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Halloween 2009

I fixed the “Cat in the Box” prop. It was a simple matter of installing some brackets that will prevent the “drawer” from sliding all the way out. The drawer slides I used (free) lock when fully extended. I didn’t account for that when I put everything together. At its inauguration last year, it worked great, for about ½ second. The drawer locked and I had to lift it a bit to get it to slide back. Well, barring other issues, this one should work this year.

The Talking Skull had a broken wire controlling the jaw. It was a fairly quick repair, considering how long it took me to install the wire the first time. I supposed it would technically be called a “push rod”, for those who build Radio Controlled planes.

The Rack passed initial testing, but the audio simply doesn’t trigger reliably. It turns out the Radio Shack Recording Module changed features at some point. My older ones will play once the “button” is pushed, and will continue to play to the end, even if the “button” is pushed again. This newer model (probably three years old now) will stop the audio playback if the “button” is pushed a second time. The Rack’s audio trigger is a simple contraption that closes a circuit by pressing a wire across the two exposed wires that make up the circuit. Unfortunately, the effect is that the audio starts/stops/starts/stops over and over, usually without hearing anything through the speakers. I’ve opted to just play the audio continuously and turn the speakers on and off when I trigger the prop. I’ll need to either find a new Recording Module, or build an enhancement to the Radio Shack unit to ignore subsequent “triggers” during some kind of timeframe.

The first new addition this year is called “Twitcher”. It is a man-sized, headless body that will be suspended by the feet with arms tied behind his back. A head will rest on the ground below the body. This year the head is a Bucky skull with fake eyeballs in the sockets and a cheap, Wal-Mart mask. When triggered, Twitcher will appear to bend at the waste. I don’t have a sound track for this prop, yet, but perhaps if there is time.

The second new addition is a Spirit Ball (Frankenstein head inside). I’ve modified it to additionally play the audio through an external headphone jack, and triggered by a motion sensor. The audio will be played through a huge bass amp that my sister gave me last year (plenty of volume there). I modified a standard floodlight motion sensor to simply close a circuit, rather than deliver 110v when triggered.

The third new addition this year is a talking plastic skull I picked up at Lowe’s after Halloween in 2008. I bypassed the motion sensor in the forehead so it can be triggered simply by turning on the A/C. It will play the original audio, move the jaw to match and LED eyes blink. My last set of speakers didn’t work, so I’ll need to (hopefully) pickup another set at the local Goodwill Technology store. I plan to trigger this one manually.

With only two nights to go, I took an inventory of all the working props and realized that I had eight “triggered” props, but my switchboxes would only accommodate seven devices. So, after a quick trip to Wal-Mart to buy light switches and electrical outlets (four of each), I built a second switchbox (to match the last one). Now I have capacity for eleven switched items, although I can’t imagine one person trying to manage that many on/off decisions. Also, most of these props are pneumatic, so my air system probably couldn’t support that much activity. At least, the air system would probably need a second air compressor.

The only prop I haven’t tested (and don’t normally test) is “Vomitous”. It involves a water pump and a fairly large supply of water. It’s a pain to test, so well just keep our fingers crossed. I have already purchased the pack of highlighters, and will likely upgrade to a standard, plastic trash can this year.

It’s now 4 am, Friday morning (Halloween is tomorrow night!). I’m heading to bed for a few hours, then I’m off to the Goodwill Tech store and Harbor Freight (need some more air connectors). I hope to get all the rebar out of the basement in the afternoon.

Happy Halloween! It’s 12:15 am, Halloween day. I just finished prepping everything, including the new campsite stuff. My sister is bringing an old tent from Atlanta tonight, which I will shred and “bloodify” tomorrow. Now I’m going to take a little time to search for an audio file I might use again.

Well, it's November 1st. Halloween went well enough, but boy, did it rain! We didn't count attendance this year, but based on the candy distribution, we were probably in the vicinity of 900 people again. We experienced a few brief rains early in the evening, but that barely slowed anyone down. The big rain came around 8:30 and it rained, hard, for the next 45 minutes. Everything was soaked. Just as the rain started, we lost power to half the lights/props, so we cut power to everything (for safety). It's all spread out to dry in the garage, driveway, and backyard.

This year my sister and neices came to visit for (and help with) Halloween. My sister's friend and his kids also joined in the fun. My Mom spent some time scaring people with the Coffin Jumper, while Dad was taking pictures/video. I spent most of the night running around fixing minor problems (and one major break-down). I couldn't have kept everything running without all the help this year. Thanks everyone!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Now, for the pictures!
Final Preparation Me and the Grave Digger What's left?
Meet Headless Bob What every campsite needs! Going for a hike?
A little pre-setup mess Cemetary Grave Digger in position
The Twitcher (new in '09) Coffin Jumper Vomitous (not puking yet)
The Rack Coffin Sitter Chair Jumper
Lawnmower Man I Lawnmower Man II Lemonade Stand
Setting up Campsite Bicyclist
Elias It was his idea! Electric Chair

Ready to go!