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Haunted Tree Bat Toss

How to Make a Haunted Tree Bat Toss Game

Supplies needed:

  • Tall, round, sturdy patio table (about 24” or slightly larger)
  • 2 large cardboard boxes with flaps
  • A large stack of paper, double thickness freezer bags you get from the frozen food aisle at the grocery store or several packages of small brown lunch bags)
  • 2 cans of spay paint (one brown and one reddish brown)
  • 1 can of fluorescent spray paint
  • Black or very dark brown bottle of acrylic paint and brush for shading and outlining the face
  • Cheap brown material to close up the back
  • Cheap red or orange material to cover the eyes
  • Many bottles of Elmer’s school glue
  • A bag of moss from a craft store
  • Rubber ants or spiders
  • Hot glue gun
  • Bag of fall leaves
  • Mini strobe light
  • Rubber bats (three or more stiffer bats for throwing)
  • Stapler
  • Duct tape

Haunted Tree Base

There are many good plans out on the web for great looking haunted trees, but of course, I didn’t follow any of them. I was short on time and feeling really rushed. Time to improvise! I cut two large cardboard boxes in half on a corner. I didn’t cut the flaps off, so I could add to the length to the boxes. I taped one cardboard to the bottom of my small round patio table with duct tape. Before I secured it into place, I mashed the cardboard until it fit snugly but not too tight around the round shape of the table. I then measured the top piece of cardboard so that it’d go mostly around the tree (about 3/4’s way around), but left a large space in back so I could get the bats out after each kid had played the game, or to repair any part of the game. Most important to remember to do this. If you forget, how will you get your bats out for the next kid?

Tree Body, Face and Branches

Haunted Tree Bat Toss, Back
Back of the Haunted Tree Bat Toss. The cover is fabric that can be lifted to retrieve bats, adjust the strobe light, and make any quick repairs.

I took the second box that was the top half of the tree and laid it on the ground, drew an evil tree face, and cut it out with an Exacto knife. When you draw on your face for the tree, make sure you make the mouth really large so the bats can be thrown in. You’ll be surprised at how much harder it is than you’d think it’d be to toss a bat into the mouth if it’s too small. That’s not fun for anyone.

After I made and cut out the face, I cut the top of the tree in an uneven saw tooth fashion, as if it was old and broken. I then carried my piece of cardboard to the frame, where I attached it to the base, adding more duct tape inside and out. For the top of the tree, I cut a six inch wide strip of cardboard and the same diameter as the top plus four inches of cardboard as reinforcement and stapled it to the top of the tree. This acts like a bridge that pulls the cardboard into a cylinder at the top of the tree to match the bottom.

Now the whole tree was put together, with a face in the front and a large opening in the back for bat retrieval.

For the branches I got a thick Fun-noodle out of our swimming stash and cut it in half. I inserted a heavy gauge green garden stake into the center hole for strength and cut an “x” into the side of my “tree.” I will insert the bare end of the garden rod (all metal and no fun-noodle) through the “x”, and duct tape the bare metal end of the stake onto the patio table top. However, do this near the end. Create a second branch for the other side of the tree, and then place both branches aside for now. We will return to them later.

Ta da! Most of the structure of my tree is done. Now it’s time for covering the limbs and tree. This is where I cobbled together my own patented Three Stooges kind of Papier-mâché. Oh, and it actually worked!

Bark For Crinkled Paper

I got about six or more bottles of white school glue (on sale for five cents after the school supply season) and a stack of double thickness brown-paper freezer bags from my local super market. I separated the layers of bags after I cut them down the back, leaving the folds and across the bottom fold so the bags were now flat. After I cut apart all the bags, I wadded up each layer of the paper bags into loose balls, flattened them back out, and did a random accordion fold. I was so happy with how they looked like tree bark already! I put a good smear of glue on the cardboard frame and made sure that every inch was covered in glue.

Now, gently spread the paper out so you get a vertical bark look to the paper by pulling on it and getting soft accordion pleats (running up and down) to look like bark. I attached the brown bags all around the tree like this until I got to the face. I decided to roll up some of the paper so it’d be thicker, to give some dimension to the face for the nose and eyebrows. I rolled up some glue-covered paper into a crooked nose shape and stapled it on the face sideways. Don’t worry about using staples because they’ll all be covered when you’re done. Just make sure you only staple the one end of the nose (the base) so you can attach brown paper under and over the stapled area.

Tear off little bits of paper and do the same thing on the teeth and the saw tooth area. After you’re done papering the face, roll up some paper to make eyebrows and glue them at a downward angle to make it look evil.

Evil Tree Branches

Now for the branches. Roll up more scrunched up sacks for the end of the thick part of the branch. You can make them look like evil fingers or just scraggly additions to the main branch. Add scrunched branches (just like the eyebrows) and attach them with staples to the fun-noodle before adding more paper. Now wrap the whole branch/arm in the paper bark (covering the staples again) and glue until you’re happy with it.

Make the paper about three inches longer at the end of the fun-noodle that will go into the truck of the tree, but not on the garden stake. You‘ll need to leave it bare so you can attach it with confidence to the tree later.

Again this is Important: Do NOT glue the paper of the limb to the tree! Just cut an “X” in the sides of the tree where you want your branches to go and insert the garden stakes inside the tree. You can either duct tape it to the table top or to the side of the tree, depending on your project. Just make sure you can detach them. Trust me, you’ll understand later.

Paint the Inside

Haunted Tree Bat Toss
Inside the haunted tree

Now your ready to paint the inside. Cover the top of the table with old newspapers so you won’t get paint on it. I painted the inside of my tree in fluorescent orange so it’d show up better as the strobe light flashes. Also, it makes it easier for me to see the bats at night. After you’re done painting the inside, get your reddish brown and flat brown spray paint ready. Put newspapers over the opening of your tree so the brown paint won‘t splatter on the internal fluorescent paint. Spay the reddish brown paint all over the tree and make sure you spray under the nose and eyebrows for total coverage. With the flat brown paint, highlight the tree to bring out the texture of the bark. Go over the tree several times until you get it looking like you want it.

After the spay paint dries, get your acrylic paint and outline the facial features of the tree’s face. Finally, hot glue on bits of moss, make a tail of ants or spiders climbing the tree and glue a bunch of fall leaves at the base of the tree and on the braches, if you wish. This little bit of attention to detail really makes your tree look finished and fun.

Finishing the Tree

Now, with your bright red thin material, cover the eyes from inside and duct tape the fabric in place. Gluing isn’t a good idea, in case a wayward bat pokes your tree in the eye and knocks out the material. You can easily replace it with duct tape on the spot, and the game is back in order. Then, cut a section out of the cheap brown fabric and staple it to top of the back of the tree to cover the opening in the back.

Finally, hang a mini strobe light on the top of the tree with a paper clip. Get a handful of rubber bats, snakes or creepy bugs for the kids to toss, and you’re finished!

After the Game

Haunted Tree Bat Toss Complete
Complete Haunted Tree, with author’s daughter

Why couldn’t we attach the limbs to the tree, you ask? You’ll like this! When that sad day arrives and you must put your Halloween games away and storage is an issue, don’t worry about space for your tree! Remove the limbs, peeling the duct tape off the stakes, and carefully slide the table out from the tree trunk. The tree will store flat, the branches can lay beside it, and you can use your patio table again!

I just pulled mine out of storage and got the table wrestled back in it, and it looks fine. But I’d suggest you do it several weeks before you need it so it can take the shape of the table once again.

Time to make: Two or three days, mainly because of the drying time of the paper layers and the glue. Drying times depends on the weather in your area and how thick your paper is.


About Sarah Briggs

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