I might goof on Halloween articles from old issues of Popular Science in the last few Halloween countdowns, but I should be fair and show some modern examples of their material. After all, things are certainly much safer (and saner) nowadays, right?
Sadly, Halloween articles seem to be few and far between these days and what few they do publish are very short. This page from the October 2003 issue has a write-up about a nifty $50 motion sensing gadget that can record up to 20 seconds of sound effects. It’s a great all-in-one device for those who don’t want to build their own motion-sensing devices using plans found on places like the Monsterlist (which cost less and can be connected to a CD player so you can play longer clips).
The “Scare Tactics” article from the October 2006 issue has more meat on its bones despite the single-page length. The tutorial about how to make scary sound effects go off when a person walks by a certain area using a Mac laptop, webcam and a few downloads is very cool. The only remotely bad part (other than the seeming uselessness of the article to PC laptop owners) is the suggestion of where to download sound effects. I’m shocked that they don’t tell Mac owners to take advantage of the free sound effects available through imovie (which came free with most Mac products at the time of that article’s writing) rather than dump them onto some “free sound effects” site that was probably the first result in a quick web search on the matter. Since they didn’t do it, I will…link to a preview of Keith Underdahl’s Digital Video for Dummies that tells how to do so (which also tells how to record a few sound effects of your own).
But the three bonus “Haunted Hacks” at the bottom are a different story. The one about ripping off the face of a robotic chimp and using it as a creepy face might sound crazy, but it’s not that bad of an idea. Just imagine how this would look in dim lighting. I know of a guy who did something similar with a modified, skinned Furby for a home haunt and the results were pretty creepy. Sadly, the instructions for turning an old laptop into a projector in order to cast horror movie scenes are far too short to be of any use and there are no warnings about handling or keeping people away from the dry ice fog necessary for the projections (dry ice can be dangerous, but nowhere near as dangerous as stuff from old-school Popular Science articles). Speaking of old-school Popular Science Halloween articles, the suggestion to mix liquid soap and liquid nitrogen to make a bubbling witch’s brew is a bizarre flashback to those days. I guess it really is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.