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Spotlight on Home Automation

#TBT: Scariest Install: Halloween Park’s Haunted House and Graveyard

An HAI control system in combination with motion sensors, contacts, scary audio and video was used to automate Halloween Park.


Click here to see photos of the haunted house.

With Halloween coming up this week, we went back to 2008 for Throwback Thursday and took a look at the Halloween Park haunted attraction. The installation was so good, it was scary.

The ultimate goal of a home automation project isn't to scare the *%&*% out of the end users.

That's unless the house that's being worked on is a haunted house.

Digital Panacea, an integration company that does a great deal of Home Automation Inc. (HAI) control system programming for residential clients, took on a unique commercial project.

The owner of Halloween Park, a haunted attraction outside York, Pa., wanted an HAI system to automate scary functions in the haunted house.

Programming a haunted house wouldn't be all that different from programming a regular house, figured Jeffrey Lehman, owner of York-based Digital Panacea, who did the install.

"You walk into a regular house with automation and expect lights to come on or audio to turn on," Lehman says. "Really, what's the difference?"

Photos: See inside Halloween Park's Haunted House and Graveyard installation.

The difference is the HAI system at Halloween Park triggers audio clips of a witch cackling or mechanisms that cause a ghoulish character named Dead Fred to leap at visitors.

Still, Lehman says, the HAI programming isn't out of the ordinary. "It's mostly run by typical motion detectors, contacts, resets and timers."

Mysteries Lurk Inside

The scary features of the house are triggered by actions the visitors take. They are led to walk in a certain direction triggering a motion sensor, for instance, linked to the HAI control panel that commands the next event.

Halloween Park, by the way, is more interactive than your typical haunted house. Visitors generally walk through the house in small groups. Each segment of the house poses a challenge, and visitors are given clues. They are allowed to move from room to room once they solve the mysteries.

In the case of Dead Fred, the visitors are in a pitch-dark bedroom. A motion detector, or "proximity sensor" triggers an audio clue that leads visitors to look in a chest at the foot of the bed.

Visitors are very tentative as they approach the chest, anticipating something to pop out. As they cautiously open the lid they unknowingly trigger a contact device. There is a four-second delay as they continue to search for a clue in the darkness.

The bed then splits open and Dead Fred lunges toward them as audio of screaming blasts through the speakers. "It's my favorite part," Lehman says.

Programming Accounts for All Actions

The most difficult part of the programming, Lehman says, was accounting for people's "sometimes illogical behavior."

The house is designed to lead visitors in certain directions to take certain actions. But everybody doesn't always gets it. A lot of programming was added in an effort to account for every possible action.

"If something gets out of sequence, it's very easy to reset because we simply bring it up in either PC access or the Snaplink software put everything back to right where it needs to be very, very quickly," Lehman says.

Click here to view Halloween Park's Haunted House and Graveyard installation.

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Article Topics

News · Slideshow · Home Automation and Control · Control Systems · Hai · Tbt · · All topics

About the Author

Tom LeBlanc, Senior Writer/Technology Editor, CE Pro
Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Follow him on Twitter @leblanctom.


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