Make: The Possessed Bone (A STEAM Magic Trick!)

While planning out our unique Halloween theme last week, I experienced a very curious occurrence. A peculiar little box appeared on my desk – seemingly out of nowhere. As soon as I slid the box open, I realized this was no ordinary trinket, as the little bone laying inside began to slide right out of the box on its own! No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get it back in its box and deduced this bone must be possessed. Misplaced and lost, this bone was cursed to stay in this tiny box until it found its ghostly owner.


If you’ve ever wandered through a curiosity shop, chances are good that you’ve stumbled across a particular mysterious vintage magic trick. Neatly packaged up in miniature matchbox form, the King Tut Magic Mummy is an oddity shop classic. The timeless trick uses 2 hidden magnets to eject a mini mummy from its sarcophagus.

For our own curiosity shop theme this year, I recreated the old trick using a special homemade salt dough bone and a custom-designed “magic” box. Our puzzling possessed bone combines the same basic principles of magnetism with a simple DIY trick box + bone, for a bizarre bit of black STEAM magic that is guaranteed to mystify and delight!

TIP: Never made salt dough before? My friend Mary Alice of Brainy Beginnings Network was kind enough to share some tips with me when making these, and you can find loads of salt dough info, instructions, and inspiration over on her site. From salt dough sugar skulls to glittering Egyptian pendants – it’s a treasure trove of curiosity shop perfection!

To make your own possessed bone steam magic trick you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains either our own printable products, or Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*


  • (1) Salt dough bone
  • (2) Neodymium magnets (like these)
  • A hot glue gun
  • A sheet of watercolor paper or heavy white cardstock
  • Clear tape or a glue stick



Makes enough salt dough for about 10 bones (you only need one for this trick!)

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 1/2 cup of salt

You may also want to use a sheet of parchment paper for baking

Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick Instructions:

Download & print our magic box template or grab a small box of a similar size

Print our free template onto watercolor paper or heavy white cardstock. You’ll want your box to be fairly sturdy, so watercolor paper works especially well if you can safely run it through your printer.

You don’t have to use our box template though. If you have a small, thin box laying around (a small perfume box would work well for example) you can use that instead. Our box measures 4.75 inches (length) by 1.5 inches (width) by 1 inch (height) and it’s a perfect size for both the bone and the box.

Form a bone out of salt dough

Using the salt dough recipe up top, combine the ingredients and form a bone shape that’s about the same size as your box. You can make this easier by laying the box on a sheet of parchment paper and tracing around the box (as we did below). Now you can shape your salt dough bone to fit the traced rectangle. You only need one bone, but the recipe will make about 10, so make a few more just for fun!
Form a bone from salt dough and bake | The Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick

Bake your salt dough bones

Bake your bones on the parchment-covered baking sheet at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour.

Let your bone cool for 15-20 minutes. While still warm, flip to the back and gently scoop out a small shallow circle at one end – roughly the size of your magnet. We’ll be gluing the magnet into this area, so you may want to check and make sure your magnet fits snugly. If your bone is still soft, you can put it back in the oven for another half hour or so, or just let it air dry over time.

Assemble your magic trick box

While your bones are baking (sounds SO spooky, doesn’t it?!) you can assemble your magic box. If you’re using a small existing box, you can skip this step.
Assemble the magic trick box | The Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick
Cut out our free printable template pieces, then assemble with scissors and tape (or a glue stick). You can glue on the same box label we used, or write in your own magic trick name using the blank label template included!

Hot glue a magnet to the floor of your box tray

The secret to this trick is the magnets! Magnets ATTRACT opposite poles and REPEL like poles, so we’re going to use that principle of magnetism to create the illusion that the bone is pushing the box away. In fact, that’s exactly what it’s doing. The magnet in the bone will repel the magnet in the box because we’ll be forcing the opposite poles to face each other.
Glue a magnet to the floor of your tray | The Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick
Make a small dot with a permanent marker or paint dot on either the north or south pole of both magnets. Hot glue one of your magnets to the floor of your box tray – dot facing up.

Glue the false bottom into your box tray

For added mystery, add a couple of dots of hot glue to the floor of your box tray, then insert the false bottom.
Insert the false box bottom  | The Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick
This will cover up the magnet glued to the tray floor, so the “magic” won’t be revealed when the box is opened.

Hot glue a magnet to the bottom of your bone

Hot glue your second magnet (again, dot side facing up) to the bottom of your salt dough bone.
Hot glue a magnet to the bottom of your bone  | The Possessed Bone STEAM Magic Trick

Gently push the bone into the box and slide the cover on

Carefully push your bone down into your box (you’ll notice resistance right away!) and slide the cover on.

Work your magic and try out the trick!

IT’S ALLL-IIIVEEE! Time to amaze friends and family with your STEM-powered magic!

We felt like the salt dough made a perfectly petrified bone, but now that you know the science behind the scare, you can create a possessed ANYTHING!

This STEAM-powered magic trick is a fun DIY art and science activity for kids, and the perfect Halloween party trick! | via  barley & birch

Here for the boos? We have Halloween covered with this adorable free printable Halloween doodle book, some super hip upcycled costume ideas, a roundup of our fav modern no-carve pumpkins, and even a recipe (and ghost stickers!) for healthy homemade Ecto-Cooler!

A note about Amazon affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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