Life-size ‘ghosts’ mark children’s growth through the years


By Chris Bavender

Halloween is just around the corner, and things are getting spooky at a house on Desert Wind Court in Carmel. Lifesize ghosts have popped up in the yard. It’s an annual tradition the Vrtis family started in 2014 when they moved into the house.

Matt Vrtis found instructions online for making life-size “ghosts” and decided to try the technique on his then 9-year-old daughter, Amelia, and then 7-year-old son, Franklin.

“The process involves first wrapping the kids in clear plastic shrink wrap from the neck down,” Kelly Vrtis said. “This keeps the box tape from sticking to their clothing. Long sleeves are best. Then he covers the plastic wrap with a couple layers of clear box tape and carefully cuts the finished form with medical scissors so the kids can be ‘freed.’”

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Franklin Vrtis is wrapped in plastic shrink wrap and box tape to form a ghost shape. (Photo courtesy of the Vrtis family)

That first year, Matt didn’t tell Kelly or the kids what he was doing.

“So, me and the kids were like, ‘What in the world is happening here?’” Kelly said.

LED strip lights set to rainbow are added to the cavity, then the edges are taped shut to make the form whole again. Plastic mannequin heads are used to form the heads of the ghosts, and when completed, Matt hangs them around the front of the house.

“Each year, he and the kids spend an hour or so making a ghost,” Kelly said. “The kids have tried different poses over the years. It’s always fun to see what they come up with. We hang the ghosts in pairs and have just about run out of room in the front yard after seven years of making ghosts.

I think this year’s may have to go to the backyard.”

The ghosts are usually out by October and stored in the attic and the backyard shed after Halloween. Because they take up a lot of room, Kelly said the family will probably only make the ghosts for a few more years, perhaps when the kids have both graduated from Carmel High School. Amelia is a junior at CHS, and Franklin is in eighth grade at Carmel Middle School.

Franklin said creating the ghosts is the highlight of his Halloween season.

“Although it’s a little uncomfortable to stay in the same position after a while, it’s super fun to see the outcome of the pose when it’s all finished,” Franklin said. “These ghosts have been a huge hit with everyone else. People who aren’t even close to our neighborhood have come just to see them.”

Kelly said it’s been fun to see a physical representation of how much the kids have grown through the years.

“In this process, Matt has learned that some tapes are better than others and has had to triage some of the ghosts,” she said. “In fact, this year he plans to stuff most of the older ghosts with large bubble wrap to help preserve the shape. They can get crushed in storage and after so many years of being out in the elements.”