Triple Axworthy drive-unit

original design by
 Tom Bardash

an addition to the (Scott) Axworthy Flying Ghost prop
-plywood scraps
-2x4 boards
-1 orange juicer
-1 metal training wheel
-3 small 8" bike rims
-1 "L" shaped bracket 3ft.
-some wood screws and washers
-piece of screen rubberwire
-1 heat shrinking electrical wrap
Create the "biggest bang for the buck" in Halloween yard displays

Most of you already know what an "Axworthy flying ghost" is and how it operates.  For
those of you who don't... it operates much like a ski-lift, but instead of 100 chairs
attached, it usually has one ghost that hangs from the line.  At night, the line is  
invisible and it looks like a ghost is flying around your yard, house, or entire property.  
It uses bicycle rims as pulleys to make the ghost turn directions.  These pulleys are
typically attached to tree branches, overhangs, porches, or parts of the house.  The
ghost is run off of one simple electric motor that pulls the line along at a pre-set speed.
 If you haven't tried an Axworthy.... put it at the top of your list.... I have several
displays and this, by far, gets the most attention and the most compliments.
The first year I made a typical Axworthy Ghost and it turned out great.  It flew around my yard on a single path/line using one motor.  So I figured the following year it would be even better if I can somehow get a dozen ghosts flying around in different directions on separate paths/lines.  Problem was it becomes kind of expensive, inefficient, and messy with all the added motors, lines, and pulleys.  To solve this I came up with a portable drive-unit that runs 3 separate paths/lines from one motor source.   Depending upon the weight of each ghost, you can run up to 6 ghosts using 3 lines and one motor.  This gives your display an incredible effect.  I had them flying all over a graveyard scene and it turned out to be a great display.
This is really a simple and inexpensive prop to build as an add-on to the whole "axworthy flying ghost" concept.  With used parts and even scraps of plywood, I’d say the cost of each Triple Axworthy Drive-Unit is around $10 to $20.  Because the overall design is so simplistic, there's no need to get into alot of step by step directions on "how-to" build it because the pictures show you the majority of what needs to be done.  So with that, I'll address a few things that may help you build your own.
The orange juicer:
The orange juicer is not the only motor that can be used.  Any electric motor with a shaft will work.   I just happened to stumble upon an orange juicer at a garage sale and it worked out really good.  It has great torque and the speed is fine.  It could be a little faster, but then you might lose some control from the bouncing.  An orange juicer will typically run $3 to $5 at flea markets or garage sales and is not hard to find.  Try and find the older juicers with the metal housing... they are much more durable than the newer plastic ones.
Keep in mind if you try other motors, the higher speeds will make the ghosts hop and bounce out of control.  This may or may not be corrected by tightning the line.  fast ghosts are a really cool sight, but they are also unstable and I found to be problematic.
The training wheel rim:
A metal training wheel is used as the motor's own drive wheel.  When you first get the wheel there is a hard rubber wheel around the rim.  If you have trouble prying it off....just pour some gasoline on it and it will burn itself into a crusty ash and then you chip it off easily.  Place it over the metal hex-shaped shaft on the juicer motor and fill all the extra space with super-glue.  If you find the super-glue is not strong enough, use some JBWELD.
The screened porch rubber wire:
This is the rubber wire that is used to attach screens to their frames.  I forgot what the exact name is, but you can find it at any hardware store.  The rubber wire is great because it's elastic and grips all the drive wheels.  After you found the correct length that will wrap around the wheels tightly you'll need to connect the ends into a loop/circle…. like a big rubberband.  You can melt the edges with a flame and join them together... this will hold up for a good while, but is not totally secure.  The best way to secure the two ends are to use one of those plastic tubes that electricians use to bundle wires together.  It's a thin plastic tube (looks like a drinking straw) that gets shrinks when heated.  Simply place the two ends inside and heat it until joined together.
Twisting of the lines:
Sometimes problems arise that are unforeseen.  One of them might be that the line attached to your ghost's head twisted around the main path/line.  This is because the mainline naturally twists as it enters and exits the drive-unit.  The twisting is a result of the mainline rubbing along the rubber screen wire in a different direction creating a rolling effect.  The solution to this is extremely simple..... just attach the ghost to the mainline using a swiveling fishing leader wire found in any sporting goods section of the store.
The drive-unit's versatility:
Because the drive-unit is portable it can be made to point the paths/lines in any direction.  To do this, just build legs out of 2x4 wood at the proper heights and angles you need.  Basically, you are going to point the drive-unit in the direction and angle of all the pulleys that are mounted around the yard.
The ghosts or flying skulls:
Skulls retail for $2.50 each called YARD SKULLS distributed by FUN WORLD ... I buy them in a package of 4 for $10.  You can find these at most major department and craft stores near Halloween time.  These are the lightest out there.
Weight is a really big issue.  Go light as possible when designing your ghost.  I've found that using plastic skulls draped with lightweight laced fabric works great.  Add a blacklight along one of the paths or on the ground underneath your display and you can make the ghosts glow.  To do this, soak and dry (do not rinse) the fabric in a bucket of water and powdered laundry detergent.  To enhance my skulls I painted them with flourescent paint and added orange flourescent dots for their eyes.  It's an awesome display if you have several glowing ghost flying around in the dark.  Highly recommended.
Miscellaneous axworthy stuff:
Although I use 30lb-50lb fishing string on all my lines, other people have tried other types of lines with success.   Dark colored string or wire works best to become invisible at night
To mount the pulleys (bike rims) to the walls, trees, and roof .... try using different shapes and sizes of metal truss straps found in the roof/truss section of the hardware store.  They are cheap, thin, bendable metal straps with pre-drilled holes that make installation of the wheels really easy.  The larger hole on the strap's end is where you place the shaft of the bicycle rim and top it off by screwing on the nut.
I hope all of this helps … as lame as this may sound... I'd really like to hear from anyone who builds one.  I'd like to see how everyone implements this into their own set-up or a similar adaptation to run multiple axworthys.  If you have any questions just drop me an e-mail at and I’ll try and help out best I can.  Also if you happen to make one of these please send me a photo… I’d be interested in seeing it.

And here is a video of the Triple Axeworthy in action, and please see Tom's comments below.

Click here to see the video.
Video #1


Although the juicer motor privides a very stable speed, I think the whole effect would be 100 times better if the speed was like 4 times faster than what you see.
The video doesn't show it very well, but the motor is sitting on a 90 degree wooden shelf and tightly strapped in.
I guess shelfing brackets attached to the tree trunk would work just as well. This was all slapped together fairly quick.
We threw septic tank cloth over the skulls for the veils.
They need more work. Maybe something attaching the veil to the chin and a coathanger for harms/hands.

And check out these other Axworthy Videos that Tom has graciously sent to me so that I could post them here for everyone to view, along with the videos of others as people send them to me.


Additional Axworthy information added - Continue to >ADDENDUM<

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