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Ask Slashdot: How Are You Haunting Your House This Hallowe'en? 249

Posted by timothy
from the ok-ok-it's-slashdot-asks dept.
Hallowe'en is just around the corner. I've spent hours this month poring over masks, fog machines, automated monsters, and sound-activated dancing skeletons (mostly too rich for my blood), and worked with my brother and sister to haunt my mom's house with scary pictures, mounds of spider-webbing, sound effects, strobe lights, stage blood, candles, and rusty knives. Like every year, though, the best laid plans are the ones you come up with after the fact (why do I always plan to build a coffin with Bible-repelling magnetic lid and matching Bible, but never do?), and while our effort was fun and satisfying, it definitely didn't push the envelope. (There's plenty of good inspiration out there, though, for people who do want to go a little crazy.) So I ask: What are you doing to celebrate the spirit of Hallowe'en? In particular, are you using any good stagecraft-style tech to make your dwelling, yard, or neighborhood just a little bit scarier than usual? Any good advice based on previous haunting experiences, either as haunter or hauntee? What effects do you wish you could create, given enough time and money? Do you control any aspect of your display by computer? Think broadly: Links to inspiring commercial haunts, sources of interesting gear, and your favorite house-haunting projects at Instructables are all welcome, as well as relevant advice from the parts of the world where Hallowe'en isn't the major event that it is in the U.S.
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Ask Slashdot: How Are You Haunting Your House This Hallowe'en?

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  • Noose (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572)
    After three years of trying I've finally given up. I hope her new boyfriend treats her better than the last one--he was an asshole. I'll just hang myself, then I can haunt my place myself!
    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      I hope her new boyfriend treats her better than the last one--he was an asshole.

      But - you were her last boyfriend. Why were you an asshole?

    • by babywhiz (781786)
      That sounds funny and all, but back when my kids were in grade school, I went with them out to the school bus stop 2 days before Halloween. Down the street from us was a guy that always decorated for all holidays. As we stood at the bus stop, we thought, hey, he added a new decoration: a guy hanging from a noose. About an hour later, we saw cops and ambulances in his yard. Yes, indeed, he had hung himself in the yard among his other Halloween decorations.
  • by Jeng (926980) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:03PM (#37857916)

    I was thinking I would print up some advertisements for Windows ME and put them on the door along with the regular ghosts and pumpkins.

  • I'm occupying my halloween, and not spending money on corporate nonsense.

  • ...that's guaranteed to give the kids - and their parents - a good scare.
    • ...that's guaranteed to give the kids - and their parents - a good scare.

      To give yourself a better chance of not being arrested and getting your name on a nasty list, try wearing something like this [bizarrebytes.com] or this [bizarrebytes.com], or even this [bizarrebytes.com]. In some ways, it's even more grotesque than the far-below-average naked body, but probably more legal.

  • ...hunkered down in the darkness so the little scrotes don't know I'm here, wishing I had a shotgun to poke through the letterbox.

    Halloween seems to give every little thug in the neighbourhood carte blanche to terrorise it, and the ready availability of fireworks thanks to Guy Fawkes' only makes it even more "fun".

    • While I too will be hunkering down, I'll have my bags of chocolate to keep me happy while my cat will sit in my lap keeping me warm.

      Ahh, this is living!

  • by Jethro (14165) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:07PM (#37857994) Homepage

    I have some POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS tape. It's awesome. Draw some chalk outlines with loooots of "blood". Anyone actually walks through that, they deserve candy.

    This year I kinda want to put up a BEWARE OF GORILLA sign, wear gorilla suit and scare the crap out of the kids.

    Also I want to give out some chocolate covered espresso beans... but I've been advised not to do that.

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:14PM (#37858092) Homepage

    MST3K marathon!

  • by RiscIt (95258) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:14PM (#37858100) Homepage Journal

    so we do the synced music thing:

    http://www.wiltonlights.com/videos/ [wiltonlights.com]

    Also on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uEoQImKS9o [youtube.com]

  • carving a pumpkin, putting a flicker-LED light in it... and then just before dusk, raising the dead with a mad, cackling incantation to swoop upon the innocents. very little tech involved.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      carving a pumpkin, putting a flicker-LED light in it... and then just before dusk, raising the dead with a mad, cackling incantation to swoop upon the innocents. very little tech involved.

      Couldn't get Westboro Baptist Church people, either, huh?

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        Now THAT would be a hilarious costume. Nobody would quite know for sure if you were trick-or-treating, or protesting.

  • I'm not doing anything. My family celebrates Halloween instead.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween [wikipedia.org]

    Please use the preferred spelling.

