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Almost all of the props/decorations are built to do something, they all have some type of movement/action involved. I have been building these props since I have been in the 4th grade after seeing one of my neighbors do the same, I used to walk down the street and try to understand how his display worked sometimes for hours at a time. When I was really young my Grandmother used to walk me down the street to see the display, I would wait all day in school just so I could see what was new. I eventually started making my own things, it started off small and as the years have gone by they have gotten more and more elaborate, sometimes I don’t realize what I am getting myself into.

People always ask me “Why do you put so much time, effort, and money into something that is only for one night?” and I say it’s not just one night, it’s something that I think about every single day of my life.  Being able to see the kids come by everyday to look at the yard is awesome because I can tell that they feel the same way that I felt when I was their age.


If you would like anything to go into more detail, leave a comment.
 

Step 1: Props Using Garage Door Openers

This section contains all of the props that are powered by garage door openers. Garage door openers work great because they work both ways (back and forth) and they have tracks so it is easy to attach props to the track. As of now there are 4 props using garage door openers. They are not cheap so they have to be used wisely. The Slide and the Porta Potty are controlled by the PicoBoo controller, while the bike and the swinging doors are controlled by modified motion sensors.

1. Slide
• Garage door opener brings the skeleton up and down  the slide
• Controlled by PicoBoo
 


2. Porta Potty
• Prop on a toilet comes out of the Porta Potty with a garage door opener and when it stops at the end a sprinkler valve turns on to  make him pee into a bucket
• Connects to house spigot
• Controlled by PicoBoo and a modified fog machine timer controls the water effects
 

 

3. Swinging doors
• Garage door opener brings prop out on a chair pushing the two doors open
• When he returns doors push in to reset to the starting position 
 


4. Bike
• Skeleton riding a bicycle, a garage door motor spins the back wheel and makes his legs move
 

Step 2: Motors

This section contains all the props controlled by different types of  motors. These motors are mainly taken from other products and tools. Cheap power tools work well because they can be taken apart easily and the motors within these tools are usually sufficient for the application. Most of these are controlled by the PicoBoo, but some do run on motion sensors.

1. Gymnast
• High powered drill spins bar on bearings
• Controlled by PicoBoo
 


2. Swings
• Powered by 1/2 HP 1750 rpm motor
• Two skeletons spin around in circle
• Controlled by PicoBoo
 


3. Electric chair
• Jig saw provides jerking motion while lights flash
• Electric firecracker makes cracking noise
• Controlled by PicoBoo
 


4. Spinning rat
• Electric buffer motor has rat mounted to top to make him spin and shake
 


5. Plane
• Box fan serves as a propeller
• Flashing lights and flag
• Hangs in tree
 


6. Reindeer motor skeleton box
• First moving prop I made back in 4th grade. Uses a motor found on light up Christmas reindeer to make it move up and down
 

Step 3: Pnuematics

This section contains all of the props that are controlled by air. All of these props run on a single 26 gallon compressor outputting about 60 PSI to the yard. The compressor is stored in the garage and hundreds of feet of air tube send air to each prop. Most of these props run on some type of motion sensor that are sold in stores. Each prop has a its own motion sensor with its own time setting.I have started to move away from motion sensors and began using relays and programmable 
controllers.

1. Street
• Shoots burst of water using an air cannon, pump refills cannon barrel water and compressor loads tank with air
• Controlled by a motion sensor and a modified fog machine timer
• Trash can moves up and down with pneumatic cylinder
• Trash can controlled by manual push button that visitors can control
 


2. Clown box
• Box opens and closes with pneumatic cylinder
 


3. Rat box
• Simple slanted box that opens and closes with a head inside
4. Hand box
• First pneumatic prop I made, originally used a sprinkler head, now uses pneumatic cylinder
 


5. Two door box
• Box that opens on the top and front sides with pneumatic cylinders
 


6. Wishing well
• Big wishing well, motion triggered head pops up from below vision line
 


7. Pop up grave
• Grave with RIP YANKEES on it,  mask pops up from behind grave with converted sprinkler head acting as a cylinder

8. Dice box
• Box looks like a black and white colored dice, sprinkler head pops up with mask attached

9. Treasure chest
• Pirate chest with treasure inside opens and closes with pneumatic cylinder

Step 4: Non- Moving Props

Each of these props here don't have any mechanical motion involved but are very detail oriented. These are some of the oldest props which I have kept around and maintained over the past 10 years. All of them take on different forms than what they originally started out as but they all have the same basic design.

1. Clown doctor
• Looks like a surgeons table with a bloody clown doctor and body parts

2. Clock
• Classic style clock , added books to bottom with a bird inside the clock housing

3. Hanger
• Witch hanging from a gallow

4. Jail
• Werewolf inside, with lights and fog

5. Meat bar
• Butcher stop that looks like a lemonade stand, has body parts and a lot of gruesome things

6. Witch Cauldron
• Cauldron filled with missing body parts

7. Guillotine
• Big blade appears to be cutting off head, head is in a bucket of blood

8. Detailed Graves/ headstones
• These all have different sayings on them, my favorite is the one above (RIP HIGH SCHOOL 2008-2013)

 

Step 5: Timing, Programming, and Power

There are several ways that  the props are triggered and programmed. The older props are triggered by individual motion sensors, the newer ones are controlled by time delay relays and a PicoBoo controller.

