Dancing Ghost Science Experiment for Halloween

Dancing Ghost Science Experiment
Make paper ghosts and other shapes fly through the air in the dancing ghost science experiment.

The dancing ghost science experiment is a fun Halloween science project that makes objects fly using static electricity.

Dancing Ghost Materials

You need paper, scissors, a balloon, and either someone with hair on their head or else a sweater:

  • A latex balloon
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Hair or a sweater (or a cooperative furry pet)
  • Tape (optional)
  • Markers (optional)

Lightweight paper, like tissue paper, works best. If you don’t have tissue paper, use toilet paper or tissues. Ordinary printer paper or notebook paper works, too. But, it’s easiest making ghosts fly using lighter paper.

You don’t absolutely need tape or markers. Tape sticks the base of a ghost to a surface so it does not fly away. Markers are for decorating ghosts with eyes and other details.

Make Dancing Ghosts and Watch Them Fly

This a simple project, perfect for kids.

  1. Cut ghost shapes out of paper. If you’re worried about your artistic talent, search Google Images for “paper ghost cut-out” and print the pattern on printer paper. Once you have one ghost, use it as a template for ghosts on tissue paper by either tracing or cutting around it.
  2. Blow up a balloon and tie off the end so the air won’t escape.
  3. Rub the balloon on dry hair, a sweater, or a cooperative pet. You’ll know you have enough static charge when the balloon sticks to a wall.
  4. Slowly edge the balloon toward the paper ghosts. See them dance in the air?

If you like, tape down the bottom edge of each ghost so it stands up, but doesn’t fly away. Explore other spooky shapes, too. Try making bats, pumpkins, cats, and (if you want a real challenge) spiders.

How It Works

The key to the dancing ghost project is static electricity. This is the same type of electricity responsible for lightning and the zap you can get touching people and objects in winter when humidity is low.

Static electricity is free electrical charge. Rubbing a balloon on hair transfers electrons from hair to the balloon. Electrons have a negative electrical charge. Opposites attract, so the balloon attracts objects with a positive charge. Paper is made of cellulose, which is a polar molecule. It’s attracted to the charged balloon. Even though static electricity is invisible, the powerful attraction draws paper toward the balloon.

If the paper touches the balloon, it neutralizes the electrical charge. A paper ghost may stick for the balloon for a couple of seconds, but then it falls off and the balloon stops making other ghosts dance. Just rub the balloon on hair to start the fun all over again.

More Halloween Science Projects

The dancing ghost science experiment is one of many activities perfect for Halloween.

Dancing Ghost Experiments

Making paper objects dance is a cool project, but you can add more “science” by turning it into an experiment. Apply the scientific method. Make observations about the project, form a hypothesis about what you think happens if you change something, and conduct an experiment to test the hypothesis.

  • What happens if you make ghosts out of different kinds of paper?
  • Which dances better: larger ghosts or smaller ghosts? Why do you think this happens?
  • Does how long you charge the balloon (rub it on hair) affect how long it dances?
  • Does it make a difference if you charge the balloon on hair compared with carpet, fabric, etc.?