Home Haunt

A few years ago a friend, Jonah Safar, and I built a haunted house in his garage in Erie, Colorado (great name for a town with a haunt! ;). We drew a nice number of screams from children and adults alike. Here's some of the highlights.

The garage was behind the house, so we had to lead a path around the side to get there.
The way had some obstacles like steps, so we marked everything really well and we had a couple of helpers to guide tours.
Jonah as the grave-digging mad scientist.
Entrance to the garage.

In the entryway was a room about 13 feet long and 5 feet wide, completely dark except for the black light illuminating a cheesy little spiderweb. Black (invisible) strings hung from the ceiling to brush against victims' faces.

In the next room was a witch (a mannequin I hacked to add a small microcontroller driving eyes that looked around and a mouth that opened and closed, filled with steel-stud teeth) in front of a cauldron. To the witch's right (not shown), I sat in a cloak with my head down while the victims watched the witch and got close enough for me to spring up and toady around talking about how the witch would just love to eat them.

Next they entered a hallway about 10 feet long filled with stage smoke. At the end was a home-made rig to spin a laserbeam cone atmospheric effect accompanied by an airy sort of spacey sound. The victims had to "walk into the light" to get out. We went to great care to ensure that people entered and exited at points where the beam wouldnt get in anyone's eyes. The guide helped with that too, of course.

This is kind of a bad composite picture, but next we had a room where it looked like a flying saucer had crashed through the wall of the building. A dazed and injured alien actor flopped around in the broken cockpit and occasionally lunged at the victims. An LED signboard in the cockpit repeated a message about how the invasion would have to be cancelled.
This is my favorite room-- the mad scientist's lair. It featured a bunch of equipment and props, including a corpse that the scientist tries to "animate."
Here the scientist fiddles with his equipment. There's an oscilliscope/function generator on the on the wall, tracing out what looks a little like a heartbeat pattern. Various lighting effects like a lightning ball and a sound-activated star pulse generator sit behind him.
What a scary freak.
Here he's bent over his console, an old selectable capacitor with a big dial. Two plexiglass tubes filled with colored, bubbling water are also in front of him. A strobe light with a filter under each pulses. The filter is a different color than the food coloring in the water, so the net effect is that the bubbles seem to jitter and dance glowing one color while the water surrounding them glows another. It's a nice effect.
The scientist toes a switch as he spins around to behold life in his creation, "Live! LIIIIIVE!" A 5 foot tall jacob's ladder pulses behind them, lightning pulses behind the corpse's head, and strobes flicker.
The corpse fails to animate, however. Thanks to a motor under the board, it just lays there and shakes its head "No." The apologetic scientist hems and haws and ushers the victims out the back and the tour is done.

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Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Kelm