4 Great Halloween Costumes From the PM Archives

These retro DIY costumes are hilarious, and you can make them in just a few hours.

At Popular Mechanics, we’re big proponents of making your own Halloween costumes. It’s a tradition that goes back decades as you can see by our October 1963 article featuring these four great costume ideas. If you’ve got Amazon boxes on hand, you’ve already got most of your materials.

Cuckoo Clock

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Why not turn yourself into a giant, walking cuckoo clock. Find or fabricate (using tape and several cut boxes) a large cardboard box that extends from the top of your head to your waist. Cut the corners off at a diagonal, and cut two more panels of cardboard to create a roof. Once the body is assembled, try it on and use a pencil to mark where you think your shoulders should sit. Attach rope or fabric to create straps, so the box can rest comfortably on your shoulders.

Decorate the box with ornate painted decorations as you see fit, as well as a large clock face. Be sure to cut an eye-level window in the box, and cover with mesh. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make the hands moveable from the inside of the box. The original instructions don’t specify how to make the turning mechanism, so here’s our idea: find a thin dowel and slightly larger-diameter PVC pipe that the dowel can slide into and rotate in comfortably. Cut the dowel and PVC to length, with the dowel an inch or two longer than the PVC. Thread the two together, and glue the minute hand to the dowel and the hour hand to the PVC. Thread both through the cardboard clock face and secure. To move the arms, rotate either the dowel or the PVC.

A Bat

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Not big on wearing a box? Try out this retro bat costume, complete with webbed wings.

In lieu of the recommended “long underwear dyed black,” get yourself a black body suit or even a pair of black leggings and a long-sleeved shirt. To create the wings, carefully cut a quarter of a black umbrella from the handle. Contrary to the illustration, we recommend the fabric just before the metal rib on each side, for better mobility.

Using a hand stitch, sew one side of the wing to the outer thigh of your pants. To attach the wings to your arms, we recommend using velcro tape, which you can stick to the side of the umbrella piece and along the backs of your arms. Being able to detach will help you get the suit on and off easier. To finish the outfit off, hot glue cardboard ears to a headband or balaclava.

A Matchbox

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We’re not sure if this costume was ever appropriate for kids, but it will look great on you.

Start with a tall, skinny box that extends from your shoulders to just above your knees. Cut the top and bottom out for your head and legs, and cut holes for your arms. Find a second box for your head that’s just slightly smaller than the larger box, so it will look like an inner box pulled out of its sleeve. Remove two sides, and glue on top of the body box.

To create the matches, glue several mail tubes, pool noodles or PVC pipes inside the box. Make sure that there’s enough space for both your body and the matches inside before attaching. To create the red match tips, spray paint ping pong balls red and glue to the ends of your tubes. Cut eye slots into the matches, or consider placing fewer in the box to leave space for your face. Decorate the outer sleeve of the box with paint, cut-out letters and paper as desired.

Mister Mars

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This retro-futuristic robot that looks straight off the set of The Twilight Zone.

To make it, find yourself two cardboard boxes. One should be large enough to fit your (or your kid’s) torso, and the other should be able to fit comfortably over your head. Spray paint both silver, then add decorations. Take a look through your recycle bin — bottle caps, jar lids and other plastic containers make great dashboard dials, buttons and knobs. For arms, attach cardboard tubes as instructed, or cut arm holes in the box and attach vent ducting hose that you can fit your arms through for better mobility. Use the same ducting hose on your legs. Just make sure to wear padded clothing, like sweatpants or jeans, underneath to protect from sharp edges.

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