Props to Spook, Scare and Delight

By Mayank Sharma. Posted

Halloween decorations are an important aspect of the celebrations. With a little electronics though you can take their spookiness to unprecedented levels.

Erin St. Blaine has taken a leaf out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to create a ‘real’ eye of newt. The project runs off the Teensy microcontroller, which controls the OLED display breakout board. Erin grabbed the images of the newt eyeball from the web – she then photoshopped to her preferences. She’s shared them, along with the code for the project and detailed assembly instructions.

The project uses a photocell to make the pupils dilate in low light, which is a nice touch. Erin’s also created a fabric case for the prop, which hides all the electronics and displays the eye through a cabochon. Before you set out, remember that the project might look easy but involves a lot of soldering.

Sometimes projects come about accidentally. It wasn’t until after John Thurmond had bought an animatronic triceratops skull on impulse, did it occur to him that it wasn’t particularly interesting.

John, who is a founder member of the Guild of Makers, then did what any maker would do; he turned it into a talking skull that greets people.

John ripped open the skull and replaced most of its internals with an Amazon Echo, an Arduino, and a speaker. He also placed an Adafruit Motor Shield inside the skull and connected it to the skull motor. The contraption was programmed to turn the motor and move the jaws of the skull. The whole animation, audio, and jaw movement were triggered by the skull’s original motion sensor.


On similar lines, the Haunted Jack in the Box also took shape as its maker went about building it.

Haunted jack in the box

Sean Hodgins tells us that he knew what he wanted to build, but “just didn’t know exactly how it was going to get there”. Sean used his background in automotive technology and AI to put a Raspberry Pi to good use and automatically cranks the popular prop making it a lot scarier.

First, Sean 3D-printed a shell for the contraption. He then paired a Raspberry Pi Camera Module to a Raspberry Pi 3 that runs a face-detection script to fire up a servo motor that cranks the music box and fires up Jack. You can find the Python script, along with the complete schematics for the project, in Sean’s Instructables page.

He warns us that anyone looking to replicate his build must be prepared to deal with a lot of wires strewn about the toy.

From one Halloween staple to another. Jack-O-Lanterns are the most common props you’ll find on Halloween, and while you can be creative with them, making them throw flames will definitely turn heads.

Fire-breathing jack-o-lantern

Markus Haack’s fire-breathing Jack-O-Lantern is IoT-enabled using MQTT. Before you begin, please understand this build is extremely dangerous because it deals with fire.

Please replicate this build after taking appropriate protections. We’d also like to repeat Markus’s warning: make sure you place the pumpkin at a safe location to not harm any person or property.

We’ll add our own warning: compressed flammable gasses and candles are a hazardous combination. Take responsibility for your own safety and only work with them if you’re confident of the safety of your approach.

The project basically involves triggering a can of WD-40 to spray its contents across a burning candle inside the pumpkin, which erupts outside giving the impression that the pumpkin is throwing flames. Needless to say, the first part of the project involves building the flamethrower.

Markus has built one atop a wooden platform. The key element of the platform is a servo-controlled piece of wire over the nozzle of the WD-40 can. The servos, in turn, are triggered by PIR motion sensors that detect when someone is approaching the prop. The project is simple to wire and is run via the minuscule ESP8266 board.

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