Introduction: Making a Motorized Secret Entrance

Picture of Making a Motorized Secret Entrance
If you're decorating along the lines of a haunted house or a superhero lair, a secret entrance is just the thing to get Halloween guests into your home. In our case, we threw a Superhero costume party and wanted to build a motorized, moving wall activated by statue - a nod to the Batman series of the 60s.

- Surprise guests with an apparently closed room as they walk in
- Give them a riddle to figure out how to open the hidden door/wall
- Keep the area this occupies to a functional minimum so it doesn't take up too much actual entertaining space

Step 1: Planning the Layout

Picture of Planning the Layout

We have a tiled area at our front door which defined a natural boundary for our fake room. The area is large enough for 2-3 guests to comfortably walk in and move around, and small enough that it doesn't occupy too much of the (real) room.

We decided that walking in from the front door, into a tiny room with only walls wouldn't seem very plausible. To help sell the illusion we hung a door in front of you as you walk in, but boarded it up, so the room appeared as a small vestibule which was no longer passable. We left the knob off this door, just to keep guests from trying to go through it (despite the boards). Which leads me to a point about safety...

Step 2: Framing and Safety

Picture of Framing and Safety

It's important to realize that guests may push on any wall, looking for a way in, and you don't want anything collapsing. Sometimes Halloween props can be flimsy and just for looks; this isn't one of those times. So I took care to build a sturdy structure framed mostly with 2x4s. Given our particular geometry, and materials used, we got away with only anchoring one top corner to the actual wall with a single screw.

For the section of the wall that makes up the secret door, we used lighter materials so the job of moving it would be easier on the motor. It consists of just one 2x4 on the edge where it hinges, a 1x3 across the top, a 1x4 across the bottom, and a lightweight 2x3 steel stud on the side that moves. Since this section was light, just two hinges were used to connect it to the other framing.

There's about an inch gap at the top and bottom of the framing of this section, so there's plenty of clearance to move. The gaps would be covered once the "walls" were added.

Step 3: Walling It In

Picture of Walling It In

The walls and a false ceiling were added with panels of pink insulation foamboard. It's lightweight, easy to cut, hang, and paint, plus easy to re-use for a different project later. Two inch masking tape works great to cover seams and screws - in spooky lighting it disappears nicely.

You could do any faux paint finish inside - we just painted everything white to blend with our existing doors and (real) walls.

Step 4: Adding the Wheel and Motor

Picture of Adding the Wheel and Motor

A small 12 volt motor was used to motorize the door. The motor came with a gearbox with an  output (free) speed of around 60-90 rpm. A motor that's nicely geared down is what's needed here - for one, you don't want the door moving too fast, and the gearing lets you use a pretty small motor. Once everything is hooked up it takes the motor about 6-7 seconds to open the door. The slow speed helps give the illusion that the wall is very heavy, plus it's safe in case anyone is standing too close on the other side.

The wheel is a hard rubber wheelchair wheel salvaged from some past robotics projects.

The wheel and motor were mounted so the wheel extends below, and supports, the bottom of the door framing.

Step 5: Electrical Work

Picture of Electrical Work

The motor is powered by a typical 120vac-12vdc adapter. I mounted a double pole, double throw (DPDT) switch outside of the fake room to operate the door in either direction.

To open the door from inside the room, two limit switches were mounted just under the base of a statue (see the photo). The switches are wired as "normally closed". When the statue is resting on the switches, they are open, and they become closed when the statue is tilted. Two switches (rather than one) were used because it was an easy way to tie into the existing circuit with the DPDT switch.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Some final details really help to pull everything together. Also, the surprise of the wall opening is heightened if the lighting/decor is different on either side of the room. Inside, we added some webbing and LED candles inside for a run-down, creepy atmosphere. Outside we had different colored lighting and decorations.

We marked the swing of the door with an arc of gaffers tape on the floor. This would keep our guests aware of not standing too close as more people come in.

The final touch was a small riddle inside to give guests a clue of how to enter.


MCUman (author)2010-11-11

Rig some candle sconces with a switch, that way you can yell, "Put za cendle BECK!" to get the door to open.

RaNDoMLeiGH (author)MCUman2010-11-11

I was just thinking something like that when I saw your post.

Coffee+monitor=five stars for you.

MCUman (author)RaNDoMLeiGH2010-11-12

Great minds...!

D00M99 (author)2010-11-07

This is AMAZING! Totally creepy.

And the front door squeaks too!

eulaliaaaa! (author)2010-11-07

Sweet! Love the riddle!

Cross_ made it! (author)2015-10-12

Inspired by your awesome design, I have begun building our haunted patio. Because the door is very lightweight I am simply using a (WiFi controlled) servo to open/close it.

The trigger is a micro-switch inside a hollowed out book as can be seen in the video :

MarcoG4 (author)2015-09-06

Where did you find the motor & gearbox? Do you remember its specs?

flaming_pele! (author)MarcoG42015-09-14

I don't recall the type of motor other than being 12 volts. I got it from a supply house for salvaged electronics, so I don't know where it came from, but it was probably automotive - maybe a seat motor assembly. The motor was pretty high rpm, but the gearbox brought the speed down to 60-90 rpm (unloaded).

enagel3 (author)2013-03-23


sofiadragon1979 (author)2012-07-11

I've been trying to think of a way to set up a neat entrance to a dark room & I think that this might be a good idea.

tinker234 (author)2012-02-20

could this be setup to run all year long under the floor possibly

caarntedd (author)2011-10-20

I think I gave this 5 stars last year, have another 5. Awesome.

scraptopower (author)2011-10-20

Nice work!

