We came across one of these classic fortune telling machines while on a family vacation.  Our oldest daughter thought it would be a hoot to dress as one for Halloween.  Whoa boy, was she right.  With 5 kids to costume, we knew we needed to keep costs down as much as we could so wherever possible we used recycled materials.

The outer case was built from a cardboard moving box a friend gave us.  We cut the three windows in and painted the whole thing brown.  The trim around the openings is also painted cardboard salvaged from the pieces cut out for the windows. The Zoltar sign was back-painted on a piece of acetate and taped inside the box.  we happened to have the blue starry fabric for the back curtains and the twin sconces on the back wall we constructed from a pair of 20oz coke bottles, toilet paper tubes and LED flicker candles.

The base of the costume was multi-layered.  First was a piece of 4″ green upholstery foam.  We cut a small hole in this just large enough for our daughter to squeeze into.  This needed to be snug becuase it was going to be responsible for holding up the weight of the rest of the costume.  On top of this was placed a piece of rigid 1″ foam cut about 2″ larger than the dimensions of the cardboard box.  To this was glued a gold fabric curtain/skirt to hide her legs.  The last layer was a single sheet of cardboard which would serve as the inside floor of the fortune telling machine.  This was painted brown like the box and then we glued a few tarot cards which we had printed from pictures on the internet.

To connect the whole thing together we first glued a piece of 3/4″ PVC pipe into the corners of the box.  These legs extended about 6″ past the bottom of the box.  These legs then passed through holes cut into the layers of foam and cardboard to secure it to the base.  It was remarkably solid.

Inside the box our daughter was dressed as the Zoltar animatronic.  We made we a puffy shirt and turban and vest and cumberbund.  Then we gave her a fake mustache and goatee plus bushy eyebrows and sideburns.  She also wore a number of strings of plastic Mardi Gras beads and some costume jewelry rings to complete the look.

As a final step, we added a few elements to make the costume more interactive.  First was a crystal ball which lit up and changed colors.  This was a simple plastic, globe light shade glued to a florists LED base; the kind used to illuminate floral centerpieces.  Next we printed literally hundreds of fortune cards for her to pass out to people.  These were kept in a small tray inside the box and passed out to people through a slot in the front of the machine. Lastly, we recorded a small audio sample from an actual Zoltar machine onto one of those small voicebox pucks found in stuffed animals and attached it to the front of the box.

When the button was pressed, the voice would speak, she’d wave we hand mechanically over her crystal ball and slip a fortune card out the slot.  People loved it.  There were times when we’d be out at a community Halloween celebration and people would literally line up in front of her to get their fortunes read like she was one of party games.