don’t cover completely, no biggie. Just cut extra strips, and add layers. Layers make the beast more interesting and durable. Each piece of the Mind Flayer has layers, so plan on lots of shrink wrapping.
In the left image, the frame is almost ready to shrink wrap. The longer piece of cardboard in front, will need to be trimmed down, beforehand.
Once you’ve melted the sliced strips over the top, and added any patches, let it cool (about 5 min.). Then you’ll need to flip the entire piece over, and shrink the plastic on the back. This gives it the tight secure fit, needed for moving it around.
* Always check over cooled areas of plastic, to ensure they are shrink-wrapped properly. If a portion feels loose, reheat that area again, until it tightens.
Here’s how the torso looks on top of my car roof. You can see the wire hanging out, which will be used to attach head/legs later.
Part two will include the head, and if the post isn’t too long, the legs too. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.