Halloween is my favorite holiday, so every year I create some sort of a haunted house - all for the neighborhood kids, of course!  A few solid state relays, a life size mannequin with a Darth Maul mask, a dozen carved pumpkins, a fog machine, and a laptop bring it to life or, possibly better stated, back to life.

MPEG movie of the 2000 Haunted porch (17 MB). It starts with a strobe light and thunder crashing; a spot light illuminates a skinned furby, which comes to life moaning and whining terribly. Suddenly there's darkness, and you can hear something breathing. Two red eyes glare out of the house window, and with a flash you see what's looking out! The lights cut out again to the sound of a window breaking and fading laughter.

I found that if you give a furby half its required voltage (3 volts instead of 6) it still turns on, but instead of batting its eyelashes and making baby sounds it moans and screams like it was just skinned. I wired it up to a voltage source and laptop to control this behavior.

Laser pointers were used to make Darth Maul's eyes glow. Inset is the trick-or-treaters' view.

Halloween 2002 MPEG movie
 (6.5 MB)  Darth Maul presided over a cardboard-box guillotine execution in the front hall this year. Here's just the soundtrack and here's a fragment of the controlling code.    

A crowd yells, there's a clap of thunder, and the blade falls. As it hits a pumps turns on, spraying warm water through the nozzles (shown in the left inset) onto anyone standing outside the doorway.  We then offered the head (actually a second matching mask filled with spaghetti, red sauce, and beets) along with some candy to the trick-or-treaters.  They all chose the candy.

MPEG soundtrack of the 2001 Haunted porch (500K). There's a flash of thunder and lighting and some maniacal laughing, a distant vehicle seems to be approaching. You hear the squeal of brakes and suddenly see two headlights just to your right and feel a rush of air. Darth Maul appears in the window and a witch laughs at you from above.

The "truck", shown above, is only two lights and a fan, but in a dense fog, shown in inset, it looks pretty convincing! Between the two headlights, I placed a webcam.

The continuous output of the webcam was projected onto a sheet of plastic, making it appear that whoever was standing on the porch was also floating in the middle of the front hallway. The effect is difficult to photograph (you can see the image of me standing on the porch pointing the camera into the house) and looks quite eerie even when the lighting is good.
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I also saved pictures from the webcam starting one second before the "truck headlights" turned on. The webcam then captured one picture per second for 6 seconds. The kids pictured in the sequence above are somewhere close to their tenth run through the haunted porch.  They can't wait to see what the next year's haunted house will be like, and have taken to massing on our front porch near dusk every Halloween!

The control center. A laptop generates the sound effects and switches the solid state relays that control the AC and DC to run the laser pointers, lights, fog machine, strobes, fans, furby, webcam etc...

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Of course, there are always lots of pumpkins!

More of my Halloween and pumpkin carving pictures can be found at: