Boo-It-Yourself

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Halloween Night Power Outage!

Halloween Decorations and Halloween tricks and special effects have remained fairly stagnant over the years. We strive to fill our Halloween bag of tricks with newer, exciting treats. We will not be covering any baked goods with orange frosting, and there’s really no point in discussing pumpkins.

Categories: Visual Effect. Cool. Clever. “Techie” technical based effect.
Skill level: Very Easy.
Time needed: 5 –15 minutes.
Expense: $15.00 - $20.00

"Power Outage"

A few years back in our “X-treme Haunted House Make-Over” DVD (see BigScreamTV.com) we showed people how to use their strobe lights more like lightning striking and less like a disco dance party light show. The trick uses a “PIN Flasher” to engage the strobe lights intermittently because lighting is typically not continuous. We will revisit this procedure below as it is the foundation to this trick.

In this article, we would like to share with you an additional "scary layer" for use with the lightning effect. When the lightning strikes, have the "house" lights go out! Aside from this happening occasionally in reality (and always in horror movies) it adds more "light power" to the strobes because they are not washed out with ambient lighting.

The "trick" is to have the power to neighboring/surrounding lights shut off when the strobes are engaged. I've done this trick for years using a DPDT relay switch. If you don't know what that means, GREAT! It involved soldering and there's no way I'm going to subject you to that (along with wiring and possibly dangerous voltage exposure.)This is an easy, "how-to" procedure. We're going to use "off the shelf" things that are readily available. How easy is that? This will also take less than five minutes to build. In fact, it will take you far longer to read this, get the stuff, and organize your thoughts for this Halloween Decoration Effect.

The basic concept: We will use a photo cell switch to "cut the power" when the strobe lights are on. You've seen these photocell switches before. They're typically incorporated into light bulb sockets for
outdoor lamps. When the sun comes up, off go the lights. The only difference here is we recommend you buy a photocell (we'll give you the link) that has an outlet rather than a light socket incorporated with it.

Also, you’ll want to be playing a THUNDERSTORM CD while this lightning is happening. Thankfully, in reality, lightning and thunder are always out-of-sync since the speed of light is so much faster than the speed of sound. So, serendipity will strike and the random soundtrack that is asynchronous to the random lightning will be all-the-more life-like and convincing!

Here's the ingredients...starting from scratch:


  • 2 extension cords
  • PIN FLASHER (winker)
  • Photocell switch
  • Night-Light (one with a small C7 "nightlight" bulb)
  • strobe lights
  • tape
  • small enclosure  (cardboard box, shoe box, food box, peanut canister....)

Obviously, you will also need some sort of other lights for the ambient lighting (the lighting that will "go out" with the power!)


Extension cord "A" will be your power source. You will plug this into the wall when you are finished.



Plug the Photocell switch into extension cord "A".


Also plug the PIN FLASHER into another outlet in extension cord "A".



Take the other extension cord, "B" and plug it into the PIN FLASHER.



Plug the nightlight into extension cord "B".

Plug your strobe lights into another outlet in extension cord "B."

Whatever ambient lights you use (like porch lights, window lights, etc.) will plug into the outlet in the Photocell switch. (300 watt max!)



The nightlight will be the light that triggers the Photocell to turn off. The enclosure will house this contraption so that external light will not affect the operation.

Place the clump of "stuff" into an opaque (no light can get in or out) enclosure. A shoe box or other small box is ideal. If you use one of those small plastic storage boxes (readily found at every store) then make sure it is opaque. If not, spray paint the outside of it.

Adjust the location of the night light to the photocell sensor so that when the nightlight is dim (and strobe lights are now off) the nightlight does not provide enough light to switch the photocell off. When the nightlight is bright (and strobes are on) the photosensor should switch off. Use the tape to tack down the location of the photocell and the nightlight so that the device works when you re-locate it to your haunting spot.  That's it! Be sure to enhance your awesome Halloween Decorations with this cool visual effect trick!

For other crowd-stopping Halloween how-to tips on decorations and effects, please visit BooItYourself.com!
To see some really awesome and hard-to-find Halloween multi-media products (DVDs, CDs, downloads) please visit BigScreamTV.com!

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