Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Foot "Trip" Sensor for Halloween Scare Tactics

Halloween Decorations are certainly the foundation of a Happy Halloween, but adding some great effects or illusions and some “scare tactics” are the frosting on the cake. To create things that startle your visitors, you’ll need a way to have the visitors trigger lights, animations, and/or loud noises. Yes, you may trigger them yourself, but it’s much more fun to automate some stuff. This way you are free to hand out candy, laugh with the “victims,” or simply just enjoy and take-in the whole exciting experience. For our trick-or-treaters we set up at least three triggered “effects.” We were fortunate enough to have a forked drive-way; so we gave parents with “kiddies” an option to take the less-scary route. You may choose to warn anyone with little kids that there are some scary things ahead. It’s fun to scare the older kids, teens, and adults, but not so nice to terrorize toddlers.

Categories: Device. Foundation needed for certain gags. Cool.
Skill level: Super Easy.
Time needed: 5 minutes.
Expense: $10.00 - $20.00

The major bummer with most store-bought Halloween stuff that gets triggered is it’s lame. A few tiny eyes may light up, or perhaps it will create a tiny shriek. I’ve yet to come across anything substantial (Loud, flashy, large, etc.) While I’m complaining, I’d also like to mention that I have yet to find an off-the-shelf motion sensor that is useful for Halloween. Every motion sensor I find has a minimum “on” time of a minute or so. That’s an eternity when you want a quick scare. (Not to mention, blowing horns and sirens for that long would destroy Halloween for everyone, and no new visitors would be startled because the effects would not reset before they arrived.)

Light Beam to Trigger Effects and Startle People

A good solution to the Halloween-sensor-blues is to assemble a little photo-sensor that triggers when people cross it and break the light beam. You may have seen something like this in small stores—when you enter, the attendant gets alerted to your presence.


Photocell switch 

2 Extension cords

Bright L.E.D. Flashlight

1 cardboard tube from paper towel (cut in two halves) or 2 toilet paper cardboard tubes.

1)   Take the photocell switch and plug it into your extension cord. Take the other extension cord and plug it into the outlet on the photocell. Whatever devices you will be triggering will be plugged into this cord later. If you don’t know what to plug in, see our upcoming “scare tactics” blog entries.

2)   Tape one of the cardboard tubes to the “eye” photo sensor on the sensor unit so that the cylinder projects out from (and shields) the light senor. This is merely to keep any ambient light (from other decorations or lamps) from interfering with our trigger. This is our “receiver.”

3)   Tape the bright L.E.D. flashlight to the end of the OTHER cardboard tube. This will be the light beam projector.

4)   Find a place along your walkway to set-up the beam. The light (beam) emitting side must directly face the receiver. Remember to place the receiver (which requires power) on the side of the walkway that has outlets and/or leads to your effects. The light emitter side is totally portable. You may want to try to hide each of there in bushes, between rocks, or simply put decorations or things over the devices (being careful not to cover the holes of the tubes.) CAUTION: Do not place the receiver anywhere near water or where it can get wet (sprinklers, ponds, etc.)

That’s all there is to it. The L.E.D. flashlight should last beyond any single nights of Halloween scares. We recommend plugging strobe lights, sirens, or other “gags” into the sensor. Check out the “scare tactics” Blog entry for project ideas.

For other great Halloween How-To, visit

For Spooktacular Halloween Mutlimedia Products, check out

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