Halloween How-to: Make a Spooky Skeleton Out of Recycled Milk Jugs!

Halloween requires skeletons. (And so does El Dia de los Muertos, for that matter…) If you’re on a budget but like to decorate, or you’re crazy about recycling, or you’re the crafty type who loves to add custom flair to everything, or you just want to see if you can do it, we’ve got a project for you!

Using recycled gallon and half-gallon milk jugs and some other simple materials, you can make your own reusable skeleton decoration to hang in your tree or around the house for spook season. Read through this easy procedure and watch our how-to videos for a clear example. Make one or make several, depending on how much milk your family drinks…


This homemade decoration is almost like the real thing! Photo by: Jason Schaefer


A minimum of nine plastic jugs – at least three of them gallon-sized


Hole punch

String, brads or pipe cleaners

Sharpie permanent markers or paint

Decorative bits (glitter, sequins, buttons, etc.)

Optional – High-temperature glue gun for punching holes


Three notes before you get started:

  • If you are making a second skeleton, you can probably use your jugs more efficiently than listed here and therefore need less.  If you are making this skeleton for the first time, I have asked you to provide 9 jugs (at least three of them being gallon-sized) so that you don’t have to work quite so hard to get a completed product.
  • The high-temperature glue gun works FABULOUSLY for punching the holes in the milk carton plastic, but I don’t recommend this method if you are a) working with younger children or are b) me because I absolutely burned myself. If you can get a volunteer in, they can sit and make the holes for the students pretty quickly.
  • If you are nervous about what you are doing, you can always sketch out your pieces with a Sharpie. Once you have them the way you want them, use rubbing alcohol to remove the Sharpie lines.
  1. Lay your hand or a template of a hand over the handle of one milk jug and trace.  Reverse the template or use your other hand for the second milk jug. Carefully cut the hands out. Save the extra bits.
  2. Repeat step one for the feet.
  3. Using a fifth and sixth jug, cut an extended oval out of jug around the handle, being as generous as you can with the oval. You can always trim it later! These will be the shoulder bones or scapulae. If you are clever, you can use the leftover bits to make your rib cage in step 9 as well.
  4. At this point, you should have two hands, two feet and two shoulder bones and a pile of left over bits.

    Where on the family tree would you place this skeleton? Photo by: Jason Schaefer

  5. Punch holes near the wrist portion of the hands and the ankle portion of the feet. Punch a hole in each end of the shoulder pieces.
  6. Using the leftover bits of your first six jugs, sketch out some bones. These should be basic stick shapes with lumps at each end. You will eventually need eight bones (four longer pieces for leg bones – two for each leg – and four shorter pieces for arms – two for each arm). Make them as long as possible. Once again, you can always trim them! In the example, my long leg bones crossed the jug diagonally to give them some extra length. With careful placement, I cut two long leg bones (and two knee caps) out of one of the leftover jugs.
  7. On a seventh jug, sketch out a skull (should consist of two large round eye sockets, an upside down heart or triangle for a nose and squares or ovals all lined up and touching for teeth). Use the two surfaces opposite the handle, and the jug should be upside-down. The neck of the jug will end up being the neck of your skull as well. You can add details as you see fit. It is also optional to cut the face out.
  8. Punch a hole in each side of the “neck” of your skull jug.
  9. Use your eighth jug to make a rib cage. You need to leave the neck of the jug as this will be the attachment point between the “hips” and the “ribs.”  That being said, cut out the handle of your jug so that there is a pretty big hole on one side of the jug.  This will be the front side of the rib cage. The neck and opposite side will represent the spine.
  10. To make the rib cage vaguely more accurate, cut some mostly horizontal strips out of the sides of the jug to leave the impression of ribs. The strips you cut out will become the empty spaces between the ribs. You will have to imagine that you are leaving a two inch vertical strip from the neck of the jug up the back to the bottom and down the front to the hole. This will act like the spine and the sternum. The horizontal strips you cut out should leave the two inch vertical strip intact.
  11. To make connection spots for the ribcage portion, cut two slits in the bottom of the jug on each side of the center. Then punch a hole on either side of each slit (for four holes total). Then punch two holes in the neck of the jug. If you are looking into the hole you created when you removed the handle, you will punch the one hole on the left of the neck and one hole on the right of the neck.
  12. To make hips, cut off the bottom of a ninth jug about two or three inches up. The example has a reinforced ring of plastic around the bottom and that was used to approximate the cuts. Round the corners of the jug and make the sides dip closer to the bottom of the jug.
  13. Punch holes in two opposite corners of the “hips.” 
  14. Cut a slit in the bottom of the “hip” piece and then punch two holes on either side of each slit (for four holes total). This is where you will attach your rib cage.
  15. Cut out two rounded corner squares from whatever leftover bits you have. These will be the kneecaps of your skeleton. Punch two holes in each that are opposite of each other.
  16. After you have everything cut out, you can make the parts interesting by drawing designs on all the bones in glow in the dark paint or Sharpie. Feel free to decorate your skeleton in either traditional Halloween or in the lighter and more decorative Dia de Los Muertos calacas style.
  17. Using a flat surface, align all the parts, making sure that you have the right connection holes punched out. Then connect all the parts together using the string, yarn or wire. Poke two holes in the top of the head and tie a loop that you can hang your skeleton from. From the top down, you should connect the pieces as such:
    • One shoulder piece to each side of the skull jug neck. Make sure they are facing the same way.
    • Tucking the ribs under the shoulder pieces so they stick out a bit, use the same skull jug neck holes to attach the rib cage. You will use the holes you created in the bottom of the rib cage jug to do this.
    • Connect your arm bones to each other and then to the shoulder.
    • Connect your hand to the end of the arm. Make sure they are facing the correct direction.
    • Connect the hip jug (bottom only) to the neck of the rib cage jug. You will use the four holes in the hip jug to connect to the two holes in the neck of the rib cage jug.
    • Connect the upper leg bones to the knee caps. 
    • Connect the knee caps to the lower leg bones.
    • Making sure they match, connect the legs to the holes in the side of the hip jug.
    • Connect the feet to the lower leg bones. Make sure they are facing the correct direction.