  • by Mononoke (88668) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:22PM (#37858254) Homepage Journal
    Once again I'll be using video from these guys: http://hallowindow.com/ [hallowindow.com]

    This year I'm likely to rear-project their lightning loop near my front door, and run 2 LCD TVs with the eyeball loop in the windows of two separate rooms facing the street. (yes, the house is alive!)

    Audio is important too, and once again I'll be running this track through speakers and extra subwoofers (real ones, not home ones) hidden on my property: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/halloween/id289650473 [apple.com] There is no better sound effects package than one made by Hollywood Foley Effects artists. It's fun to watch the parents freaking out even more than their kids are.

  • Bury a mattress in the ground -- "Quick Sand." Chainsaw sans chain. Pretend to be a decoration, {move|jump|scare} at people that happen by (note: may get punched in the face). Hang fishing line from the trees/eves (feels like cobwebs) Get a ghillie suit, pop out of bushes (again, may get punched) .... Meh.... Google is your friend.
    • Pretend to be a decoration, {move|jump|scare} at people that happen by (note: may get punched in the face).

      I did that a couple of times. Got a glass of water in the face once. And still did not flinch. Until she came back to see if I was really just a decoration...THEN I jumped and scared the crap out of her.
  • . . . with lighted neon candy as bait. Dead trick-or-treaters hanging in the wire. Loud, flashing strobe zaps . . . mesquite liquid smoke barbecue aroma . . .

    . . . and a big sign stating to fully read the EULA before using . . .

  • Giant Floating Head (Score:4, Interesting)

    by K-Sparticus (662733) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:24PM (#37858284)
    I have had a lot of fun with this set-up.

    Get a web-cam, a video projector, and something translucent to use as a rear-projection screen (fake spiderwebs work well). Aim the camera at your face (try lighting it from below with a flashlight) and shine the projector at the screen and you have a giant, floating, glowing, talking head.

    Of course, you can add more effects like a sound system, but it is an easy and cheap (if you can borrow a projector) set-up.

  • Halloween is illegal in this country, thanks to the Catholic church. I guess that pedophile union didn't want any competition.
    • by Surt (22457)

      Share share: what country?

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Costa Rica [naturelandings.com]. Private parties are ok, but you won't find anyone "trick or treating" out in the streets. I've been here 20 years. In the late 80's it was starting to catch on, when some bishop or other objected and it was "banned" (although no actual law was put on the books). So during the 90's you couldn't find Halloween merchandise anywhere. But consumerism will creep up on every generation and bit by bit it's coming back - especially in areas filled with foreigners - hotels, bars and the like. Nowadays you
  • I'm going to change my name to Oswald McHalloWeany for the day.

    - On a more serious note- November 5th (Guy Fawkes night) is only a few days later and is more fun for the pyromanaic.

    Build big fires- set off fireworks- build models of Guy Fawkes and the pope and throw them onto the fire... ... Good time for all. Just make sure it really is a Guy Fawkes model you're throwing on the fire- not a member of Anonymous wearing a Vendetta mask... we need those anonymous folks to help overthrow wall street.

    • Guy Fawkes. Shame they burn him in effigy. He was the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.

  • Found many examples online. Basically a low-rpm motor turns an arm that pulls three wires attached to a foam head and wire arms draped in cheesecloth that has been soaked in detergent, suspended under a black light. Looks wild, slowly drifting up and down in the window.
  • by Pope (17780) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:33PM (#37858454)

    and handing out Zunes to the kids. Scary!

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:37PM (#37858492)
    What the hell is up with the ' there?
    As for what I'm doing, http://www.collegehumor.com/article/6635487/halloween-then-and-now [collegehumor.com] is about right.
  • by sid_vicious (157798) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:39PM (#37858524) Homepage Journal

    Before the kids came along, I built a number of fun electronics projects for Halloween. I built a flicker circuit I got off of Wolfstone [horrorfind.com] (a great site for would-be haunters).

    Along with a couple of friends, I built a coffin-leaper one year, too. I built the electronics (a pressure sensitive mat that activated a solenoid valve). Another fellow built the pneumatics and another built the actual coffin and dummy. When you'd step on the mat, the dummy would spring up and a loop tape with sounds effect and a strobe would go off.

    I also built a lightning/thunder machine using a "color organ" (basically a device that causes different flood lights to flash in time to various sound frequencies) that came from a Velleman kit. I set up an old pair of PC speakers playing a loop CD of some thunder and use that to drive the color organ. I usually get a few good jumps from kids who aren't expecting it.

    I have a commercial fog machine that I use with a timer to give my house a nice cloud of low-hanging fog. I built a fog-chiller out of a cheapo foam beer cooler by cutting two holes in either side and running a flexible piece of aluminum ducting through it (with a twist in the middle and holes punched in it to increase surface area). This keeps the fog hanging low. Another tip is to spray down the area with the fog using a garden hose.

