How-To: The Magic Mirror

Photo of the Magic Mirror Facade
Mirror, Mirror
On the Wall
Who's the spookiest
One of all?

The Magic Mirror illusion is our signature effect which premiered at our home haunt, the Carnival of Souls. It debuted at our 2003 haunt, and has been a huge hit with the trick-or-treater's ever since. Kids love this effect.

This is an advanced project which takes a lot of work and a lot of planning (and a fair amount of cash), but nothing in this project is very difficult as long as you think ahead and work safely. Extra helpers who know how to paint, woodwork, or just move around sheets of MDF and shelving units, will be helpful, too.

As always, lest you wind up a victim of your own magic mirror's machinations, take safety precautions when making any halloween project.

Note: These instructions have been updated based on our experiences building haunt props since 2003. Some photos may not match our recommendations for building.

The Idea

The idea is to create a magic mirror prop that will interact with your visitors, similar to the magic mirror from the Classic Disney film Snow White (or the more recent Shrek series), but of course, you could use whatever visage you like.

To make the mirror more interactive, we will place the mirror on the wall above a dried-out lion's head fountain. A blast of smoke will spew out of the lion's mouth into the basin, and when the smoke clears, the treats for the children remain in the basin.

To accomplish this illusion, we will build a wood-and-foam facade, attached to a metal shelving unit for support. A fog machine will provide the blast of smoke, and a hidden hole in the wall will provide access for placing candy in the basin. A computer screen will furnish the face of the mirror (although in a pinch, a human face or puppet could easily be used as well).

A 'scrim' will be used to obscure all but the face from the trick-or-treaters. (A 'scrim' is a piece of semi-transparent fabric that is opaque when illuminated from the front, and transparent when illuminated from behind. We found appropriate material at the local fabric store for less than $3 per yard.)

The best way to envision this is to see the one we built in action. The first part of the clip shows what it actually looked like under normal light conditions. The rest of the clip consists of sample interactions with trick-or-treaters shot with 'night-vision' due to the low light conditions. (Unfortunately, the night-vision reveals the outline of the computer monitor, but this was not visible to the visitors.)

This video shows the first couple of trick-or-treaters we encountered, so the puppeteering is a little unpracticed. However, at the end of the clip, it demonstrates a fun way to stall for time while you're waiting for the fog machine to warm up again. (The little girl ended up singing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' for the mirror, which was a crowd pleaser for everyone in line.)


To make the Magic Mirror, you will need:


  • two quarter-inch 4' x 8' sheets of MDF
  • three 4' x 8' sheets of pink insulation foam (sold at Home Depot and other hardware stores)
  • seven 8' lengths of 2' x 2' (try to get them as straight as possible)
  • a metal shelving unit
  • plenty of machine screws, wood screws, and nails
  • four hinges
  • two yards of 'scrim' fabric
  • 2 rolls of carpet tape
  • 1 gallon of medium-gray latex paint
  • 1 quart black latex paint
  • 1 quart white latex paint
  • disposable brushes
  • fog juice
  • candy
  • about four days of available time
  • A dryer duct hose


  • Drill
  • Jigsaw
  • Screwdrivers
  • Cheap Foam Cutter (the small cardboard tube with a wire)
  • Wood burner pen
  • A fog machine
  • (optional) karaoke machine or other speech effects device
  • (optional) one of the digital puppets from ImaginEERIEing
  • (optional) ...or a mask, puppet, or some other way to show the mirror face
Continue to: Introduction - Design - Framing - Detailing - Haunting - Conclusion