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Halloween 2003

This year was much better, if measured by the number of kids who wouldn't come down my driveway.  When the little kids come, I don't activate the scary "jumpers".  Unfortunately, the little ones didn't come early as in years past.  They came along with big kids throughout the night.  There were a few times that I didn't see them until they started screaming in fright.  One poor dad was trying to coax his daughter down the driveway because he wanted to see everything, but she was having none of that nonsense (there were dead people down there!).

I started setting up at 10 am and finished right at dark (6 pm).  My father came over to help for most of that time.  I guess I'll need to make sure he comes back next year....  It took about 45 minutes to get everything back in the garage for the night and about 5 hours on Saturday to put most of it away.  Sadly, I may need more storage containers to hold the things I bought this year.

I captured some of the responses to my haunt on video tape.  If I get some time, I plan to sample some of the better reactions and put them on the web.  Come back in mid to late-November.

The pictures below will focus on the newest developments for this year: pneumatics.  I added one new prop, a ghoul leaning forward from a chair.  I also pneumatically activated the tombstone jumper from last year and changed the jumper itself.  I also began building "heads" from wire mesh to better hold my masks in place.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

What I don't have a picture of is the electrical control box I built to activate my two pneumatic props.  It has a "master switch" with a light that indicates when the box is "hot".  Then there are two other switches, each one controls a standard electrical outlet.  Essentially, I have two light switches, one for each prop.  I ran extension cords from by box to the solenoids on each prop.  The cords were long enough to nearly reach the street, where I sat for most of the night.  I was far enough away that no one suspected I was really running everything.

Here is the chair jumper.  His "waist" is connected to the chair seat.  The pneumatic cylinder will push from the back and make the ghoul lean forward (enough to topple the chair if it is not braced).  The body is essentially the same PVC body as shown from last year.  The arms and legs are pool noodles.  The head is a wire mesh cage attached to a PVC neck.

Here is a look at the back of the chair jumper.  The pneumatic cylinder is a 12" pop-up sprinkler head that I bought from Home Depot for $10.  I took the sprinkler apart and literally stuck a cork in the end of the shaft that extends when the water is normally turned on.  That reduced the amount of air needed to begin pushing the shaft out.  After cutting the hole in the back of the chair, I had to add the masonite to provide a little more solid panel for the cylinder to push against.  I secured the cylinder using a hose clamp on the back.

Notice the in-line pressure regulator ($4 from Harbor Freight Tools).  It isn't very sensitive, but it effectively reduced the air pressure from 90 psi to 30 psi.

The short, yellow hose is connected the air supply (more info about that in the following pictures).

Here is a closer look at the pneumatic gear.  This happens to be for the tombstone jumper from last year.  I used a standard screen door closer (after drilling out the adjustment screw and inserting an air-hose repair fitting).

Let's start on the left-most side of the picture.  (1) The black hose is connected to my air compressor (which was kept behind the house with about 100' of hose reaching around to the front yard).  The black hose is also connected to the 7 gallon air tank. (2) The air tank provides close, quiet air for the prop, as standard air hoses can push that much air through them quickly.  I used a female "T" to connect both the air input and output to the blue tank.  (3) The solenoid controls the air flow to the prop.  It is electrically controlled (just like when your clothes washer lets the water in).  (4) The yellow hose carries the air to the pressure regulator.  (5)  The pressure regulator cuts the pressure down from 90 psi to 25 psi or so.  (6) When the air is supplied, the door closer will extend.  When the solenoid shuts off, the exhaust port will vent the air in the cylinder.

Here is the modified tombstone jumper, minus the costume and headstone.  You can see the wire cage I built for the head/mask.  This is a simple open-ended cylinder.  I rounded the top but left the bottom open so the head can nod a bit.  You can see the pressure regulator dial at the bottom of the door closer.  All it needs now is a switched-air source to control it.
The week before Halloween I told a coworker that I was disappointed with my fog chiller that I built last year.  I used it again this year with much better results.  I think the problem was the speed at which the fog was passing through the entire assembly (it was going through too quickly).  I used a cardboard tube about 8' long to slow the fog down a bit after it exited the chiller.  The result was pretty good fog that clung to the ground.  Unfortunately, the air outside cooled off very quickly and my chiller wasn't much colder than the ambient air, reducing the effectiveness (the fog started rising more as the temperature dropped).

Picture to the right was a test at the start of the evening.
Here is a shot of the driveway entrance.  The only changes from this viewpoint are the battery-powered sconces on the columns, the zombie rags on the mailbox and fence, and the white plastic fencing spaced out along the driveway in an attempt to keep the Trick-or-Treaters (TOTers) off of the grass.  The little fence didn't work so well as three separate kids were so frightened they tried to escape through the yard.  Next year I'll build more of the wooden fence (see Halloween2002 for details) and line the driveway completely.  It's more work, but I don't want any of the TOTers or my props to be hurt.
Here is the same figure with an improved spinal support (PVC pipe attached to seat of pants up to shoulders and head).  I built a wire cage for the mask to cover to keep everything in place a little better this year.  The little tombstones to the left are store-bought, but they add a little more variety to the scene.

Here are my eldest children posing with the chair jumper.  He is not yet named, so send me your suggestions.  He worked very well this year, but I plan to glue the PVC frame together for next year.  All of the violent jumping started spinning the head to the side and twisting the torso.
Here I am with my favorite prop, the coffin jumper.  He is all manual, but he still gets the most screams and shrieks.  It was about 5 pm and the kids were getting ready to go Trick-or-Treating and they took a few pictures while I finished setting up.
Here are Tessa, neighbor Kevin, and Keegan posing with The Brain.  This year he picked up a new hand and a PVC skeleton complete with a wire head cage.

Here's neighbor Kevin goofing off with a prop that needs a serious upgrade.  The light/sound is triggered by interrupted light, but I couldn't get enough light on the prop due to its placement this year.  Next year I will probably change the trigger to be a motion sensor.
That's my baby, Elias!  He is getting right into the Halloween spirit.  Lucky for us, we just got back from Walt Disney World where he was exposed to some scary environments, so my haunt was not much of a shock for him.  He'll probably be like his big brother and sister and not be afraid of Halloween decorations.
Here's a view of the haunt from the top of the driveway.  The TOTers would travel the driveway and the front walk, taking them right through the scary stuff.  The little dude in black to the left is actually a fog machine with a "face".  He has a timer and emitted a bunch of fog that night and only used half a tank of fog juice.  The large spider webs were leftovers from Paramount's Scarowinds 2002 that were rescued from the garbage by a friend.

Keegan and Tessa posing in the graveyard.  What wasn't caught on film was the tombstone jumper behind the pointed tombstone.  This year he was upgraded to pneumatic power and given a red face and black, Darth Maul clothes.  The air tank is hidden by black fabric just to the left of the tombstone.  As the jumper dropped when the air was vented, his PVC supports struck the air tank making a nice "clang" that I hadn't expected.  Next year this prop will be moved to a more noticeable position (he was too close to the front door and most kids were already looking for candy by the time they were close enough).