I don't know about you, but when I was a kid there was a lot more "trick" than "treat" in my trick-or-treating. But these days it seems like it's all about the candy for the kids who stop by my house. So this year I'm planning a spooky surprise.
Because I take my 9-year-old on his treat-gathering rounds, I'm not always at home when other neighborhood kids stop by our house. Not wanting them to go away empty-handed—and hoping to stave off getting my car egged or trees TP'd—I usually leave a big bowl of candy by the door with a note (in the form of a cardboard gravestone) asking them to take one or two pieces but not the whole bowl so there's some left for other trick-or-treaters. Based on the always-empty bowl, I'm guessing not everyone abides by this request.
So this year, I'm going to pretend that I'm still out making the rounds—but what I'll really be doing is hiding behind a large evergreen near our front porch, armed with a secret weapon: a smart phone loaded with a few creepy voice recordings, and a Bluetooth speaker-loaded jack-o-lantern near the front door.
Earlier this week I made a few scary voice recordings in my small home studio, using some special effects to deepen my voice and adding an eerie echo. One of the recordings is simply a spooky, elongated sinister laugh. Another says, in as harsh and gravelly a voice I could muster, "I told you to take only one or two candies; now you're going to pay!" The last simply—but raspily—says, "You got the treat, now comes the trick!"
Once the recordings were made, I saved them on my computer, so I just need to transfer them to my phone as MP3s into a song playlist called "Halloween Tricks." For playback, I'm embedding a Bluetooth speaker in a pumpkin my son (can you tell?) carved this past weekend.
My son chose the pumpkin while I was away; it's actually a lot smaller than the one I imagined for the project. (Also, if the pumpkin looks a bit ragged, it's because a raccoon had its way with it for a few minutes before our motion-activated light kicked on, scaring it away.) That meant I had to narrow my choices down to smaller Bluetooth speakers that could fit inside the pumpkin. I ultimately chose The Crasher, from JL Labs, which could be positioned either vertically or horizontally. But even that relatively small model was a bit too large.
To find the right wireless speakers, check out our Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker Ratings.
Fortunately, I remembered I also had a smaller can-shaped Bluetooth speaker that I sometimes used with my tablet when I was learning a song on guitar: the Damson Audio Twist, which is less than 3 inches high (far right in the photo). I placed the speaker inside the pumpkin, scampered to my hiding place about 10 feet from my porch, and fired up the Halloween playlist. Everything worked perfectly—except the Damson just didn't provide the volume and bass I needed to give my recordings the drama and impact I wanted.
So it was back to the pumpkin with a carving knife, and after whittling another few chunks out of the bottom of the gourd there was just anough room for The Crasher (next to the pumpkin in the photo) and some plastic wrap to protect it from the pulp to fit in under the lid. The only problem was that the LED tea light I was going to use as illumination was supposed to sit on top of the smaller Damson speaker. Rooting around in the kitchen junk drawer—doesn't everyone have one?—turned up a small LED keychain flashlight. This worked perfectly: Situated in front of The Crasher, the light shone upward and made the speaker pretty much invisible, as you can see from the image at the top of the page.
So now I'm armed and ready for Halloween. My wife, who puts up with a lot from me, asked if it wasn't just a little bit creepy for a guy my age to be hanging out in the bushes in the dark, waiting to scare our neighbors' kids. Maybe some will see it that way. I'm just thinking about all that extra candy we're going to have because this year, no one's going to steal that giant bowl full of chocolate goodness. At least not on my watch.
—James K. Willcox
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