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So, when it comes to yard haunts, what are people's experiences with props designed to be interacted with? Anyone tried it? Was it a big hit, a giant disaster, or just kind of ignored? Something I've been pondering adding to my project queue for this year or next is a (currently vague) idea based on the Useless Box.

For those unfamiliar with the Useless Box, here's an example:

 

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When a little girl is in the group I ask her:"What is your favorite "Magic Word?"
Then I have her walk toward the large steel door and say her "Magic Word"... and the door opens! (No matter what her word is)
I bought the barn door mechainism of wheels and track, installed at an angle so it shuts via gravity, opened via a hydraulic cylinder simply to change the angle of the beam the track is mounted to, I have a remote control in my pocket or hand.
Since the door is free to roll either direction nobody could ever become locked and kept on either side of it, take one hand and just push it , it will roll open.
 

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When a little girl is in the group I ask her:"What is your favorite "Magic Word?"
Then I have her walk toward the large steel door and say her "Magic Word"... and the door opens! (No matter what her word is)
I bought the barn door mechainism of wheels and track, installed at an angle so it shuts via gravity, opened via a hydraulic cylinder simply to change the angle of the beam the track is mounted to, I have a remote control in my pocket or hand.
Since the door is free to roll either direction nobody could ever become locked and kept on either side of it, take one hand and just push it , it will roll open.
Reminds me of a trick we did at one of my professional haunts (designed for kids) in the past. The (non-scary) ticket booth would make chit chat and ask the kids their names and other info, what they wanted to be, etc. Unbeknownst to them, we'd type that info in, and about halfway through the haunt was a fortune teller that now knew them before they ever met. Not many adults figured out how we pulled that off.

Also saw a Harry Potter house that used wand remotes for kids to activate things. My son was all gaga over that for days.

Kids gobble that kind off thing up when they are personally involved.
 

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Having the opportunity to be inter-active with a Haunt Customer of any age can provide the opportunity to thereby distract them more than they may realize, setting them up for the next possible Scare!
("What did he say? What did he mean by that? What is that thing he's pointing out to us... ?" )
Then something now totally unexpected takes place and their thought pattern goes wild trying to very quickly change gears, assessing in half- a heartbeat what was that noise, movement, what is that shape? Is it dangerous to Me? How can I escape from what ever it is without trampling over someone else's feet? )
I think just as many like the feeling of needing to think faster to problem-solve as the number of people who are just screaming with eyes closed because their adrenaline rush just over-powered them.. but they don't quite know why?
 

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black light queen
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...opened via a hydraulic cylinder simply to change the angle of the beam the track is mounted to, I have a remote control in my pocket or hand.
Since the door is free to roll either direction nobody could ever become locked and kept on either side of it, take one hand and just push it , it will roll open.
ingenious gw!

amk
 

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Funeral Crasher
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The TOTs seem to LOVE interactive props, but sometimes just try to break them. The only interactive prop I have is my electric chair.
The kids sit in it, then I hit the remote and the seat starts vibrating. Hit another button and the LOUD electric firecrackers in the top electrodes go off.
I'm in the process of building a large control panel with a lot of knobs, lights and gauges that they can also play with.
 

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Some years, I have "The Wheel of Death" that ToTers have to spin. Four equal outcomes: candy, Monster's Choice, candy, Uh-Ohhh... It's in the shape of a very large skull and they spin a stained bucky femur bone that I've ground one end into a point. Smaller kids won't touch it. Good fun...and it can let you customize the scare based on your ToTer. Some still get the "bad scare" even if they just land on candy. lol And, one year, my candy bowl was fake and rigged to scare too. Poor kids couldn't win... (insert evil laugh here)
 

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Interesting you should ask that. In my spare time I now am helping a professional haunt company with some of their props. One of our ideas is to create a photo op of a battle between a werewolf and a wolfman. Both "wolves" will be animated, but far enough apart to put one or 2 people in between. This will be a manned prop to keep people from getting "overly curious" about the setup
HM
 

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For my harry potter themed each year I use the "floating candle"..I tell kids as they approach I need more light to read and would they like to help me?..give them a wand (harry potter light up wand of course)..and tell them to say wingardium leviosa..I click the button on the fishing reel and the candle magically floats across the yard..then when they leave I reel it back up for the next tot. Everyone loves it..simple to do..black fishing line, homemade pvc candle with tea light, eye let hook, cheap fishing reel. floating candle trick.jpg
 

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Last couple of years we've had the cage "jail cell" and the electric chair available to the kids and parents to participate in.
They love having their pictures taken with the props. If we have an actor drop out at the last minute, we just use that prop
as a picture opportunity. Everybody loves it !
 

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One year I made a pirate signboard with a button they could push and it would say different "walk the plank! Arr matey! etc" expressions. Even with a big pink arrow saying "try this!", nobody noticed it, and I realized you could barely hear it anyway. On the flip side, I also have a bottomless pit that you have you go up a stepladder to look down, and that one gets good crowds, I think because the stepladder piques curiosity. I've always liked the interactive idea though and I still think it's worth exploring, BUT you need a really obvious attention-getter to get people to see it. The "useless box" looks kind of small--I guess it depends on what kinds of crowds you get and how orderly they are. If they line up patiently one by one to get candy then I bet a subtle interactive prop like that would be perfect for kids to play with, but if you get big mobs of excited kids like we do then it will get ignored for sure. Ironically the venerable fog machine gets the most attention because kids jump around in it, wave the fog at each other, try to trap it in their hands. One idea I want to do someday is a western scene with skeletons facing off at 10 paces, and a speaker would count down "3...2...1...draw!" and they would have to push a button that simulates pulling the trigger and if they shoot before the gun of the other skeleton lights up then it would say "nice shot, you got him!"' whereas if his gun lights up first then it would say, "gotcha pardner!". Basically it would be an outdoor video game. It would be run off an Arduino or a laptop. I like the challenge of building it, but if I had to guess I think it wouldn't be obvious how it works and would be ignored too. My experience from watching some really good haunts that get big crowds is that storylines with projectors really get people interested. It's not interactive in the sense of pushing buttons or touching the props, but it requires sustained attention rather than just admiring the props. People do seem to notice these and will stop to watch. There was one that had a pumpkin who would narrate a tale about the history of a spooky house, so there was a projector to make the pumpkin "talk", and another in the window that showed silhouettes acting out a scene. This was extremely effective and I'm going to try a basic version this year with a cheapie projector we got online.
 
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