Introduction: Headless Horseman Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Head W/ Lights and Scary Sounds

About: I'm an interactive installation designer. I like to create playful experiences.

This past Halloween I built a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin head with programmable RGB LEDs and a Bluetooth speaker to "top off" a costume of the classic Headless Horseman character from the Sleepy Hollow legend.

The animated LEDs mimic a flickering fire, helping add an ethereal glow to the pumpkin. The Bluetooth speaker allows scary sounds to emanate from the pumpkin, augmenting the illusion of a supernatural being and better scaring young trick-or-treaters. In this instructable I will walk you through the process of building your own pumpkin, setting up the lights and the sounds, as well as how to gather the other components for a Headless Horseman costume.

Step 1: Gather Main Costume Components

Here is the kit I based my costume around:

The kit comes with the shirt, inflatable shoulder pieces and a rubber cap that looks like the stump left by the severing of a head. The kit does not include pants or shoes. You will have to supply your own pants and shoes.

Overall I really liked this costume, particularly for its look. However, there are a couple catches. First, the cap gets hot and sweaty very fast so this costume is not easy to wear indoors for long periods. Second, the cap also allows very low visibility so it's not safe to wear this costume out on streets without a chaperone. Lastly, the costume is a difficult to put on by yourself. You'll probably need some help.

For a size reference, I am 5'8" and 160 lbs. I bought the medium size and it was more than roomy enough for me to comfortably fit and move around.

To complete the outfit I also bought a sword and some boot tops. The boot tops go over black leather dress shoes, which fortunately I already had. I was happy about the quality for the price for each of these products as well.

Here is the sword:

Here are the boot tops:

Step 2: Build the Lights+Speaker Module

The core of the Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Head is a module composed of a plastic deli quart container, a strip of W2812 LEDs with a built in microcontroller called BlinkyTape, and a UE Mini Boom Bluetooth speaker.

If you don't already have plastic deli quart containers around the house from takeout orders you can get them here:

You can get the BlinkyTape LED strip here:

Finally, you can get the the UE Mini Boom bluetooth speaker here:

The quart container functions as a housing for the lights and the speaker. It also acts as a diffuser for the lights to soften and spread the light within the pumpkin.

The BlinkyTape LED strip is a nice self-contained package of LEDs. It also comes with a decent set of software tools, including one for easily loading animations.

The UE Mini Boom is a great sounding speaker for the size and fits well into a quart container. When cranked up all the way it delivers an excellent volume for scaring onlookers.

Note: This model speaker is discontinued and probably won't be available much longer. This project will also work with other speakers, however you will have to make do with speakers that may or may not fit inside a quart container for protection and consolidation.

To build the lights+speaker module, coil the LED strip into the quart container with the connector end towards the opening of the container.

Next, connect a micro USB cable to the LED strip to later connect to a portable phone charger (not pictured).

Finally, insert the speaker into the quart container with the USB cable dangling out. The USB cable needs to dangle out so it can be connected to a phone charger. With some force you should be able to get the speaker to sit snugly inside the container. Make sure to point the speaker towards the inside of the container towards the lights. Later you will cut holes in the bottom for the sound to escape.

Step 3: Load Animation Onto BlinkyTape LEDs and Cut Sound Holes

To load or draw patterns to create light animations, use the PatternPaint software that accompanies the BlinkyTape LED strip. That software is available here:

With the PatternPaint software it is very easy to take images from Google Image search and load them onto your BlinkyTape. I have done this successfully for many other projects. No programming experience is necessary.

When I made mine, I used a large custom image of smooth fire to import into the PatternPaint software to load onto my LED strip. My particular animation ended up being too big for the memory on the BlinkyTape, so I actually had to use a hack with the Arduino IDE to make it fit. I made an intermediate Arduino sketch to load directly onto the BlinkyTape. This works because the BlinkyTape microcontroller is Arduino based. Instead of doing the same hack yourself, you can just download a copy of my Arduino sketch to load onto the BlinkyTape directly. This is only necessary if you want an identical animation to mine, otherwise any fire image you find will provide a decent fire animation.