Mella2013 (author)2011-09-15


battle (author)2010-11-17

What if someone else is in the room with them and they both find out then someone else comes in and people just watch the other people in front of them to find out what to do and it just keeps going on? Because thats not in the instructable!
P.S Know that you shouldn't start a sentence with because

SuperCoPilot (author)2010-11-16

i may have screamed in glee a little, just a little

JermsG (author)2010-11-13

Minor typo:
"Two inch masking tape works great to cover seems..." - I think you mean seams.

flaming_pele! (author)JermsG2010-11-15

Thx, fixed!

warlock1935 (author)2010-11-12

OK, now we know how the guests OPEN the door. How do you get it closed again? Manually?

There's a switch on the other side (after you walk in) that can open or close the door (see the video in the intro and the pic in step 5. I didn't see a need to close it from the other side, but there are certainly ways to do that if needed.

the3stoogess (author)warlock19352010-11-12

why not try using a motor that turns either way. and rig it so that when the statue goes down, it automatically closes. and once the wall reaches its end point, just make a strip that it can connect to so that it will tell the motor to shut off. just play around with the wiring and it should work out pretty easily

battle (author)2010-11-08

so you have a camera so that you can see when someone makes george say yes and then you pres the button

Shiftlock (author)battle2010-11-11

Instead of asking a question like this (if it was a question - not sure due to lack of punctuation), why not just look at the entire instructable? The answer is in there. As it turns out, your assumption was wrong, and it really makes you look a bit daft.

3DMHuff (author)Shiftlock2010-11-13

I think it was more of a suggestion than question.

fungus amungus (author)battle2010-11-09

step 5. there's a switch under the head

goblindust (author)2010-11-12

Excellent!! Must keep this one in mind for next years Halloween! Many thanks for sharing the great idea.

janettetsmith (author)2010-11-11

Incredibly cool!  What about after Halloween, did you tear it all down :`( or is it now a permanent remodeling.  Again, very cool.

Sadly I took it all down a couple nights ago. We got to enjoy it for about 3 weeks, though. All the raw materials are back in the garage for reuse next t Halloween!

rexdino5 (author)2010-11-11

Do you have a video of this or did you already rip it down?

flaming_pele! (author)rexdino52010-11-12

A video is embedded in the Intro.

ghostWolf59 (author)2010-11-11

the strip in the floor gives it away and make it look pretty bad

The extra door doesn't make mush sense either. A secret panel next to a door - sheesh

Nachoman (author)ghostWolf592010-11-11

It's supposed to be a secret door. It doesn't mater if its unpractical or if it looks tacky on the inside: What matters is that it should look like another section of wall on the other side.
Besides, is for amusement. Haven't you ever given a kid a toy that does nothing but make noise?

I guess you must have had a pretty sad childhood...

Charlie13 (author)2010-11-11

i'm definitely incorporating this in the house that i build for myself

mattyh (author)2010-11-11

Man thats soo Awesome! that would make cool additional to my nerd cave / smoking room.

bsteines (author)2010-11-11

Where does one get a motor with gearbox (servo) that big?

flaming_pele! (author)bsteines2010-11-11

Check ebay listings for 12volt motors, some of them come with gearboxes. My motor is from Johnson Controls, there's always lots of them floating around online.

See if you have any local mechanical/electronics surplus or salvage stores near you. Look for motors you can rip out of old toys, tools, etc. Old cordless drills are great for projects like this!

connor123 (author)2010-11-11


IMQuestor (author)connor1232010-11-11

read step 5

Shiftlock (author)2010-11-11

Amazing. Seems like s a lot of work for a Halloween party. You basically framed out what could be a permanent wall and door. I always envy people who go overboard with holiday decorating. Awesome job and nice write up.

Couple of questions. Is there anything holding the statue to the base? How long did the whole project take you, and approximately what did it cost in supplies?

flaming_pele! (author)Shiftlock2010-11-11

I added an extra sketch to step 5. The front edge is just taped down. It's enough to keep someone from lifting it off or it getting misaligned to where it'd miss the switches.

gdhenson (author)2010-11-09

My wife would beat me purple if I tried to do something like this.

flaming_pele! (author)gdhenson2010-11-11

I'm lucky, not only do I *not* get beat purple, but she helps with the crazy.

gdhenson (author)flaming_pele!2010-11-11

See. That's what I get for marrying for money.

demidan (author)gdhenson2010-11-11

You just need to marry crzd money.

Spectre208 (author)2010-11-11

I want to make this too! I think I'll add smoke to it when the door opens..

flaming_pele! (author)Spectre2082010-11-11

Oh, GREAT idea! It wouldn't be hard at all to put a relay in the motor circuit to trigger a fog machine :)

Mikeymo (author)2010-11-11

I like it a lot! Very nicely done. What turns the motor off once it reaches full open, and off again once it goes back to full close?

flaming_pele! (author)Mikeymo2010-11-11

I kept it simple. The motor just runs as long as the switch is pressed or as long as the head is tilted.

I considered all kinds of fancier latching circuits with extra limit switches so the whole motion would be triggered off a momentary input, but I opted to K.I.S.S. instead. You lose some of what could be a cool automation feel, but you do get better control (e.g. just open it a crack to peek in, or stop it mid-swing if someone's in the way, etc.).

Shiftlock (author)2010-11-11

You're right, would not be good if it swung open really fast. I got this image in my head of guests milling about in costumes, perhaps a little tipsy, and someone getting whacked to the floor by the crazy swinging wall every time someone entered. Hah! :-)

Thereyouhaveit (author)2010-11-11

Do you get the inception ?

About This Instructable




Bio: Web developer by day. Gamer by night. Halloween fanatic and DIYer, all the time! My projects tend to combine pop culture, technology, and craftsmanship to ... More »
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