    I started working on animating a Bucky skull a while back, too. I added eyes attached to a servo and wrote a program in Windows that let you move them with sliders. I intended to animate the mouth, too, but my kids came along shortly after that. I still pull out my decorations every year, but my own little goblins have taken priority over my projects - so it goes.

    I'd love to finish the Bucky skull and maybe build a bookshelf where the books pop out on their own (driven by a motor and series of cams). Maybe one day when I have some time to myself again ...

    Hope this gave everyone a few good ideas for projects to scare the neighborhood kids -- happy haunting!!

  • by kent_eh (543303) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:45PM (#37858608)
    My wife "found god" in the last year, and has decided that we won't be "glorifying Satan" this year.
    So the kids miss out, and I don't have to dig out the decorations this year.
    • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:53PM (#37858750)

      Awesome she found him.

      Where has he been hiding all these years then?

    • christmas is just a power grab to rebrand a pre-christian rite

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia [wikipedia.org]

      the date actually has nothing to do with the actual birth of christ, it actually has to do with the winter solstice

      makes you wonder why the early christians didn't similarly rebrand halloween, like they did druid's holy trees (christmas trees) and yuletide logs and other local aspects of culture, in service of an invasive cult

      oh, and also: no thanksgiving for you. that is a secular holiday, and therefore obv

    • How do you feel about her finding god? /me is not religious, just curious

    • by tacroy (813477)
      As some one who is VERY theologically based (private study, teaching at church, etc) , and also enjoys Halloween. Let me know if you would like some help teaching her the error of her ways. Legalism is FAR more dangerous to faith than Halloween is!
  • Perfect when playing in complete dark with good loudspeakers.

  • pop-up monsters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:49PM (#37858704) Journal

    What I'm working on was inspired by the sculptures Joshua Harris has been building/leaving in NYC [laughingsquid.com] that suddenly explode into full size when a subway goes by and then collapse again to look like a pile of debris. What I've finished: electret microphone amplifier, that tells an arduino when someone's within two meters, the arduino then closes a big monster relay, and I've built a couple of monsters using the instructions on destructables.org for inflating sculptures. (Basically cut up a stuffed animal and blow up the pattern design.) Mine are humanoid shapes about 2 meters tall with arms that stick out and a bunch of tentacle-like things sticking out of their faces.

    What I'm working on is the inflation system. My original thought was to use a piece of 6" PVC tubing, about a meter and change long, with about 5 atmospheres of pressure in it, and a lawn sprinkler valve that the arduino triggered, so I have a high pressure lowish volume inflation system. I'm finding that's really loud and not fast enough to get the movement I want, which is to have the monster go from a pile of invisible black rubbish to 2 meters tall in under a second -- really, jumping out at people. So I'm playing with high volume low pressure: having the arduino turn on a shopvac with its exhaust inflating the humanocthulhuoid figure.

    Unfortunately I've only got a couple days left to get it all working, and I also have a wedding ring to make before I get married in two weeks, and guess which one is being given higher priority by other involved people? So maybe I'll get lucky and get it done, but most likely it'll be next year. Then I'll have time to add strobe lights on the ground pointing at it.

    I've also made most of a soliton gun, using a piece of 15" diameter, 2 meter long cardboard concrete form with a constricted front, the intent being that I can blast big puffs of air from a significant distance and hit people with them: just walking along and suddenly wham a big blast of air from nowhere. It might be interesting, especially if I can time it so it hits people at the same moment as the jumpy monster jumps.

  • by quietlikeachurch (984657) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:52PM (#37858730)

    My front yard has three years' worth of overgrowth (one of the bushes has an old saw stuck in it), the lamppost
    bulbs flicker, and there are real spiders and crickets and spider-crickets everywhere. Plus, I have a derelict car in
    the driveway and the front porch is littered with beer cans and errant cigarette butts. Perfect.

    Who wants some candy?

  • I stopped doing basic yard maintenance and I've just been throwing garbage out of the window. It creates a really neat, scary haunted house effect.

    Of course, I won't be putting out candy and I don't have any kids, so its really just for the benefit of the community.

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @01:53PM (#37858752)

    I will sometimes wander around with a screwdriver, because everybody knows there is nothing more terrifying than a software engineer with a screwdriver.

    Just being myself is usually enough to scare the crap out of people.

    ...laura

  • I'm in the process of getting the site up, but the details of the project (to be finished this week) are here [letsdosomethingcool.com].
  • Light the thing! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by halcyon1234 (834388) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 27, 2011 @02:23PM (#37859146) Journal
    If you are looking to visit a haunt, or connect with other haunters for building tips, check your local listings:

    Canada: Canadian Haunter's Association [canadianha...iation.com] US: hauntworld.com/haunted_houses, hauntedhouse.com
    My wife and I run a free haunt every year. If you're in Newmarket, Ontario, stop on by: houghtonhaunt.com

    Forget jump scares or loud music-- the key to any good haunt is the lighting. You can make any prop, scene, actor, etc look amazing with a standard garden flood light from the local hardware store. I've been to professional haunts that used little to no lighting, and it was a shame. You couldn't see any of the detail work that went into their sets, and usually it was so dark you couldn't even see the jump scares. Just a few extra lumens would have made a world of difference.

