This past Halloween I hijacked the “Haunted House” that someone suggest that we do at the library and turned it into a science-fiction themed interactive adventure.
Right after performing it I explained the concept to a friend via Yahoo IM. I joking said I would just repost the conversation as my Instructable. It was so detailed that I pretty much decided that is exactly what I am going to do (with additional notes, commentary and/or instructions in italics or parentheses).
Now, my very first Instructable. I will be detailing the final result - - the actual walk-through adventure. I will make future Instructables detailing the individual elements.
Originally, someone else came up with the idea of doing a haunted house. To me, trying to decorate a room in a library to look like a haunted house is just going to look totally lame so my original concept was for it to almost be just a blackout room. A fun concept, in that what you don't see is often scarier than the things that you actually do, but I quickly realized that leading around a bunch of kids in the dark was going to lead quickly to injuries and lawsuits.
The children's department at the library had two LED black light units - something that I didn't even know existed, only ever seeing or using the big fluorescent units. They provide the black light effect, but they are also brighter so there is some illumination for the rest of the room.
So the show was called The Extra Dimensional Experience - - An Adventure in Time and Space. It was originally just called The Extra Dimensional Adventure (a nod to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) but I expanded the title with a nod to Doctor Who.
It was a total mishmash of Science Fiction tropes placed over a very simple but overproduced obstacle course. My concept was that there was a tear in time and space, and an omni dimensional portal that intersected with every point in every dimension and every time and space (infinite improbability drive, anyone?) and that extra-dimensional beings were now entering our world and time itself was becoming unstable. I eventually realized that I was ripping off Stephen King and was creating The Mist… for kids!
Step 1: Waiting
Everyone lined up on the steps leading down to the meeting room. I hid the waiting area with giant 10' x 25' black, plastic sheeting from Home Depot. I also took a bunch of Dollar Tree 3' plastic chains and linked them all together. I zip tied one end to the stair case and attached the other end of the plastic chain to a large magnet I had purchased years ago from Harbor Freight.
Step 2: Warning Video
The show starts with 10 kids being taken to a waiting area where they watch a series of videos. The first video was a warning about the contents of the show set to a swinging 60's pop version of the Doctor Who theme while I channeled Don Pardoe and the Robot from Lost in Space to intone warnings of loud noises, the darkness, the monsters and the strobe lights. Of the approximately 120 kids and adults that participated, I only had one child have to leave before entering. I even had freaking babies make it through this thing!
Step 3: Mission Briefing
So after the warning video, there is the mission briefing video, that tells everyone that a wormhole in time and space is going to destroy the world. A team of scientists was sent in with a dimensional disruptor to close the wormhole. It was put in place but was not activated. All of the footage was shot hastily (but creatively with my phone). The dimensional disruptor was this giant lighted ball (inspired by a sparkle ball Instructable) that I built as a ball drop for New Year's Eve last year (and have meant to do an Instructable on). It's just a bunch of strategically stapled together clear Solo cups with strobing light units in them. There is then a map showing a route to the dimensional disruptor set to the Mission: Impossible theme. The agency in charge of this investigation is the Department of Extra Dimensional Affairs, also known as Smile Team Six. I based the logo on Seal Team 6 and me and my two assistants we're dressed in various field outfits built on t-shirts. The video also introduces the concept that positive energy kept the extra-dimensional beings at bay.
Step 4: Tips for a Successful Mission
The third video was a cheery, happy, tips for survival video that told everybody to listen to their squad leader and that if they were feeling anxious to just look at the various happy faces that were part of my uniform - a 3D printed smiley face badge, a smile Team Six Shield badge, and a large fluorescent smiley face on my back attached to my suspenders.
Step 5: Smile Time
The last video (as a time killer) was a clip of an ancient Disney-esque (Merrie Melodies, it turns out) cartoon character that looked like Mickey Mouse but he was really a squirrel or a raccoon or I don't know what the photon he was (I later learned he was a fox named Foxy). LOL. It was a black and white cartoon called – “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile”. At one point I overheard some kids say, “Man that's lousy production work.”
Step 6: Beware the Monkey Spiders
They first had to get past the monkey spiders, which were frozen in time, but they still had trip webbing everywhere that the kids had to navigate.
Step 7: Basic Monkey Spider Build
The Monkey Spiders are basically a 2 liter Coke bottle, a modified Dollar Tree skull, coat hanger and foam insulation tubing for the legs formed with duct tape, covered with contact cement, covered with sawdust for texture, covered with a layer of latex to seal it, spray painted silver as a primer then painted with fluorescent paint. Oh, and wooden balls hot glued in for eyes.
Step 8: Downed Ventilation Shaft
Once they stepped over all of the webbing, they went through a downed ventilation shaft - - a giant cardboard box with a 28 inch square entrance and exit cut into. I was originally going to create the shaft using a PVC frame and affixing large pieces of cardboard to it but I lucked out and snagged a giant box that had been full of pillows at Wallmart. I took a photo of a grate and blew it up and glued it onto one of the pieces of cardboard I had cut out for an entrance. Crawling through the duct was supposed to take the adventurers directly to the dimensional disruptor, but they just crawl through in a circle over unstable ground - four pillows covered by large plastic sheeting - and end right back where they started. I was originally going to have people crawl through twice but getting ten people to crawl through the duct took enough time.
Step 9: Time Loop
When they returned to where they began, I acted confused as to why they were back. I then pulled out a Time Loop detector (cheap light sabre knockoffs, extra thick pool noodle, PVC pipe and zip ties) and confirmed that there was indeed a Time Loop interfering with our progress. With the original path blocked we would have to take a much more dangerous route to the dimensional disruptor.
Step 10: The Focal Point Where the Extra Dimensional Beings Are Entering Our Reality
We walk down a glowing 6 inch wide balance beam - a whole quarter of an inch off the floor - over glowing faces with blinking, LED eyes (this Halloween’s bargain of bargains from the Dollar Tree) that are coming up through the floor (the focal point where the extra dimensional beings are entering our reality but have yet to become fully solid) along with green sand worms, also trying to enter this dimension.
Step 11: The End
We make it to the omni dimensional portal - a purplish glowing warp projected onto the wall with a video projector. There is a fake computer set up by the dimensional disruptor. I go to activate the disruptor but there is not enough power. We need a spark to jump-start the system. I pick up a wired plastic tube - a static dissipator, a device used to eliminate static electricity in the air. I use that old science-fiction chestnut of reversing the polarity so that we can create a static charge to jumpstart the dimensional disrupter. I have everybody hold hands, including mine, and rub their feet on the floor to create static electricity. We do a countdown from 5 and I press the switch built into the plastic tube and turn on the strobing dimensional disruptor. We all run out of the room before it explodes, closing the dimensional breach.
I, miraculously, had it perfectly timed so that I was able to lead the adventure and get back out exactly as the last video that the next group was watching was ending. I did allow for a three-minute buffer zone, but I never needed It.
It was the most exercise I've ever done all at once in over a decade.