The motion sensors require a lot of extra parts for it to work properly. The PicoBoo controller allows you to easily write a program controlling outputs.  

Getting power to the yard can be difficult because there are certain props that have to be connected to specific outlets. The power supply has to be planned out in order to avoid tripping the circuits. This year the yard is powered by 4 separate circuits. Two of them are connected to timers and the other two are manually switched on and off from inside the house. Over a thousand feet of extension cord is used to power the yard. 

Step 6: Use of Water in Props

Two of the props this year have water features. Two hoses supply the water to the props, and a sprinkler valve connected to a timer controls when the water is released.

Porta Potty- this prop uses a garage door opener to send out a character on a toilet out of a Porta Potty, when the motor stops the sprinkler valve turns on and lets the water flow. The water flows as if the character is urinating into a bucket from a few feet away. When the toilet returns to the Porta Potty the water shuts off. 

Street- this is a replica of a work site in a street, there is a worker climbing out of a man hole, with a bursting pipe effect. There is a tank of water under the prop that has an air cannon mounted inside. The air cannon has a 45°, 5-6 inch barrel that is constantly being refilled by a small water pump in the tank. When the air is discharged from the air cannon tank the water bursts out and soaks the people in the vacinity. The cannon is triggered by a modified fog machine timer which is set to fire every 10 seconds while there is motion in front of it. 

Step 7: Lighting and Other Efffects

Each of the props have multiple lights that go along with their movements. I also use other lights such as strobe lights, black lights, light machines, and flickering lights. 

Fog machines are also a crucial part of the display, these are expensive to keep running so they generally will not go out until a few days before Halloween. As of right now I have 8 fog machines working. 

For extra effects there are large 1900's style boxes and trunks to cover the front of the yard. Hay is also used for special effects, it is useful to make everything flow together and cover blank areas between props.

There is also a Pac-Man style video game machine, that plays a video on a continuous loop. The video is composed of several different clips and sounds taken from online. I own no rights to any of the clips.

Step 8: Master List of 2013

                 


1. Plane
• Fan serves as propeller
• Flashing lights and flag
• Hangs in tree
2. Slide
• Garage door opener brings skeleton up and down
• Controlled by PicoBoo
3. Gymnast
• High powered drill spins bar on bearings
• Controlled by PicoBoo
4. Street
• Shoots burst of water using an air cannon, pump refills cannon water and compressor loads tank with air
• Controlled by a motion sensor and a mod of a fog machine timer
• Trash can moves up and down with pneumatic cylinder
• Trash can controlled by manual push button that visitors can control
5. Button
• This is what controls the trash can on the street prop, when people push the button lights up and trash can goes up   and down
6. Swings
• Powered by 1/2 HP 1750 rpm motor
• Two skeletons spin around in circle
• Controlled by PicoBoo
7. Electric chair
• Jig saw provides jerking motion, lights flash
• Electric firecracker makes cracking noise
• Controlled by PicoBoo
8. Porto potty
• Comes out of Porta Potty with garage door opener and when it stops at end sprinkler valve turns on to make him       pee in to bucket
• Connects to hose to keep water flowing
• Controlled by PicoBoo and the mod fog machine timer
9. Swinging doors
• Garage door opener brings prop out on a chair pushing the two doors open
• When he returns doors push in to reset to position one
10. Jail
• Werewolf inside, with lights and fog
11. Clown box
• Box opens and closes with pneumatic cylinder
12. Clown doctor
• Looks like a surgeons table with bloody clown doctor and body parts
13. Hanger
• Witch hanging from a gallow
14. Treasure chest
• Pirate chest with treasure inside opens and closes with pneumatic cylinder
15. Rat box
• Simple slanted box that opens and closes with a head inside
16. Clock
• Clock found at the dump, added books to bottom and put a bird inside the clock housing
17. Two door box
• Box that opens on the top and front sides with pneumatic cylinders
18. Bike
• Skeleton riding bicycle, garage door motor spins back wheel and makes his legs move
19. Reindeer motor skeleton box
• First moving prop I made back in 4th grade. Uses a motor found on the light up Christmas reindeers to make it   move up and down
20. Pop up grave
• Grave with RIP YANKEES on it,  mask pops up from behind grave with converted sprinkler head acting as a cylinder
21. Hand box
• First pneumatic prop, originally used a sprinkler head, now uses pneumatic cylinder
22. Dice box
• Box looks like a opposite colored dice, sprinkler head pops up with mask
23. Pac man
• Pac man machine like design, has TV and speakers, plays a looping video that gets really loud
• (see attached video on step 6 )
24. Meat bar
• Lemonade like looking stand that is a butcher shop stand, has body parts and lots of gruesome things
25. Witch Cauldron
• Cauldron filled with missing body parts
26. Guillotine
• Big blade appears to be cutting off head, head is in a bucket of blood
27. Wishing well
• Big wishing well, motion triggered head pops up from below vision line
28. Spinning rat
• Electric buffer motor has rat mounted to top to make him shake and spin
29. 8 fog machines
30. 60 lights
31. 10 graves
32. 12 motion sensors
33. Assortment of boxes and trunks (6-8)
34. Two water/hose outlets
35. 4 garage door openers
36. 10 pneumatic cylinders
37. FM radio transmitter
38. PicoBoo controller
39. Halloween light show manchine
40. 26 gallon compressor

 

About This Instructable

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Bio: Studio Art Major at University of New Hampshire
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