When I was growing up, I was obsessed with Lydia Deetz from the 80’s movie Beetlejuice. With her black boots, black dresses and black hats, she was goth style goals before I even knew what goth was. Beetlejuice has remained one of my all-time favorite movies. The movie is chock full of fun and creepy characters. The “shrunken head” guy is a creature Beetlejuice meets in the Netherworld Waiting Room, the place where ghosts wait after they’ve met their demise. Shrunken head guy must have tangled with someone who practiced voodoo here on Earth. He looks like a hot mess and he inspired this fun Halloween project.
This shrunken head is ugly and comical and totally easy to make. The more ridiculous, the better. You don’t need to be an artist to carve the sweet potato, just go for it — you can’t make any mistakes! His face has lots of grooves and wrinkles and looks similar to a skeleton, so let that be your guide. Just make sure his eye sockets are deep enough for his bulging cheese eyes. You can find inexpensive carving tools at your local craft store, but a simple paring knife works, too. You can pipe the crema mixture onto the face and hair or you can use a paintbrush, which is what I did. When using the red craft paint to paint around the eyes, I watered it down so it felt a lot like watercolor. It made painting it much less intimidating.
Once my shrunken head was dry and ready for his body, I found an old collared shirt and stuffed it with a towel. I wanted to slightly elevate the head so I placed it on a shoebox. Make sure you cut the bottom of the sweet potato flat across so it will stand up by itself. Next, I found a piece of jute twine that I tied around his neck to look like a rope, just like in the movie scene. I dare you to not laugh as you are setting up your display! To carry on the voodoo/shrunken head theme for Halloween, I decorated with candles, old statues, rosary beads, jewelry, fringed scarves and an assortment of pumpkins. Shrunken head guy didn’t even know what was coming. One moment you’re minding your own business and the next, you’re sitting in the Netherworld Waiting Room with a shrunken head.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1 package Cacique Manchego Cheese
- 1 package Cacique Crema Salvadoreña
- 1 large sweet potato
- 2 black olives, sliced
- 7-8 corn husks
- 2 toothpicks
- 1 small black twist tie
- black gel food coloring
- black craft paint
- red craft paint
- craft carving tool
- piece of jute twine
- hot glue gun
HOW TO MAKE IT
- With craft carving tool, peel half of the sweet potato. This will be the face. Carve out eye sockets, nose and teeth similar to a skeleton. Cut sweet potato straight across at the bottom so it will stand up. Place to the side.
- Next, mix the crema with black gel food coloring to create “paint”. With a paintbrush, use the mixture to accentuate around the eyes, nose, hairline and teeth. You can also add red accents around the eyes with red craft paint. Let dry.
- To create the hair, paint cornhusks with black craft paint. Be sure to paint both sides. Once they’re dry gather them around the chopstick and secure with a twist tie. Gently shred top half of the corn husks so they fan out. Poke the top of the sweet potato with the chopstick to add the ponytail.
- To create eyes: cut round shapes out of Manchego cheese. Glue sliced olives to cheese. Add a toothpick inside each eye socket. Carefully place Manchego cheese onto each toothpick so they are firmly in place.
- Cook’s Note (optional): Refrigerate the Manchego cheese and it’s much easier to cut. Pop the shrunken head into the refrigerator after the hair and accents are painted with the crema/food coloring mixture to set it. Exposing the cut sweet potato to the air makes it turn brown and slightly shriveled which helps it looks authentic.