Chapter 13. – Behind the Scenes: Ghost of the Geisha

Hello! Today I want to share the behind the scenes of the Geisha Ghost chapter with you!


Geisha Ghost Costume

Here’s a shot of the Geisha Ghost outfit, and you can see traces of blood on the lower part.

Geisha Ghost is a malevolent figure that Alisa Kester based off of a Japanese style ghost called an Onryo. This ghost character haunts a Japanese Bathhouse that the Monster Hunting Tour visits. It is up to our heroes to defeat the spirit!

Alisa designed the Geisha ghost very traditionally, but with long sleeves and a train which would drag through the blood of her victims. The blood soaked sleeves and hem were the most important part. Alisa also designed the geisha wig to be decorated with bones. She suggested a steampunk obi sash which would be used to keep the ghost corporeal.

Alisa’s sketch of the Geisha ghost costume.

Even though Alisa designed the costume, I actually constructed the costume! All of our ghosts are grey, and Alisa found a fabric she loved! Alisa sent me the grey fabric in the mail and I used a traditional Kimono pattern to construct the garment. Kimonos are actually quite fun to make! Like nearly all traditional Japanese clothes, the parts are nearly all rectangles the width of the bolt!

I elongated the sleeves to be 8 feet long and all the extra fabric I had, I pleated in the the center back seam for a sort of Bustle. This made the traditional Kimono into something more fantastical. I used my own obi and my own corset to decide which would look more Steampunk to use with the Kimono. I chose to create a mix between the two, a waist cincher with very little curve, but that still laces up like a corset.

I wanted to test whether a regular obi or a corset would look better on the kimono so I pulled out some I already had to test.

I also had to make a mechanical obi. We want the obi sash to be the thing that is keep the ghost in the physical realm. I gathered all my best steampunk bits to make it look like a cockade and tassel but made out of machinery. At first, the obi looked a little sparse, so I started piling on as many findings as I could for the final product!

I settled on making a waist cincher. The image on the right shows the beginning of the mechanical obi.

I then took the Kimono outside and threw blood (paint) at it for hours.

The final costume has an extra grey sash at the top of the mechanical obi. In the picture below you can see all the parts of the final Steampunk Obi, which includes gauges, clockwork, tubes and other bits.

Here is a close-up of the steampunk obi.
Steampunk Geisha Ghost
Here’s a shot of the Geisha Ghost outfit from a final image, and you can see traces of blood on the lower part.

Photographing the Geisha Ghost

Meilyn Saychow modeled as the Geisha Ghost, and her energy and spontaneity brought the ghost to life as you will see in the following behind-the-scenes photos!

Catey and I travelled to Seattle to shoot with Meilyn. We woke up earlier than I’ve been up in almost a decade, and my friend Sam Kuster did Meilyn’s make-up. Sam comes very prepared and even does sketches of the makeup beforehand. I kept his preview make-up drawings because I liked them very much!

Sam's make-up sketch and applying Meilyn's make-up.
Sam’s make-up sketch and applying Meilyn’s make-up.

We then proceeded to the park, Bellevue Botanical Gardens, where we encountered 66 schoolchildren, all reacting very differently to seeing a horrifying ghost in the park. Some looked scared, others looked confused, one girl was more interested in what we were doing than what she was doing, and just stood there dangling her project haphazardly looking earnestly onward (“Science, blech! Give me monster fashion!” Quoth she.)

Catey dresses Meilyn.
Catey dresses Meilyn.

One little boy insisted Meilyn was “The Queen”, and I am guessing he thought she was Queen Amidala from Star Wars, since she had a similar look!

After fully getting into costume, at one point Meilyn ran up behind a man in the park talking on his phone and roared at him! It was awesome! SpoOoOky Ghost!

Meilyn attacks Tyson in the Park, which will give you an idea of how the man on the phone felt.
Meilyn attacks Tyson in the Park, which will give you an idea of how the man on the phone felt.

This shoot even had a giant wrench thrown in the works, twice, including our permit being double booked with the school children, but we decided to overlook the problems that plagued us, and just wander around scaring garden visitors for the rest of the day!

The crew with widely varying things going on in their expressions.
The crew with widely varying things going on in their expressions.

The garden has a few asian features, and we photographed near each of them. Below you can see Sam taking a picture AND the picture he took, which isn’t something that you get to see all that often.

Sam taking a picture and the picture he took.
Sam taking a picture and the picture he took.

steampunk monster ghost
The final image of the Geisha Ghost.

The Mayor’s Steampunk Samurai Costume

There aren’t many people who have been following this since the beginning, but if you are one of those happy few, then you will recall that there was supposed to be a Japanese hero figure in the story. However, the model did not show up to the shoot, did not get on the flight, kept around 13 people waiting, and so a whole section of the book had to be re-written! Most of his part was amalgamated into Thunderboy and The Mayor. The steampunk samurai costume was so cool, I wanted it to be seen, and so it was given to the Mayor.

Steampunk Samurai costume.
Steampunk Samurai costume.

Samurai carry two swords, and while only one is present here, I have finished building his second sword as well, and will add that when the model wears the outfit.

steampunk samurai costume
The samurai outfit with sword and traveling hat.

The thigh or upper leg is covered with an armor piece traditionally called Haidate. Our hero also collects childrens toys and omiyage which are Japanese souvenirs.

steampunk samurai costume
Samurai haidate and toy accessories

Steampunk Samurai Sword

The Mayor carries a ghost catching sword. Using my old samurai sword as a base, I built-up and painted it to make an entirely new creature!

Steampunk Samurai Sword
Steampunk Samurai Sword in scabbard and out.

I based my sword off of a steampunk sculpture I once saw, as well as the ridiculous weapons Lightning wields in Final Fantasy 13, Part 3, Lighting Returns. Still disappointed the Moogle Blade is only downloadable content, Kupo. But knowing that ridiculous, over-the-top steampunk weapons look really cool in photos, I started building little clock-work looking gauges out of bits and pieces of clocks and other metal circles I had lying around.

Creating the samurai sword by gluing on steampunk bits.
The Scabbard clock Piece built and primed, then painted.

The sword and scabbard were pieces I bought online for my Die Zauberflote photo for my book Mozart Reimagined. It was a cosplay Bleach reproduction for the character Rukia. It is over-long and totally white to begin with.
I sanded the handle and scabbard, removed the white wrappings, then began gluing things on the hilt. I painted my timepiece and the scabbard separately. The scabbard and handle of the sword were painted a deep walnut red using spray paint. It was the most careful I’ve ever been applying spray paint.
I wrapped the sword’s handle in a red fabric. I also stained it a little with a marker. I want to show you all the little bits I glued on it. I’ve learned that you can always glue gears on something and call it Steampunk!

steampunk samurai sword
Steampunk Samurai Sword Hilt close up on each side.

All the clockwork bits are screwed into the hilt, but the screws are pretty well hidden.

steampunk samurai sword
Close up of the Steampunk Sword Scabbard timepiece.

The finished sword is longer than it was when purchased, because the hilt pieces keep the sword sticking out of the scabbard about an inch.


Painting the Backdrop

For this project, my aunt Cathy and I got together to paint a backdrop in front of which we can photograph the costumes in “A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters”. This backdrop is Asian in nature and features pagodas on Chinese style mountains. Our pictures of the costumes influenced by Japan, China and Tibet will be photographed in front of this backdrop.

asian photography backdrop
I painted the Asian backdrop with my aunt.

My aunt prepared her bedroom with sheet plastic, and together we painted this in around four hours using Tempera paints. This time we got some on the white carpet. Oh noes!


The Mayor from A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters in a final image from the book.

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