    For the biggest haunting yet, visit HMNS Sugar Land!

    If you thought the Sugar Land museum was scary at night, just wait until Halloween! With Tricks, Treats and T. rex around the corner, a good fright is just in sight.

    T3 4

    Decorations are being prepared for Tricks, Treats and T. rex at HMNS-Sugar Land.

    The two-day Halloween extravaganza for the whole family is coming to the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land, featuring a haunted house that will fill the entire museum for the first time ever! The chills start Friday night, Oct. 30 with spooky fun that will freak out both adults and kids! (Recommended for children ages 7 and up.)

    T3 1

    Volunteers help prepare some ghouls and decorations for the Museum of Unnatural Science haunted house, which will fill the entire museum this year!

    In the Museum of Unnatural Science, follow the corridors of a haunted mine with glowing walls and surprises around the corner in A Trip to the Underworld. Sneak through the twisted Carnival of Evil with grim ghouls and freakshow characters. Meet visitors from outer space at Area 51, and test your nerves against roaring dinosaurs in Jurassic Terror. When (and if) you make it through, exit the house into the butterfly garden to explore an outdoor maze, where more fun is in store for the following morning.

    T3 2

    Nothing means murder and mayhem like blood spatter…

    For a gentler Halloween experience, visit the Magical Maze from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 31. Designed with the younger kiddos in mind, the maze offers an outdoor adventure complete with crafts and activities, face painting, temporary tattoos, prizes and a costume parade. If you’re brave enough to eat insects and arachnids, come snack on some real bugs, too! (They’re tastier than you think…) Throughout the day, some of the characters from the haunted house will return for a less-intense BOO! And teams of therapy dogs from P.A.W.S. will offer warm hugs and yet another photo op!

    T3 5

    BOO! If nothing else scares you, this demon clown coming to life might…

    Museum directors are excited to bring a new and improved Tricks, Treats and T. rex back this year. In the past, Halloween activities were limited to the conference room or the temporary exhibit hall. But with the help of volunteers creating, building, and staffing the event, this year will be the freakiest yet!

    The best part of all this? You can bring the whole family out to Sugar Land and still have time for trick-or-treating, or for Spirits and Skeletons at HMNS Hermann Park Halloween night! There’s lots to do in Houston, but nothing quite as spook-tacular as Halloween with HMNS. 


    Spider Crimes: the Worst Halloween Decorations on the Shelf, Scientifically Speaking

    by Melissa Hudnall

    September comes and I am shaken to the core with fear. I know what’s coming. No, I don’t mean winter, I mean another year of dismembered bodies and deformed figures. Can I handle the pain in their hurt eyes? Then it happens; I see the first hint of a hairy leg. My trepidation is high as I round the corner to see…



    Kill… mmeeee…

    I am infamous among my coworkers for getting just as upset as I am excited to see Halloween decorations going up. I adore Halloween, but I also love spiders, and this is where my conflict lies. Halloween does not love spiders. I have used my own tarantula so you can compare real treat to the tricks sitting on the shelves.

