This was an animatronic figure based upon an obvious source - the Haunted Mansion's ballroom organist. We never actually built it, but one of our intrepid phantasmechanics brought it to life!  Read on...

Here are the original plans with markups as indicated by the builder, Tom Marchak. His account follows.



The Ghostly Grim Organist


lOVINGLY Imagineered by Tom MarchAK


The following documentation will explain some of the details surrounding the construction of the Grim Organist (Baron FleshVon Riptopen), pipe organ and castle.

Here are the Baron's front and partial side views. You can see the addition of a skeletal mask and functioning hands. I originally made the wire frame for the cowl as you describe in your plans but later decided that my creature needed an identity. Fortunately, I had the perfect mask for my creation. This skeleton mask is fluorescent and illuminates wonderfully under a black light. The hands are another addition that will be described in more detail at a later point.

The rear photo shows the motor for the hands and a partial wire cowl frame. Since I decided to use the mask, a portion of the frame needed to be removed. I left this partial set up because it provided the shoulders and kept the material away from the motor.


Looking closely at the base you will see the addition of a fan. The fan's purpose was to billow the shroud (cheesecloth) to produce a ghostly effect. Unfortunately, the effect did not turn out as I envisioned and the fan was used for cooling of the motors.

Here is a close up of the shoulder modification. The most difficulty I encountered during construction was silencing the cam follower and keeping the follower on the cam. I replaced the screw head follower with a nylon drawer wheel. This greatly reduced the noise generated during operation. This can be purchased at any hardware store, refer to drawing below:



The cam was increased in width from I" aluminum to 2" and I purchased a thinner piece than what is outlined in your plans. The thinner aluminum could be bent easily into shape and allowed the cam follower more surface area to operate. I don't recall the exact width of the aluminum but let me know if you would like me to measure it.

Here is a close up of the mounting brackets, Hurst motor and motor cover for the mechanical hands. The motor is a HURST 60 rpm geared motor purchased for about $35. The motor cover was made from scrap aluminum sheeting. This cover protected the cheesecloth from the heat of the motor. The mounting brackets were made from various sizes of aluminum stock I" and smaller.

These pictures show the top portion of the hands. The idea originated from Allen's Halloween home page, where he had made a skeleton puppet hand. I modified it to include a motor and crank mechanism. The concept is quite simple; a 12 lb. fishing line runs across the top of each finger to the tips and tied. The other end of the line is connected to a spring and secured to a screw eye. This returns the finger to the up position. A second piece of line runs from the bottom of each finger to the crank mechanism. By staggering the strings, you can get the fingers to move at different intervals.

[See diagrams below for more clarification. Note that, as this is a Pepper's Ghost effect, the black parts of the hands are invisible to the spectators. The shiny metal parts are covered by the figure's shroud. -DF]

The crank was made from aluminum stock; holes were drilled to accept the crank and motor shaft. An additional hole was drilled perpendicular to the shaft hole and tapped to accept a 10/32 screw. This was installed to lock the shaft to the crank. The crank is a control wheel from a radio control servo. This part is available at most hobby stores.

The fingers were made from dowels carved using a rasp file. I highly recommend using the rasp; it made a difficult job easy. The jagged effect left by the file was a nice addition to the look. The hinges for the fingers are mini control linkages used in radio controlled planes. The thumb has a home made spring for the knuckle. I think I will modify this next year I didn't care for the movement.

The extra weight produced by the hands required the addition of 2 springs at the shoulder assembly. This may vary depending on how far the hands are positioned from the body.

Notice the bottom view of the right hand. Here you can see the detail of the control mechanism and routing of the fishing line. This hand used screw eyes for guiding the line. The right hand was modified slightly and the screw eyes were eliminated.