My Arduino sketch of my custom animation:

Lastly, before moving onto the next step, cut some holes at the bottom of the quart container to allow sound to escape. Quart containers are made with relatively soft LDPE plastic and should be fairly easy to cut with a sharp pointy knife such as a small paring knife. Some kitchen shears should work too once you have a starter hole. Be careful and use your best judgement while cutting.

Step 4: Install and Setup Smartphone Soundboard App

To trigger sounds through the Bluetooth speaker, I used the Custom SoundBoard app by Project Trinity in the Android app store. I do not have an iOS device but I assume there are similar apps for the iPhone in the iOS app store you can also use.

I did a Google search and found a handful of evil laughter sounds. I loaded those sounds into the SoundBoard and gave them each their own button.

The app has the option to choose large buttons. I selected this option so that the buttons are easy to see and press while on the move.

Step 5: Carve Pumpkin and Install Carrying Handle, Lights+Speaker Module

Go to the local pumpkin patch and pick out a nice large pumpkin. You'll want one 12 inches in diameter at least so the lights+speaker module can easily fit inside the pumpkin.

Draw or find a Jack-O-Lantern pattern to use on your pumpkin. This website is where found a free pattern I liked:

I won't go into detail about how to carve a pumpkin as there are lots of Instructables for that. If you need help, check out the Instructables Pumpkin Carving community:

Tip: Attaching an eggbeater attachment to a power drill makes scraping out the inside of a pumpkin a lot faster and easier.

Note: The main important difference of carving a pumpkin for this project is cutting the access hole through the back of the pumpkin instead of the top. Cutting through the back makes it easier to load the lights+speaker module into the pumpkin. Cutting through the back also leaves the top of the pumpkin intact to allow a handle to be easily attached to the top. Make sure you cut a hole large enough for the lights+speaker module to fit in easily. I barely didn't cut my hole large enough and I had to trim the plastic quart container to squeeze my module through.

Also important: When you make your cuts for the lower edges of the access hole, make your knife angle downwards into the pumpkin. This makes it so the separated piece of the pumpkin has a slot to slide into and stay in place. If you don't angle the knife down into the pumpkin, the separated piece will be hard to keep in place and will fall out easily.

I recommend adding a handle to make the heavy pumpkin easier to carry. This is the handle I used:

To install a handle I recommend using Toggler Snaptoggle Bolts. They are drywall anchors have a wide strong toggle that secure well to the inside of the pumpkin.They are easy to install and come with easy to follow instructions. The handle I used has 2 holes at each end 4 in total. To keep the handle secure at each end, I used one Snaptoggle through one hole while using a zip tie to loop through the adjacent hole and around the Snaptoggle. Sorry I don't have pictures for this step. I hope that makes sense and/or you can make out what's going on in the pictures.

You can get Toggler Snaptoggle Bolts here (though they are probably cheaper to buy at the store if you only need 2):

Once the pumpkin is cut open, cleaned out, carved, and perhaps has a handle installed, you can then load in the lights+speaker module with a portable phone charger into the pumpkin and turn the lights and speaker on.

Step 6: Raise Hell!

You are now ready to go out and enjoy your new costume! Be ready to hear the screams of children as well as pose for selfie requests.

Have a chaperone go with you to control the soundboard app. You will also need the chaperone to look out for you as you walk around with reduced visibility. Have your chaperone practice using the soundboard app before heading out.

For long lived fun, make sure that the speaker is fully charged and that you also carry 2+ fully-charged portable phone chargers to power the LEDs.

Also make sure you have the speaker turned up all the way for maximum effect.

If you plan to wear the costume to multiple events spanning multiple days, you can put the pumpkin in the fridge to help the pumpkin stay fresh longer.

Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017

Microcontroller Contest 2017

Participated in the
Microcontroller Contest 2017