Introduction: The Tower of Terror

About: Studio Art Major at University of New Hampshire

The Tower of Terror is a 14 foot tall Halloween decoration and is a part of my 2014 Halloween display. Named after the Disney ride in Disney World, this elevator performs all the actions that a real elevator does:

  1. The bottom doors both open and close.
  2. The top door opens to a right angle.
  3. The passenger in the elevator travels from floor to floor.
  4. The passenger pops out on both the first and second floor.
  5. The lights correspond to the passengers position.
  6. The tower of terror theme song plays in the background.

After 11 years building Halloween displays, this decoration combines a little bit of everything I've learned into one massive project.

Step 1: Parts

Building Materials:

  • Plywood
  • 2x4's
  • 2x8's
  • 1x3 Stapping
  • Chain
  • Bungee cords
  • Lots of spray paint
  • Metal Sheeting
  • Hinges
  • Black Plastic Sheeting
  • Plenty of wire, plugs, outlets, etc.

Make it move:

  • (3) 7.5 inch pneumatic cylinders
  • (1) 15 inch pneumatic cylinder
  • (3) 5-way solenoid valves
  • 1/4" OD tubing
  • 1/4" Push connectors
  • (1) Christmas Reindeer motor
  • (1) garage door opener

Bring it to life:

  • (2) Fog machines
  • (4) Blacklights
  • Computer speakers
  • Colored Light bulbs
  • plastic light bulb covers
  • Hay
  • Skeletons
  • Large Barbie Doll
  • Fire Pole
  • Assorted signs

Control it:

  • PicoBoo Halloween prop controller
  • (2) Motion sensors

Step 2: Construction

The elevator is 14' tall, 4' wide, and 2' deep. The first step was to frame the base then the walls. It had to be taken in consideration of storage after halloween, so the frame is built in sections so it can easily be taken apart.

After the base was framed the wall frames were attached. Once standing up, plywood was cut to the size for the side walls and the front. The front panel was fastened on but the side panels will wait for later.

The doors were then cut out and saved for later. The pieces cut out for the bottoms doors were covered in metal sheeting and the top door piece covered in scrap wood for an older style look.

Step 3: Make It Move

To make the bottom doors open and close, two 7.5" cylinders are used.To make the top door open and close a 15" cylinder is used.

To have a prop be able to pop out of the doors with decent distance, a scissor mechanism was made. This mechanism turns a 7.5" stroke cylinder in to an extension of over 3 feet. The cylinder works by pulling up on a metal shaft which then extends the scissor. When powered the prop will jump out about 3 feet.

In order to get the prop from the bottom floor to the top floor, a garage door opener is used. The garage door opener is stood up vertically and the scissor prop is attached to the garage motor trolley. When triggered the trolley will carry the prop up to the top floor and, vise versa.

All of the pneumatic cylinders are connected to 12 volt 5 way solenoid valves.

On the side of the elevator there is a skeleton painting on a ladder. His hand moves back and forth with a salvaged motor from a Christmas Reindeer.

Step 4: Bringing It to Life

At this point all the initial building is together and the wiring has to be done.

Behind the elevator is a PicoBoo controller which controls when each action happens. It runs an 8 minute scene and through out that time the elevator goes through its full cycle.

The solenoid valves need wires running to the controller, and the power outlets need to be mounted to the inside of the elevator.

In order to make the lights turn on and off when motion sensors are mounted inside so it picks up the motion when the prop moves up and down and in and out.

Step 5: Paint, Paint, Paint

All of the plywood panels are initially spray painted in black and then neon colors are used to make the designs.

For the inside black sheeting is tacked up to completely enclose the elevator. The sheeting is then splattered with glow in the dark paint. The paint will glow in the dark with black lights.

Step 6: Special Effects

Special Effects are what can make a decoration amazing.

Fencing is laid out around the elevator, inside the fence trunks are placed and hay is tossed through out.

Inside the elevator is four black lights, two fog machines, and speakers which play the theme song of Disney's The Tower of Terror.

Colored lights cover the outside of the elevator in a shaded glow.

Step 7: Bring It All Together

After everything is in place and the sun goes down, the power switches are flipped, the air compressors are pumping, the display will come to life.

All of the opening and closing of the doors, and up and down of the motor, are controlled by a computer sequence I put together on the Director Program from Fright Ideas. The sequence also controls 12 other decorations on the yard.

This year as part of the Halloween display I am hosting a fundraiser benefiting Boston Children's Hospital. All of the money collected goes to the children in the hospital so that they can have arts and crafts and other things to do while in the hospital. There are still two weeks left in the fundraiser and you can check it out here at:

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Decor Contest

Third Prize in the
Halloween Decor Contest