Written/Created by: Matt
Posted on 10.04.03.

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You might remember the kit shown above from last year's article about monster toys, "Vincent Price's Apple Sculpture.” To make a long story short, the kit upgraded a classic Halloween craft that's sadly moved to "under the radar” status in more recent times: turning any storebought apple into -- you guessed it -- a shrunken head! This was high art for the lowest denominator, and for whatever reason, I neglected to realize just how easy it'd be to make one of these things even without the help of Mr. Price. While searching around the Internet for various ways to spook up our apartment, I noticed that virtually every craft-minded site had one of these apple beauties on their list. It's really one of the simplest processes imaginable, but the end results are phenomenal. If you're the type a person who'd feel more complete having made a shrunken head out of a piece of fruit, this article is for you. If you're not that type of person, get the Hell off my site.

You honestly could pull this off with an apple and little else, but for the fully dolled-up effect, here's the basic materials needed: an apple, knife (or whatever carving tools you can find), some cotton or yarn, a sturdy piece of string, and very evil intentions. There's a pretty precise process to making these things, and unfortunately, it's a process I chose not to follow with all that much precision. Consider this guide more for people who want to make shrunken heads as fast as they can, skirting the usual waiting periods and all the other assorted bullshit. Following my directions probably won't provide you with as perfect a shrunken head as the guides on other sites, but I stand tall in knowing that few shrunken apple head guide writers used curse words. I guess that's going to have to be the thing that sets me apart. Shit shit shit, fuck shit fuck. There. Now I'm not just a number.

Okay, go grab your tools, buy an apple, and come back here when you're ready to get down with the Devil.

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The first step, of course, is peeling the skin off your chosen piece of fruit. It's best to use an actual peeler, but the one thing I have in common with most guys is that a "fruit peeler” is something I totally forgot to pick up before moving out. You can just use a knife -- don't worry about the apple looking "choppy,” as this project doesn't require much skill or finesse. Feel free to leave a bit of skin on the apple's northern and southernmost regions. With the slivers you carved off, either throw ‘em away or reserve the peeled skins for X-E's next crafts project article -- "How To Make Potpourri.” It's on deck for next week, along with my salute to Katie Couric. Oh, and for the record -- there's no rush with any of these steps. The apple is supposed to rot. If you like taking your time, go for it. Me? I wanted this over with as quickly as possible. I started the project at around 10 PM -- a little too close to the Seinfeld reruns. Summer of George!

The second step is tougher, but a whole lot more fun. Now you've gotta carve your eventual shrunken head's facial features into the apple, using any method you see fit. Do whatever you want, so long as you've covered all the big ones -- the eyes, the nose, mouth, little slits by the ears, and a few jagged cuts to emphasize that the person whose head this belonged to went through considerable torture before being decapitated. I have all the artistic brilliance of a shoe, and even mine came out okay after just a modicum of effort. You'll have little trouble, and even if you do, so what I don't care shit shit fuck shit.

Having scoured the Internet for those who've also done this activity, I've seen some pretty impressive photos. Believe it or not, apple carving is conductive to some of the greatest head-shaping art imaginable. Don't take the photo above as an opus -- yours might look ten thousand times better. If it looks worse, well…at least nobody's holding contests for "best shrunken head apple sculptures” complete with monetary prizes. There's worse things to suck at.

Step three is the worst of ‘em all. You're supposed to "pickle” the apple in a combination of water and salt, for at least twenty-four hours. I put mine in the saltwater, but only for as long as it took to take the picture shown above. It probably didn't help the overall quality of my shrunken head, but hey, at least I didn't have to sit around for a day staring at the clock, wondering when my stupid apple would be ready for its destiny. Admittedly, I had a few problems getting mine to the desired point later, and while I can't exactly figure out why this pickling process is such a necessity, I'd still recommend following the directions to circumvent any later issues. Jesus Christ, you might need a translator to figure out this past paragraph. I know I do.