    I've added a few smoke-and-mirror tricks this year, but what I've learned the most from doing this is carpentry. The first year was drapes held up by duct tape. Since then I've learned about blocking, wall building, power tools, and why duct-tape doesn't hold up walls. =)
  • Just a little trick (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @02:29PM (#37859234)

    Right at the end of September I decorated the porch with all the typical fall crap. Pumpkins (fake), hay bales, corn stalks, and a life-sized scarecrow in an Adirondack chair right next to the front door.

    The neighbors are all very used to seeing that scarecrow.

    Halloween night, I will be dressing as a scarecrow and replace the stuffed one with myself. Subtle movements when the kids ring the doorbell are usually enough to send them howling from the porch, without revealing to anyone farther away that the scarecrow is not as it seems.

    It worked like a charm last year, and since then I've moved, which means I get to do it again with no one expecting it ;)

    It's not exactly original (I remember getting the idea from some old 80's show), but it's very effective.

    • by Kozz (7764)

      I did this one year... I didn't put out a decoy ahead of time. Stitched a burlap hood for my head, wore oversized clothes which I stuffed with fabric & rags to give them an uneven look. I went the "entrapment" route, with a sign on my bowl that said "please take only one". :)

      One kid approached with his friends, read the sign aloud and said, "yeah, right!" and proceeded to grab a handful. I lurched forward, "Just ONE!" and he began shoveling candy back OUT of his bag and into my bowl, even stuff that

  • ...why do I always plan to build a coffin with Bible-repelling magnetic lid and matching Bible, but never do?

    Honestly, I have no idea. Am I missing a pop culture reference to coffin-repelling Bibles here?

  • My favorite thing to do is dress up in a gorilla costume, sit in a trash can at the end of the driveway, and jump out at unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

  • by antdude (79039)

    I don't own a house! You meant home?

  • I just float around, moan, pass through walls, rattle some chains. I draw the line at saying "Boo" though. To kitschy and besides there's an obscure programming language named "Boo." I wouldn't want to be caught dead programming in it (Rimshot).

  • He's busy remodeling Heaven about now.
  • Instructions:
    Purchase at least a half dozen children's full body Halloween costumes (ie spiderman, darth vader, princess, tigger, ladybug, robot, etc).
    Set a small table on your front step, porch, or main sidewalk.
    On table, place bowl of candy, and large visible sign reading "CANDY"
    Take costumes above, stuff them realistically with pillows/towels/other clothing, lay them strategically on ground around table, and douse area with lots of (fake?) blood.
    Hide around corner with large (fake?) axe.

    You can figure ou

  • Lots of it.
  • I hate Halloween . It is one my least favorite events of the year.

    I began to hate it when I had to cart my kids around to collect their candy. The evening would always end with sugar highs followed by temper tantrums. It was thoroughly unpleasant.

    I grew to hate giving away candy to random strangers. I am completely sure that none of the were the children of my neighbors and friends.

    Now that our kids are grown, and have left town, we have found a solution. We take yellow caution tape and tie it across the d

  • I set up a large display on the front of my house, in what little space I have. But the only real technological bit, other than lights and flickering LEDs, and a Flying Crank Ghost, is a set of talking skulls. I use the "Scary Terry" servo control system [scary-terry.com], which is sold as a kit from Cowlacious [cowlacious.com].

    Test of my routine during assembly [youtube.com]

    Same routine, deployed into the display [youtube.com] (gradual echo effect was accidental)

    My display's web gallery [necrobones.com]

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @04:18PM (#37860836) Journal

    I put up a sign "Resident has no homeowner's insurance". Not only is that really scary, I get to keep all the candy to myself.

  • by BillX (307153) on Friday October 28, 2011 @12:26AM (#37864882) Homepage

    Our front porch has a small crawlspace under it, so last year I planted a subwoofer under the porch connected to an mp3 player loaded with a series of deep animal growls (may have been from Alien / horror movies), separated by about 30 seconds of silence. So, it was silent most of the time, but would periodically catch a kid just has he was coming up the steps. Many of the little ones ran away before they even got to the door, and didn't come back!

    Soon-to-be-wife was very displeased, and we had lots of leftover candy. This year the subwoofer will be repurposed to make a sweet Oobleck monster [instructables.com]. We'll see if I can get away with putting out a jar of realistic fake body parts nearby for "feedings".

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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