end so we can run the cables in, and mount the
controllers and devices on the end furthest from the hole
(Figure 2). The lid is then sealed with duct tape and the
entire assembly is mounted vertically with the hole at the
bottom. A garbage bag is wrapped around the entire
thing, and lo and behold, we have nearly perfect
weatherproofing for less than $10. As straightforward as
they are, I have yet to see any of them fail; they easily stay
in place for a month and a half with no issues.
Even the best can't do it alone.
Automation is a huge boon to any haunt, and ours is
no exception. It's the sad truth of any production that the
tech jobs are not the most glamorous nor the most
desirable, and with an all-volunteer cast, anything I can do
to lessen the need for a person to sit in one place to
reliably fire off an effect is worth doing. Manpower is
always a challenge for a volunteer organization, and one
of our primary tools for fighting that currently is the
PicoBoo/BooBox controllers from Frightprops.com. They
are dead simple in operation, which comes in handy.
An example of this was at our recent Quest Night
event. There was a segment where our beleaguered and
battered team of heroes (the customers, naturally) had to
enter a ruined abandoned temple to search for the secret
hiding place of the dread Lich King. Almost in passing, I
made a joke about an Indiana Jones-esque moment where
we fired poisoned darts at the customers. (Because what
ruined temple is complete without poisoned darts?) The
legality of actually darting our customers was called into
question quickly, so I set about devising a way to fake it
The simplest way to accomplish the effect was a
series of directed air blasts. One of the PicoBoo
controllers has the capability to control four outputs,
making it perfect for the effect. I grabbed four solenoids
from our supply bin and set to work. The solenoids are
pretty standard; they are a five-port model, with two
outputs and two exhausts. Perhaps they are a bit overkill
for this particular effect, but they were available which is
what makes them perfect.
Like a lot of our last-minute effects, this particular
effect didn't have an elaborate planning session. The idea
came up in a meeting, it was agreed it would be fun, and
the next day I was on site building it. Even so, I made a
quick sketch on a scrap bit of paper to make sure the
logic was sound (Figure 3).
An offshoot of our master air line would enter a
four-way manifold to distribute the air to the solenoids.
Pneumatic tubing was run from the solenoids, poked
through four different holes in the wall, and then taped
The electronics side was easy, as well. An infrared
break-beam would provide the trigger signal to the
controller. Each of the four solenoids was wired to a
separate output on the controller (Figure 4) and a quasi-random pattern was programmed in after a short delay.
Once the beam was broken, a five second timer began.
Like any good tech, I decided to test this effect by
calling the director over to "check something out." His
startled reaction was an indication that the effect was
good, and reports from our customers agreed. The
manifold, controller, and solenoids were packed in one of
our waterproof boxes, and it was screwed into the offstage side of the wall. After it was placed, it didn't need to
be messed with or altered until it was time
to take down the haunt.
Making sure the customers
have a blast.
Quite possibly our most popular effect
— both with customers and crew — is our
gore cannons. These effects are responsible
for the mass-drenching of thousands of
people a year, and also the creation and
consumption of hundreds of gallons of fake
blood. This effect is usually placed in an
area of particular significance to the story,
be it the demise of the Big Bad at the end
of the haunt, or a troubled toilet connected
Born out of the ashes of the legendary haunts Britannia
Manor and Haunted Trails, and raised from the infamous
backyard haunt of local celebrity Jarrett Crippen (a.k.a., The
Defuser — winner of Stan Lee's "Who Wants To Be A
Superhero?" contest), SCARE for a CURE's talented, creative, and
fiendish crew of special effects artists, set builders, audio and
lighting techs, costume designers,
makeup artists, and actors work year-round alongside volunteers from
community organizations throughout
central Texas to build the haunt bigger
and better each year.
Our all-volunteer crew is passionate
about Scaring and Caring. SCARE for a
CURE is a 501(c)( 3) non-profit
40 September 2014
Figure 3 - Completed wiring setup for four solenoids.