Scary Tech to Make a Spooky Halloween Porch

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Scary Tech to Make a Spooky Halloween Porch
Hammacher Schlemmer

This Halloween, you can ensure that every visit from a trick-or-treater becomes a memorable adventure with a few high tech flourishes to your porch decorations. Many scary effects can be created with objects already in your house, like an old computer monitor or a tablet. Other items, like fog machines, LED lighting and animated props can be obtained and put together quite inexpensively.

Flat Panel LCD Effects
David Weedmark

Flat Panel LCD Effects

Flat panel displays like tablets, HDTVs, and computer monitors offer a whole range of special effects you can incorporate into your Halloween designs. The larger the screen, the more breathtaking the effects will be.

Mount an older TV or a computer monitor behind a window on your house or the window on your front door. You can place the TV on an adjustable table or make a secure frame out of 2x4's and then place it directly behind the glass. Play scenes from your favorite scary movies or make your own video. Don't forget to crank up the sound.

Smartphone LCD Screens
Digital Dudz

Smartphone LCD Screens

It's not necessary to hook up a 60-inch HDTV to create some cool and scary effects using an LCD display. For example, Digital Dudz offers apps for smartphones and tablets designed for Halloween costumes. Just place a smartphone inside a pocket hidden in a t-shirt, and the LCD display is incorporated into the t-shirt's design. When the phone is turned on, the eyes on the shirt move around, creating an unsettling effect for trick-or-treaters.

Mounting a Tablet
David Weedmark

Mounting a Tablet

If you have a tablet like an Apple iPad, make a frame for it that you can place in a window, picture frame, or behind your front door. All you need is some tape and a piece of rigid foam board or masonite. Measure the size of your tablet's screen and then draw a rectangle on the board that is slightly smaller so you won't see the tablet's frame. Cut the rectangle using a sharp utility knife. In the case of an iPad, cut a small hole so you can access the tablet's Home button once it's secured behind the board.

Securing a Tablet
David Weedmark

Securing a Tablet

To ensure the frame isn't seen, you might want to paint the board black. Once the hole is cut in the board and the paint is dry, tape the tablet to the back. Duct tape will do the job, but it might leave adhesive residue on your tablet's case. Painter's tape works just as well, and doesn't leave any residue behind. Use generous amounts of tape to make sure the tablet doesn't fall.

Finishing the Tablet's Frame
dyet (SXC)

Finishing the Tablet's Frame

Cover the hole for the Home button with a small piece of tape. Put it on loosely so you can press the button when needed through the tape, or lift the tape when needed. You can paint the tape black as well, or just color it in with a black magic marker. Use the tablet's slideshow app to display your favorite spooky images, or load some clips from some scary movies. If you have a digital video recorder, you can even make your own movies.

Portraits That Move... and Scream
David Weedmark

Portraits That Move... and Scream

If you place the tablet behind a large picture frame, you can make a slideshow of a few family portraits, interspersed with ghastly images. With a program like PowerPoint, you can add sound effects -- like a scream or a thunder clap -- when the scary images are displayed, as well as loop the slideshow or video so you won't have to reset it every time the show is complete.

Window Treatments
dyet (SXC)

Window Treatments

If you are putting a tablet, monitor, or TV screen in a window on your porch, it's important to darken the entire window. Otherwise, your screen will look just like a monitor sitting in the window rather than giving the optical illusion that the window is a portal into some scary world behind the wall. Blacking out the entire window with masonite painted black, or some curtains will make the effect look realistic -- especially after the sun begins to set.

Projector
David Weedmark

Projector

Another way to add special effects to your porch is to use a projector instead of an LCD screen. Since projectors are no longer the high-ticket multimedia tools they once were, you can usually pick up an old projector at a second hand shop very inexpensively. Connect the projector to your TV or computer and put on your favorite scary movie, beamed against the wall on your porch or your garage door.

Halloween Lighting
iStockPhoto

Halloween Lighting

More important than the lighting on Halloween: Shadows generated by well-positioned lights. Black lights work well if you have bright colors while keeping the dark colors almost invisible. On an outside porch, black lights won't have quite the same effect as indoors, since ambient lights (like the moon, streetlights and your neighbor's lights) will illuminate the porch as well.

LED lights can work very well outdoors, especially if they are positioned in the bushes or behind trees, casting large unearthly shadows around your porch.

Fog Machines
relliott3 (SXC); Fog machine: Wayfair.com

Fog Machines

Mini fog machines are inexpensive to purchase or rent. If you are renting, it's a good idea to reserve it well ahead of time, since Halloween is when they are in demand. Make sure you have plenty of fluid, which you can buy by the gallon for about $20. Position the fog machine out of sight and direct it towards the corner of your porch where a breeze won't dissipate the fog too quickly. On a calm breezeless night, you can direct the fog machine towards the stairs, where it should roll down towards the sidewalk and linger in the bushes or garden below the porch.

Fogging Jack O'Lantern
Hammacher Schlemmer

Fogging Jack O'Lantern

Incorporating a fog machine into a large jack o'lantern adds some mystery to Halloween's most celebrated vegetable. Instead of using a candle and worrying about the associated fire hazard, put a battery-powered LED light inside instead. If you have the budget, you can purchase a ready-made 3-foot-tall fogging jack o' lantern like this one from Hammacher Schlemmer. The eyes, nose and mouth light up and it produces its own fog from a self-contained 6-gallon tank of water

Bubbling Cauldron
iStockPhoto

Bubbling Cauldron

Incorporating a mini fog machine or even dry ice into a prop like a cauldron is a good way to ensure the wind won't blow your fog away. Positioning some orange and red LED lights at the base of the cauldron and a few more inside will give the prop a realistic fire glow at night. If you don't have a a ready-made cauldron on hand, you can make one yourself by repurposing an old circular charcoal barbecue.

Animated Props
iStockPhoto

Animated Props

If you have a witch and a broomstick to go along with your cauldron, you can animate it even on the tightest budget. For example, connect the broomstick to a windshield wiper motor powered by a 3 volt battery and it will automatically stir the cauldron. You can also build your pneumatically controlled props by connecting a small pneumatic air cylinder to an air compressor. A pneumatic joystick will give you manual control over your prop, or you can use a fully automated controller and a motion detector to have your prop spring to life whenever someone walks by.

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