Halloween DIY: 6 Projects You Can Build Now

If you are like me, you enjoy putting on a little show for your neighbors on Halloween night. As an engineer, I like cool projects that use my knowledge but that won't take me down a rabbit hole of problems and missed deadlines (the most important being Halloween night). Here are some cool projects any electonics-savvy DIYer can do to entertain the neighborhood spooks on October 31.

Cabe Atwell's Scary Door Project
One of the more elaborate DIY Halloween projects that has been designed to greet costumed patrons was created by yours truly, Cabe Atwell, in the form of my Raspberry Pi Halloween Effects Door (a.k.a. the Scary Door).

This project may need a warning sign located near the door as it could very well induce a state of terror in anyone under the age of 25 (approach at your own risk). All kidding aside, the door is activated as patrons pass by an optical sensor. This sets the door in motion and activates a series of horror-filled videos, which are shown on the door's embedded 24-inch LCD display. The door's front face is constructed of sheet-metal, which has a series of air pistons and solenoid valves behind it that strike the metal in time with the video being played, as though something or someone is behind it. A pair of Raspberry Pi SBCs, along with a SaneSmart 8 rely board control the show, with one initiating and controlling the video and the other, along with a PiFace Digital module, controlling the physical hardware including the valves and pistons.

The project was encoded using C and C++ to bring every scary detail together, including initiation, video display, and the timing between the media and piston strikes. Altogether, this results in a terrifying experience that would seem to belong in a large attraction rather than at someone's front door.

See the door in action and a list of materials on my project page.

The best part about it, I provide everything you need to build this project yourself! I did this, not just for the love of Halloween, but to see what other DIY practitioners can do with it. I really hope to see a return of the backyard haunted house — perhaps my project will help make that happen!

This article originally appeared on EBN's sister site EETimes.

Windell's Robotic Dalek Pumpkin
What could be more frightening than spooky ghosts or evil witches on Halloween night? How about one of Doctor Who's most fearsome foes in robotic pumpkin form, which Windell (from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories) unveiled a few years back but is still terrifying nonetheless.

The pumpkin is outfitted with two rubber wheels connected to a pair of servo-motors for movement, with a chair caster harvested for a third wheel providing direction. The wheels are connected to a blank circuit board platform positioned at the bottom of the pumpkin. A Third servo-motor powers a large plastic bearing and worm-gear mechanism to turn the Dalek's head (in one direction only), which is actually the bottom of the pumpkin with a carrot eye protrusion and ears. All three motors are connected to an onboard receiver that's RC controlled using a Hitec Focus III joystick controller that features servo-mixing (changing the thrust and steering mode).

To round out the Dalek's distinctive look, Windell used a melon baller to place the pumpkin's innards on the robot's outer casing using toothpicks. A mixer and thermometer complete the look (and are far less dangerous than real weapons and sensors), making for one frightening Halloween display.

Chris Osborn's Halloween Trick-or-Treat Greeter
While the Robotic Dalek Pumpkin was designed to be as terrifying as its TV cousin, it no less would attract costumed kids and onlookers to your door for candy and other sweets. The same can be said for Chris Osborn’s Halloween Trick-or-Treat Greeter, which also harnesses technology for a DIY creepy good time.

The “greeter” is actually just your everyday scarecrow with a few modifications to make it a perfect fit for Halloween. Chris's greeter functions using a motion sensor positioned at the end of his walk that, once tripped, sends the display into computer-controlled action. The display begins with the lights shutting off as the trick-or-treaters approach (after triggering the motion sensor). Scary sounds then begin to play through a speaker housed in the scarecrow's chest, after which the pumpkin head slowly begins to light-up while simultaneously saying, “Help me!” After the display's plea goes unanswered, the lights begin to dim; the scary sounds stop, and the lights come back on.

The show is controlled by a Raspberry Pi (running Heyu with a CM11A module), with X10 modules controlling the lighting along with a powered speaker connected to the Pi's analog port for sound. While Chris's setup may seem tame by large haunted attraction standards, it's leaps and bounds over the traditional blow-up displays found on some lawns and much creepier in presentation.

Mrfixitrick's Tesla Spirit Radio
Halloween is all about remembering the spirits, so why not try to contact one using mrfixitrick’s Tesla Spirit Radio? His radio was actually influenced by E.J. Gold's Crystal Quantum Radio devices that are purported to help user's get “in-tune” with themselves to relieve stress and other negative conditions.

The radio does, however, have its roots based in 19th century early radio experiments by Nikola Tesla and even features some of the same technology, including a similar L-C circuit design. Instead of using Tesla's rotating nickel detectors and relays for tuning in spiritual beings, mrfixitrick opted for 1N34A crystal germanium for use as a suitable substitute, which is housed inside of a jam jar. The radio is capable of picking up AM radio and can be connected to a PC where it can create spooky sound effects from EM sources, RF sources, and even various lighting sources.

Marc92's Multi-Color LED Fog Spreader
What would Halloween be without the creepy ambiance to deaden up the festivities? Maker marc92 designed his Multi-Color LED Fog Spreader to upgrade the old-aged fog boxes still in use today.

Unlike those old boxes, his can project fog in multiple directions and in multiple different colors over the standard white. The box uses a typical fog machine that has been outfitted with PVC pipes to disperse the fog along with a series of multi-colored LEDs embedded onto the pipe to change its color. The LEDs are connected to SPDT and SPST switches that are connected to a 5.9V power supply, which in-turn provide power and color selectivity, respectively. This is one project that won't break the bank and provides the necessary atmosphere needed for authentic spooky undertones that can accentuate any Halloween décor.

Rich Osgood's DIY Pressure Plate Switch
Triggering various haunted displays and attractions can be both expensive and difficult to accomplish, however it doesn't have to be. Rich Osgood has designed an inexpensive DIY Pressure Plate Switch that can be adapted for just about any project, haunted or not.

The materials needed to make the pressure switch can be found in most homes, including corrugated cardboard, aluminum foil, and duck tape, making it almost free to construct. To build the switch, cut a pair of identical rectangles out of the cardboard (roughly 15×19 inches) along with about six 1×15 inch cardboard strips. Cover each side of the larger rectangle pieces with aluminum foil, which will act as the plate's electrical contact points, creating a circuit. The duck tape is used to hold the foil in place as well as to create an insulating layer to separate the top and bottom contact points without being triggered. The thin strips of cardboard are sandwiched in between the two large, rectangular, foil-wrapped pieces to provide a spring-like barrier that can be triggered when pressure is applied. Sure, the plates degrade over repeated use, but they can be replaced as often as necessary without breaking the bank.

That's it for now. Enjoy your Halloween projects.

This article originally appeared on EBN's sister site EETimes.

3 comments on “Halloween DIY: 6 Projects You Can Build Now

    November 3, 2014

    I thnk you may have stumbled upon an idea for a new company.  Give up the day job and get cracking.  Well done.

  2. Ashu001
    November 4, 2014


    As Caleb has very nicely pointed out here;these are just Part-time Projects for him.

    He loves experimenting but just is'nt ready to move into the Whole Business of Business full-time!

    Maybe in Due course of time he will become a Full-On Entrepreneur!!

  3. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    November 4, 2014

    There's a whole new breed of professional makers who are really making a splash… and distributors are getting new business from them as they try to serve this emerging community of entrepreneurs.

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