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Comment Halloween Automation (Score 2, Interesting) 306

We run a commercial haunt, and use this software I wrote exclusively for our automation. There's two versions of it available at It's pretty generic and simple, you can wire up your own relay boards or buy pre-made ones.

Essentially, the software monitors 5 switches fed into the parallel port. When the state of one of those switches is set, the software respons by firing any of 8 relays tied to the parallel port. Scripting is supported.

In our current setup, I use a weird setup of old PC's, relay cards, input boards, etc, to switch 110VAC, 12VDC, and 24VAC. We tie these lines to our air valves, lights, and whatnot. The software can also play audio files, so it is pretty trivial to create Thunder and Lighting effects.

And, along the effect lines, check out the super-easy to make light flicker circuit. Go fetch a standard extension cord, cut one of the sides (as if you were going to install a switch), and install a 4 watt flourscent lamp starter. Plug a low-wattage lamp into the cord, and the cord into the wall. You will get a nice flicker effect.

Things to note:

  • Be careful and keep an eye on it. I've had these things melt, and you don't want to burn down your house.
  • Use low-wattage starters. The smaller the better. Seems like anything over 10 won't work.
  • If your bulb (or combination thereof) adds up to any significant wattage, it might not work. I've have great success with 25 and 40 watt bulbs.

Have fun, good luck!

-- I

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