By Diana Latta
I have taught science for 16 years at Palatka High School in Palatka, FL, six of those teaching forensics. I began this program after realizing how high the interest factor was among students.
The popularity of crime scene investigation programs on TV has driven a tremendous increase in forensic science curriculum in high schools across America. To prepare for teaching this class, I enrolled in an introduction to forensic science course at the University of Florida, taught by Dr. Jason Byrd. I also participated in the Forensic Science Educators Conference at St. Louis University for teachers of forensic science.
I wanted to incorporate a mock victim into my course crime scene but was having a difficult time finding one that was lifelike and inexpensive. It also needed to be posable and easily stored. From this need came the crime scene dummy described in this article.
After much searching and not finding, I finally came up with what I believe is the almost-perfect mannequin for my mock crime scenes. And, it’s pretty cheap to make.
Materials: I went to the Goodwill store and purchased the following: man’s nylon jogging pants with an elastic waist, man’s white turtleneck, high-topped hiking boots with laces, and man’s pullover hoodie with a zip neck (all small sized to save on stuffing materials). At Walmart I got the cheapest gardening gloves I could find, beige (to resemble hands), and a pair of long black crew socks (the kind with a definite heel). I also bought several large bags of fiberfill (I used four). You will need a styrofoam headform, the kind that hold wigs. It has to have a definite neck base. I also used an old pullover knit winter hat and a rubber full-head mask from the theater/Halloween store, with fake hair. Having loose, hair was important to me. I did not want a mask that had rubber, formed hair. My choices were Michael Jackson, Alfred E. Newman, or Barbara Bush. I chose Barbara, because it could be used for a female or male figure. It had white hair.
1. Sew the cuffs of the pants closed and stuff them. Leave the top open. I added a little extra here and there for shape (ie. buttocks)
2. Sew the wrists of the turtleneck closed and stuff it. Leave the neck open.
3. Stuff the gloves, using a stick to get down each finger. Leave top open and unstuffed for a couple of inches.
4. Stuff the socks, leaving the top couple of inches un-stuffed. Leave the top open. Stuff these firmly, as they have to wedge firmly into the boots.
5. Sew the tops of the gloves over the ends of the shirt sleeves with a running stitch all around the edge, using small stitches to contain the stuffing.
6. Sew the tops of the socks over the cuffs of the pants, same technique as above.
7. Pull the elastic of the pants over the bottom of the shirt and hand stitch all around. The elastic helps give the illusion of a waist
8. Jam the socks into the boots and lace up tight. They will conceal the stitching at the cuffs.
9. Dress the torso with the hoodie, leaving the neck unzipped for now. Pull the sleeves down over the cuffs of the gloves. (it was at this point that my headless dummy began to take on human form, and started to weird out my husband)
10. Place the mask over the head form. I had to pad the form with an old towel to make the mask fit snugly. I didn’t do anything for the eyes, because I used sunglasses to cover that area.
11. Slide the neck of the head form into the neck of the turtleneck. Lift up the turtleneck of the shirt and liberally pin all around with large-headed sewing pins, right into the styrofoam. Fold the neck of the shirt back down over the pins, and they are out of sight.
12. Put on the knit cap. Zip up the hoodie.
13. You can plump and prod the stuffing here and there if you like.
This makes a lightweight, flexible, mannequin that is quite cuddly, if the truth be told. It has no skeleton, so is very posable and the rubber soles of the boots help keep the legs where you want them. It stores well in a cardboard box because it folds up, arms and legs tucked heals-over-head into the box. Mine turned out to be about 5’10”. It reclined on the daybed for a week until I was ready to bring it to school. My husband finally insisted I throw a cover over it, as it was startling him every time he came home and caught a glimpse of it lying there. It rode to school in the passenger seat of my car, wearing a seatbelt, of course. The only odd moment came when I stopped for a red light and the head lolled forward. My hand shot out to protect it, just like I did when my kids were in the car. Some instincts last forever.
Have fun with this. I sure did.