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-- ATTENTION --
Please read the notes posted at the right *before* using the system.
If core memory fails, cycle power, reload system from tape and initialize instruction register with switches.
We are *not* responsible for your card decks. If they get dropped or knocked over you're out of luck.
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Thu, 24 Sep 2009
Toilet Terror

I built this for Halloween 2008. I don't have any good build instructions or photos but I will be pulling it out and setting it up for this year (2009) so I'll try to take some photos and give a better description.

In 2008 I had a broken toilet that had to be replaced. I decided that I just couldn't throw away the old toilet since it had so much potential. The idea that I came up with was to have a pair of legs sticking out of the toilet and rotating, as if the poor victim was being flushed down. I wasn't sure that I'd actually get the legs to spin so I was willing to settle for a static display if I had to.

My biggest worry was getting the right motor. It had to be powerful enough to spin the legs but slow enough to give the right effect. I hunted the thrift stores in the area every week. I finally came across a BBQ spit motor that was perfect for the job. It was slow, strong and had a quarter inch (approximately) socket at the end of the shaft.

The next task was to find a lazy Susan assembly. While I also wanted to find this at a thrift store, I broke down and bought a new one at the hardware store.

The rest, while sounding simple, was to cut a piece of plywood to cover the bowl, mount the motor on the underside of the plywood, mount the lazy Susan on the top side of the plywood, mount another piece of plywood on the top side of the lazy Susan, run a shaft through that board to engage the motor and then mount the legs on that. It was a pain in the butt. The legs are just a frame built with PVC (did I ever mention that I love PVC pipe). Added some foam to fill it out. Pair of old jeans and shoes.

I finally got it working and it looked pretty good. Unfortunaly, it only worked well the garage. Once I got it out into the yard, where the ground wasn't flat, I ran into some problems. The legs would wobble, causing the lazy Susan to bind, causing the shaft to pop out of the drive. I ended shoving some plywood under the toilet to get it more level. That did the trick but I was worried about it all evening. This year I'll have to spend some time to actually get good and level.

To top it off I put together a sound effects track with lots of gurgling, yelps, water running and toilet flushes. I loaded this on to a crapy old MP3 player, set it for repeat play and connected it to an old boom box. If you need a non-synchronized, continuous play, effects or sound track this is a great way to go.

It was completely unplanned but, this was just before the 2008 election, it was right around the time that "Joe the Plummer" became famous. So my story was that this was "Joe the Plummer". The most gratifying moment was when a man came up and started laughing wildly. He told me that he *was* a plummer and that's how some of his work days felt like.

posted at: 02:28 | path: /Projects/Halloween/ToiletTerror | permanent link to this entry

Power issues

Every Halloween I have the same problem. Power. I have no power outlets in the front yard. I've been running power from the garage with a 100ft power cord and then distributing is across the yard. I have to wind the cable up and around the front walkway so that visitors don't trip over it. A number of Halloween prop makers use pneumatics to run their props. That would be cool but it is just out of my price range for the moment.

I did pickup a yard stake power distribution unit last year so I'll have to try it out. Regardless, the front yard will be covered with electrical chords.

posted at: 01:45 | path: /Projects/Halloween/Display | permanent link to this entry


Fri, 18 Sep 2009
Materials

One key is: If you intend to build props, Halloween shopping is a year round effort.

Buy at the end of season sales - Halloween *and* Christmas. Christmas decorations can be re-purposed for Halloween. (I think I like the term "re-purposed") If you're going to make props and merchandise is on deep discount, don't be afraid of buying something that is beaten up or might be broken. You're only going to tear it apart (or break it) yourself. If it's at full price but is obviously busted (I see this often at Big Lots), always ask for a discount. You'll probably get 10% without question but with the stipulation that you can't return it. This is win-win so don't feel shy. You get a discount and the store sells something that they otherwise couldn't sell. (don't expect to get a "broken" discount when things are already on a "no returns" clearance)

99 Cent Store (now the 99.99 Cent Store)

I've mentioned on other pages that I like the 99 Cent Store and other similar stores, like The Dollar Tree. You can pick up neat little things there like costumes and masks. They always have some sort of blinky/noise making thing that can be re-purposed. The skulls and the flicker candles for the fence project came from the 99 Cent Store. I found "talking" picture frames there. They are plastic picture frames that have digital voice recorders in them. I bought several to tear apart to add voice/sound effects to props. 99 cents each! They have laser "pet toys" (a laser pointer). I bought several for a future laser "vortex" project. The Dollar Tree has little stands for glass sculptures which have color cycling LEDs in them. Lots of possibilities there.

Big Lots

My rule of thumb with Big Lots is to always hit the 99 Cent store first. I'll find the exact same thing in 99 Cent that is more expensive at Big Lots. Of course, that is for little stuff. The Big Lots stores around where I live are really trashy. Lots of broken or scuffed up stuff. Seems like a lot of brat kids with no adult supervision. If I'm looking for an item that will actually work I have to pick one carefully. Unless I really want something and I'm afraid that they'll sellout (which they can) I won't buy until the clearance sales. I've missed some things that I would have liked but nothing I couldn't do without. Then again, I'm a cheap bastard.

posted at: 04:30 | path: /Projects/Halloween/Materials | permanent link to this entry

Halloween project builds.

Over the past several years I've been slowly building up an assortment of Halloween props and displays. Every year I try to add something new to the front yard. Our giant spiderweb, hung between two palm trees, has become neighborhood Halloween tradition. People come back year after year to take pictures of their kids in front of it and are always happy to see that it is back up.

The spiderweb build was pretty easy but it has a great, and enduring, effect. Included here are some other projects that I've either completed or are in the process of being built.

I find it much more fun to either build something myself or take some existing prop/toy/decoration/costume and repurpose it to my liking than just buying a pre-built prop. Of course, I do have a number of pre-built props just because I can't built *everything* from scratch. I just don't have the time.

posted at: 03:30 | path: /Projects/Halloween | permanent link to this entry

Little Ghoul

Simple static display. We had an old "My Size Barbie" doll that stands about three and a half feet tall. Threw a kids cloak costume on it, some skeleton gloves and a skeleton mask. Added a skull staff from a previous year. Setup a caldron with a ultrasonic mister. The mister has color changing lights to add an extra spooky effect.

posted at: 03:07 | path: /Projects/Halloween/Others | permanent link to this entry