It was Halloween 2014, and Maryland man Ryan Bowen proudly unveiled a trick-or-treat costume for his six-month-old son, Geraint, which had been years in the making. Indeed, this was no mere shop-bought zombie one-piece or off-the-peg skeleton suit. No, Ryan had pulled out all the stops to create the ultimate robot getup so that his toddler could rock the spooky occasion in style and have himself a real blast.
Ever since ancient times, folk have enjoyed the act of dressing up for Halloween. It is thought by historians that pagan people wore costumes or disguises as they went house-to-house in their communities to celebrate the spiritual while commemorating the dead. Spirits and fairies, as well as the souls of the departed, were warded off every late October by the superstitious adopting their frightening appearance for the night.
Of course, these days you are as likely to see participants dressed up as a superhero, celebrity or fairy princess as something more ghoulish as our ancestors once did. And, since the first modern-day Halloween costumes came to the attention of the mass media in the 19th century, the custom has spread to scare up frightening amounts of money. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, some $2.6 billion was laid out in 2013 to buy Halloween disguises for young and old – and more than $300 million was spent on costumes for family pets.
However, not everyone relies on the easy convenience of shopping for their Halloween costume. There have always been busy fingers, beavering away across the U.S. on homemade getups. In 2014, Ryan Bowen was one of these creative types in the city of Rockville, MD. The new dad was busy putting together a special DIY disguise as a holiday treat for his infant son.
The then 28-year-old Ryan lived in Rockville with his wife, Cassandra, 27, and their son, Geraint, who was just six months old in October 2014. But Ryan had been dreaming of the perfect Halloween kids’ costume long before Geraint was even a gleam in his eye – and now he had a suitable child to suit up.
Indeed, Ryan had always pictured the perfect kid’s costume for Halloween being based on a frightening figure from his own childhood. He had always thrilled to the killer robots known as Sunders from the Microsoft franchise of MechWarrior video games which originally launched in 1989. Ryan had loved playing the series when he had been a high-school student, and somehow the Sunders had stuck with him down the years.
Considering that the giant Sunder fighting machine was supposed to be a 90-ton battle robot, Ryan was setting himself quite the task. But as soon as the Maryland man found out that he was to become a father, he decided to make his big dream a reality. However, what Ryan had in mind was a lighter, perhaps more family friendly, version of the all-smashing ’droid featured in MechWarrior.
With a couple of months or so to go before the baby arrived, a super-keen Ryan had already drawn up his initial ideas for the costume. But the dad-to-be would not lack materials for the construction phase of his grand project. Indeed, what with baby items delivered to him and Cassandra arriving all the time, he found that he soon had a heap of boxes to make his Sunder a reality.
Consequently, after purchasing various other odds and ends on his wish list, Ryan got down to some serious work. Thanks to his blueprints, he had a step-by-step plan to follow to build his MechWarrior recreation. And slowly but surely his robotic Sunder costume began to take shape.
Firstly, Ryan began with a PVC tube frame which would fit around his body. Then he covered this plastic shell with some firmly affixed, artfully pre-painted cardboard. More cardboard was used to create other parts of the robot, with Ryan painstakingly cutting away at it to recreate all-important features. Some other vital details were created with foam board, so that the finished costume would have a convincing three-dimensional feel.
Ryan made sure that all the joints of the robot body were flexible and durable by using Velcro fixings. And, once he had the main body finished, Ryan used more Velcro to attach the Sunder’s head and other sundry parts. But the creatively inspired dad was still not finished – the costume still needed working limbs to be complete.
Consequently, Ryan hung cardboard leg pieces from a belt, which remained out of sight beneath the robot body. And then the dad slid his arms into previously prepared sets of fake blasters, which he again attached with Velcro. Finally, Ryan popped the Sunder’s boxy feet on top of his own shoes, filling any gaps with toilet-roll tubes.
Presumably Cassandra could not wait, because now Ryan’s creation was very nearly complete. Where once there had been a huge pile of boxes and some bits and pieces of DIY equipment cluttering up the Bowen’s home, there now stood a massive and convincingly menacing MechWarrior. However, this seven-foot-tall Sunder costume seemed a little large for a six-month-old – so Ryan next took to YouTube to reveal where Geraint would fit in to the grand scheme of things.
The video that Bowen uploaded in late October that year was called MechDaddy 2014 – which was the name he and Cassandra had dubbed his cardboard creation with. The footage opens with a suitably powerful rock riff, and then the mighty MechDaddy makes its dramatic entrance. And with the Sunder’s appearance, it becomes clear to viewers what little Geraint’s part is.
As the awesome homemade war machine stomps around the Bowens’ backyard, little Geraint can be seen sitting in a pouch at the front. Yes, the little munchkin is acting as the MechDaddy’s driver, gazing out as his dad’s creation menaces the trees and shrubs. It is also plain to see that the little boy is safe and sound, and he is having a monstrously good time – snug in his cardboard Sunder chariot.
Towards the end of the video, Ryan halts momentarily to allow the camera to pan up his robot costume. It presents a truly remarkable sight – the cardboard, which has been so carefully painted to look like the camouflage-colored plates of those found on the original Sunder, looks amazing.
Consequently, Ryan’s video has become an internet sensation, having racked up more than a million-and-a-half views since October 2014. And another 600,000 social media users have enjoyed pictures of the DIY Sunder posted by Cassandra on imgur. The reaction to both the mini-movie and stills has been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of likes on YouTube and the image-sharing site.
Indeed, commenters came to praise Ryan for the extreme lengths the doting dad went to for his son’s first Halloween. On YouTube, one viewer suggested that an honor might be in order, asking, “Dad of the year? I think so.” Meanwhile, another user seemed quite sweet on the whole Sunder idea, saying, “I never give candy to the parents who only bring a baby out, but I would give my whole bucket to this guy.”
And these subscribers to the video-sharing platform were not alone in shouting out their acclamation, as the compliments were coming thick and fast over on imgur. “This is how you DAD! Well done that guy,” said a well-wisher under one of Cassandra’s posts. While another conceded to being blown away by the makeshift Sunder, saying, “I have to admit, that’s a pretty cool costume!”
Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest fan of Ryan’s gigantic efforts was a little closer to home. Indeed, Cassandra was pretty overcome at the sight of her son’s Halloween outfit, and she let the world know on imgur. The proud mom declared, “[Ryan] did a wonderful job and I am so proud of him. It looks amazing and Geraint loves it!”