    Let’s go over some spider basics so you too can feel my pain.


    Pay attention to the pedipalps and chelicerae; you may not see them again. Pedipalps are for mating and holding food, and chelicerae house the venom and end in fangs, so these are important body parts. Going without these four appendages is like missing your arms, jaws and teeth.


    First off, spiders have eight legs. Count the green circles. Only those are legs. Everything else, not legs.


    So basically, I ate this cookie to remove this abomination from the world.

    Secondly, they have two body segments — not one, not three. The legs are also attached to the front segment, not the back! The front is the cephalothorax, meaning “head thorax” and the back is the abdomen. Attaching the legs to the back is the same as having a leg growing out of your stomach.


    I’m going to assume that these were not meant to be spiders with three segments, but rather very clever spider-mimicking ants. If you can have ant mimicking spiders, then surely it must work the other way around.


    These look like ladybugs hitching rides on top of spiders.


    And come on, people. Even dogs have standards. This chew toy is sub-par.

    Lastly, have you ever tried your hardest and just barely missed your goal? I feel like this next spider embodies that moment. He has the correct number of legs, segments, pedipalps, chelicerae, and they’re all attached in the right places! However, SPIDERS DO NOT HAVE BONES!


    *Drops the mic.*

    Editor’s Note: Melissa Hudnall is a Programs Facilitator for the Youth Education department at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.


    14 easy costumes that show your inner nerd

    Sure, you can go daring. You can go scary. If you’re into zombie and cat costumes, more power to ya. But if you’re still searching for your look this year, consider going geek! Especially if you’re coming out to Spirits and Skeletons at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

    costume 3

    Nerds are all the rage these days, especially with the hipster look. Grab a pair of suspenders, nerdy glasses and a pair of shorts. Got a pair of loafers? Even better.

    costume 9

    Maybe go in character, like this Steve Urkel from Family Matters. It’s a twist on nerdy with a red cardigan and high-waisted jeans. Don’t forget the flattop!

    costume 7

    Go professional nerd with this Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. Add an Initech coffee cup and remind people to put cover sheets on all their TPS reports. “Ummm… Yeeeaahhh…”

    costume 5

    Nerdy doesn’t have to mean the geek look. An advertisement makes a hilarious and nerdy reference costume that shows off your love of pop culture, and they’re easy, like this Brawny man. Carry your product with you to boost sales.

    costume 13

    Or choose a piece of propaganda to work from. Check out this Rosie the Riveter. A little detail, like the polka-dot scarf, goes a long way.

    costume 12

    Woah! This Patrick Bateman from American Psycho looks like the real guy! If you’re a movie fan, show your love of this cult classic by dressing in a suit and a clear rain coat. You’ll have to check the axe at the door, though, or make a foam version.

    costume 11

    Instead of going zombie, go zombie-killer. And instead of Walking Dead, go Shaun of the Dead! It’s a hilarious spin on the traditional look.

    costume 10

    Whatever party you go to, there’s bound to be a Spider-Man or two. At Spirits and Skeletons, you can show your geek by donning Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker. Grab a camera and a costume shirt, and leave your mask peeking out of your satchel.

    costume 14

    If you’ve got a group, go geek as social media. Works in singles and pairs, too! Redditors, go as Alien Blue!

    Costume 6

    What’s better than one killer chemist costume? How about two? Breaking Bad is all the rage this year, but check out this guy’s brilliant double-sided spin on Walter White/Heisenberg.
    costume 8

    Then there’s always The Doctor. Since the lead of Doctor Who is ever-changing, tell people you’re the next in line! Pretty much all you need is a red bow tie and a blazer.

    costume 1

    Funny nerdy costumes are puns of fun, and super easy, too. Check out this freudian slip costume! Pin some print-outs to a nightgown and psych people out. 

    costume 2

    Pin some socks to a winter sweater and go as static cling! If it’s chilly by the end of October (which is rare in Houston, I know), you’ll be glad you wore some real clothes and not a thin costume.

    costume 4

    Last but not least, check out this nerd! She’s a cheerleader who roots for ceilings. A ceiling fan!! Get it? Hahahahahaha!

    No costume is too nerdy at Spirits and Skeletons, so go all-out! Get your geek on! #ChillsAtHMNS