This instructable shows you how to build a terrifying laser vortex tunnel for your Halloween yard or trail haunt. This is an awesome addition to any haunt. Our haunted trail customers (who were not too scared to go through it) were raving about it after the event. Overall this project cost was around $200 - $300 for all the parts, but it is well worth it if you have the space and budget available.
The finished dimensions of the tunnel measure 13 feet wide by 6-1/2 feet tall. The length of our tunnel was 60 feet, but it can easily be shortened to save money on parts and supplies, or lengthened if you have the budget and plenty of helpers.
Please be sure to keep safety in mind when building a project like this. Also, be sure to check if your local laws will permit the use of plastic sheeting in your haunt. Many fire codes prohibit plastic from being used in structures or props.
- ¾” x 10 foot thick walled PVC pipes (37)
- ¾” PVC Tee couplers (6)
- ¾” PVC 4-way couplers (11)
- ¾” PVC elbow couplers (4)
- ¾” x 4” Snap Clamps (box of 100) http://www.snapclamp.com
- ¾” x 3” Grip Clamps (2 boxes of 25) http://www.snapclamp.com
- Landscaping stakes (32)
- 4.5 mil black poly sheeting (20’ x 100’ roll)
- High tensile strength string or twine (1 roll)
- ½” re-bar cut in 2’-3’ lengths (24)
- ¾” screws (1 box)Plastic zip ties (1 large package)
- Miscellaneous scrap wood, fasteners, hinges & paint for fascade
Step 1: Measure & Blueprint Your Layout
You’ll want to find a good location for your tunnel, preferably somewhere with even ground and somewhat protected from the wind.
The tunnel supports are constructed with 10 foot lengths of ¾ inch PVC pipe. The supports should be no greater than 5 feet apart, otherwise the connecting pipes will sag and the overall structure will be very weak. Use a saw or pipe cutter to cut the 10 foot pipes in half to create the middle support separators.
It’s a good idea to draw the entire project. I used Microsoft Visio to draw the entire layout to scale.
Once your drawing is complete, make a detailed shopping list. This will help you to better estimate the entire cost of the project. It will also help to prevent many frustrating trips to the hardware store.
Step 2: Frame Construction
Once you have all the necessary parts, it’s time to begin assembly. Start by assembling the middle support separators, or “spine” of the structure. A Tee connector should be press fit on the ends and 4-way connectors should be used every 5 feet to attach the arches. Obviously do not use glue if you plan on taking this structure apart in the future. Just press-fit everything for now. It may help to smack the end of each pipe with a rubber mallet to make sure they seat properly.
Once you have the spine built to the length you want, add the 10 foot pipes for the arch supports.
Drill a small pilot hole and insert a short 3/4” screw into the fitting for each joint. This will hold everything together but still allow you disassemble the structure when finished. It will be “temporarily permanent” if that makes any sense.
Step 3: Erecting the Structure
Drive a piece of ½ inch rebar into the ground 3.5 feet in from the end of each arch support.
Working on one arch support at a time, have a friend help you bend the PVC pipe supports and insert the ends onto the rebar.
Next, drill a small hole through every other support about 2 to 3 feet from the ground. Tie a bright colored high-strength nylon string or twine to each hole to act as a guy wire to hold the structure to the ground. Tie the ends to
landscaping stakes and pound them into the ground with a mallet or hammer. Try to keep the guy wires out of the main traffic areas in and around your tunnel to prevent tripping your customers and monsters. If you think you have too many guy wires, you probably don’t. Especially if you are in an area prone to high winds and storms.
Get creative with your exit doorway. We put ours to the side and made the terrified customers try to find their way out.
Step 4: Adding the Plastic Sheeting
Now it’s time for the plastic sheeting. We used a roll of 20 foot by 100 foot 4.5 mil black plastic sheeting. To hold the sheeting in place, we used snap clamps and grip clamps (http://www.snapclamp.com).
The grip clamps were used to secure the plastic on the bottom of each arch support for extra strength. Plastic zip ties were used around the rest of the snap clamps to hold them in place.
Carefully unroll the plastic and fit it to the structure, installing clamps on one arch support at a time. Be sure to leave plenty of plastic at the front and rear of the tunnel, and then trim the excess.
You may have to temporarily disconnect some of your guy wires so you can thread them through holes in the plastic sheeting.
To construct the exit door, fasten several layers of leftover plastic to the top of the doorway and cut slits in the plastic all the way down (freezer strip style). This helps to block out exterior light but still allows for air to flow through the tunnel.
Step 5: The Fascade
We constructed a simple fascade with a doorway that leads into the tunnel. This was done by burying and tamping 2x4’s into the ground for the structural support. The sheeting is ¼ inch scrap plywood that we had previously used for a different project. We used screws to fasten everything together.
A couple quick coats of black paint, some neon spray graffiti and a strobe light adds a bit of a terrifying appearance to the entrance of the tunnel.
Step 6: Lighting, Sound & Special Effects
No haunted attraction is complete without visual effects and sound. We added a laser vortex and a fog machine inside the tunnel.
The laser vortex actually looked way more impressive than it appears in the photo. I wish I could have gotten some better photos but my camera just doesn’t do well in the dark.
For the sound system we used an old powered computer speaker system complete with a booming subwoofer. The connected MP3 player was loaded with very eerie space vortex and alien sound effects.
Step 7: Project Notes & Lessons Learned
If I were to take on this project again, there are a few things I would do differently, or at least consider:
- The guy wires are a real pain in the rear. They are very tedious to install and can be dangerous tripping hazards. Depending on the ground conditions and how deep the rebar stakes are driven, I would consider the possibility of fastening the PVC pipes to the rebar with a “set-screw” or something similar. This could cut down if not eliminate the need for guy wires.
- I don’t think the aluminum grip clamps were necessary. The plastic zip ties worked very well to hold the snap clamps in place (if you don’t mind poking small holes in the plastic sheeting). Either way, don’t assume the plastic snap clamps will be strong enough to hold the plastic sheeting without additional support. They won’t be.
- The more helpers you have to install the plastic sheeting, the better. And don’t try to do it on a windy day, but if you do, make sure someone is standing by with a camera recording the whole thing.
- We installed the sheeting after the tunnel was erected. It may be easier to at least partially install the sheeting before erecting the tunnel.
- On calm nights when there was no breeze, we struggled to keep enough air flowing through the tunnel. At times there was so much fog in the tunnel, you couldn’t see two feet in front of you. Although it was scary, this made the laser vortex rather pointless. Adding a big fan and keeping the front door open helped quite a bit.
If you liked this project, be sure to visit my YouTube channel DIY Haunted Props and check out some of my other prop builds.