Usually, after the picking process is finished, you'd hang the apple from a string on an outside tree. You know, as opposed to all those trees people grow inside. There it will slowly dry out and eventually form the greatest shrunken head you ever did see. Thing is, it can take a few weeks to really hit that point of dryness that makes the bitch look less like an apple and more like the climax of a voodoo curse. If you're patient, do it the right way. Pickle your apple for a day, then hang it outside for weeks. If you're impatient, do it my way instead. You won't end up with the perfect shrunken head, but you'll be able to move on to other projects a Hell of a lot quicker. Remember -- Seinfeld's on at 11.

So, more or less, I've got to figure out how to dry out that apple. Letting it sit for a few days would do the trick, but I didn't want this article to take a week of work. I'm sure you can understand that. Instead, I needed a quick fix. Only one thing I could do, and this one thing came with the added bonus of letting me cook chicken while making shrunken apple head sculptures simultaneously.

Yup, I threw the poor thing in our oven. Started him out at the recommended 200 degrees, but it was taking forever, so I upped it to 450 and hoped Mr. Apple wouldn't explode. He didn't, but he wasn't exactly "drying out” either. Remembering the instructions on all those many chimichangas eaten during my youth, I simply wrapped him up in a bunch of paper towels and chucked my new pal in the microwave. That worked a lot better -- again, not "perfectly,” but at least he was starting to look like complete shit. Oddly enough, that's your goal. Make Mr. Apple look like shit, and you're on the road to victory. Here's how he looked after being nuked…

Well, he almost looks the part, but I think I did more to ensure that he remains moist and juicy than I did to dry out the thing. I've created a baked apple, scalped, with a demon face. My moments of pride are few and far between, but I did feel rather accomplished with this one. And guess what -- we're almost done! We've almost made a shrunken head out of an apple! We're almost cool!!!

Ta da! There he is -- the apple. The apple so moist, I shrunk it twoice. Well, I was close. Using a wad of cotton and some standard white glue, I was able to give my shrunken head a full head of old man hair -- definitely adds to the thing's overall feel. The more pronounced wrinkles and the outline around Shrunken Sid's features was done with a Sharpie, because let's be honest here -- when have you ever balked at the chance to use a Sharpie? I use 'em with my personal checks, and no matter how many times I watch helplessly as the ink soaks through the paper to the back of the check, I refuse to stop. There's just something about these Sharpies that makes them unbelievably irresistible -- maybe it's the faint yet somehow still pungent odor that lifts from the ink as the tip is pressed downward? The fact that our crude doodles always look more impressive in dark, bold, wet marker ink? Or maybe, just maybe, it's all in the name. "Sharpie." Pens are pencils, pencils are pencils, and markers are usually markers -- except for one very special marker. The Sharpie.

Such mysteries may never be solved, but like Max Shreck when Selina came back from the dead, we've got badder fish to fry. While the picture shown about is indeed a finished shrunken head, I couldn't shake the feeling that the creature needed something. Who am I to fight the feeling? Let's give him one final bit of "umpfgph." Come on, give the guy a little umpfgph. Everyone is doing it.

Using a pair of Halloween Sticky Eyes, I was able to grant my dead motherfucker shrunken head pet the power of sight. Next, the power of love. I had to burn the backs of each styrofoam eye to make 'em fit in there, and I'd be lying if I said my fingers weren't subsequently burned in the process. It's worth it -- this crap always feels more like real art when we suffer for it.

That's just my little way of convincing you to burn yourself.

All in all, the shrunken head apple craft project leaves a lasting impression and a good way to lure scores of fire-breathing army ants into or around the home. Don't be alarmed if yours come out different -- follow the real, unabridged instructions, and your shrunken head will look more like a real shriveled up beast than a prune with toy eyes shoved inside of it. October is the only month you can really get away with this kind of goofy shit, so don't put these silly little projects on the backburner for too long. If you think the mood will ever strike you to transform an apple into a vague shrunken head decoration, now is the time. I'm having trouble thinking of a good parting note, so I'll just leave you with this:



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