halloween 2006: ceiling dropper

Note: This entry is part of my Halloween Projects category. You can see all of my posts documenting my projects by clicking the “Halloween Projects category” link above. You’ll also find images and movies of the projects and their construction in my Halloween Gallery, which can be accessed by links in these posts or directly here.

This year, when the UPS man delivered my PicoBoo. As I opened the package and started feeling my way around the small device, I suddenly realized that this thing has much more potential that activating my wolf prop, which can essentially be a “static loop” prop and require no activation. So, my mind started racing – thinking about a new prop… something complex enough to be worthy of PicoBoo-timed activation and sound, yet something simple enough to not break the Halloween bank. The idea came to me while I was sitting at my desk at work, I call it the Ceiling Dropper. Here’s the gist:


In the entryway to my house, right before the door itself, I have two columns which attach to the roof. Immediately outside the door, the ceiling itself is recessed, but that recess is hidden when viewing the facade of the house while walking up. My idea involved “springing” something down from this recess as unsuspecting visitors approach the house. Imagine the mechanism as an upside-down version of last year’s coffin popper: a simple hinged torso which “pops” down from a hidden ceiling recess as a trick-or-treater approaches. Of course, the actual dropping would be accompanied by lights and sound for maximum scare effect. The whole drop-down/retract action will be accomplished with air power and a simple pulley, and the entire thing will be triggerable as desired (motion, pressure mat, or manual).

Trick-or-treater approaches the house, unaware a skeleton is about to swing down from the roof and attack them. The torso is attached to a hinged piece of PVC and suspended by a wire that’s attached to a reverse-action pneumatic cylinder (meaning air pulls the thing shut). The cylinder is kept powered (aired) and the prop is normally retracted and hidden in the recess. When activated, the solenoid will cut air and the cylinder will drop open (gravity and spring), snapping the prop into scare position. At the same time, the PicoBoo will activate the scare sound and targeted lighting.

Post-drop concept. Our trick-or-treater, having barely just recovered from the motion-triggered Coffin Popper, is now assaulted by our skeleton from above. Note the sheer terror on the innocent child’s face – this is what Halloween is all about.

The cylinder is attached to a bit of 2×4, which is in turn attached to the stucco/wood in the recess, and the wire is threaded through an eye hook and attached via a drilled hole into the hinged PVC swingarm. The hinge action is a simple PVC “smaller through bigger” hinge. I did a lot of measuring to decide what stroke length I needed for the cylinder, but the bore size needn’t be huge as we’ll only be lifting about ~15lbs. I wanted to leave a “safe” 7ft of ground clearance when the prop was fully deployed, so I wouldn’t have to worry about tall folks getting whacked in the noggin. This left me with about ~32in of prop length – which serendipitously worked out perfect for a typical adult torso.

For a “proof of concept” teaser, check out the teaser video here.

Implementation & Actuals

Coming soon, stay tuned.

Finished Effect

Coming soon, stay tuned.

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