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Scare away food waste this Halloween with apple shrunken heads

Published on October 12 2021

This Halloween season, scare away food waste and give trick or treaters a fright with this creeptastic craft idea: shrunken heads made from old, dried apples. 

This concept dates back centuries---but instead of apple heads, it was apple dolls. The Seneca Indians were said to be the first to make dolls out of apples. Years later, the craft was adopted by Appalachian mountaineers, who still continue the tradition of producing these handmade toys for the area’s cottage industry.

Today, this sinister apple craft has turned into a frightfully fun Halloween activity the whole family can enjoy. You can decorate them with cloth, paint them, hang them from a string in front of your door or skewer them onto sticks and arrange them into a bouquet.

Making your own shrunken apple heads is as easy as can be and uses very few supplies. Keep in mind, this DIY decor takes 2-4 weeks to complete since the apples need time to dehydrate.

Ready to get started? We have your step-by-step guide right here!

Sourcec: The Old Farmer's Almanac

What you need

  • Large apples (the larger the better since they’ll shrink)
  • Sharp paring knife
  • Several shallow bowls
  • Bottle of pure lemon juice
  • Box of non-iodized salt
  • Coat hangers
  • Shellac or varnish
  • Decorating supplies: cotton balls, old cloth, paint, etc.


  1. Peel the apple, then care out eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Try to carve into the apple enough to create features (just be careful not to go too deep and create jagged edges or else it won’t look life-like when it shrinks).
  2. Dip the carved apples into a bowl filled with lemon juice for 1 minute. Then add a generous spoonful of salt. These two ingredients will help preserve the apple and keep it from rotting.
  3. To make the shrunken head’s eyes, press 2 apple seeds into the carved sockets.
  4. String up your apples on a coat hanger, place them in front of a north-facing window away from direct sunlight, and let them dry there for 2-4 weeks.
  5. Take down your apples and coat them in shellac or varnish to help prevent them from deteriorating any further.
  6. You’re ready to decorate! Use anything from cotton balls and old cloth to paint, then hang them up outside or skew them on a stick and plant them around your front yard.

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