For 7 years I have been creating a spooky one-of-a-kind experience in front of my family's home. Guests traverse an environment with large structures, animatronics, scare-actors, lighting, sounds, and even smells! Branded as Haunt for HEP, the annual event has raised over $20,000 for the Homeless Empowerment Program. Here are the pneumatic props I have built for the haunt! 

weeping angel

Inspired by weeping angel statues in graveyards, this handmade animatronic frightens many guests. Each animatronic I make uses pneumatics, which means it is powered by air pressure. The angel prop has 5 pneumatic cylinders: one for the head, two for the arms, one for the waist, and one to vertically stand up. Once built, I program it for the movements, sound, and lighting. I also have a video detailing the entire building process.

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Swinging Zombie

This somewhat gross animatronic hangs between two trees and swings around on ropes. Two cylinders are placed at his elbow joints for the swinging motion while one cylinder moves the head. I used spray foam to create the "guts" and painted them to make them look shiny. 

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This demon animatronic sits behind closed doors waiting to lurch out at guests trying to get candy. The entire prop actually sits inside our foyer with curtains surrounding it to hide the rest of the house. The demon is attached to a pneumatic scissor mechanism that extends out around 4'. I also added a cylinder for head movements. I programmed the lights to go dark and added sound to help build suspense as the demon bursts through the doors. 

Zombie cage

These zombies are one of my favorite animatronics I have built because of their simplicity and overall effect. Two cylinders are placed on the right and left sides of the fence and move the top back and forth. The fence actually moves the zombies, and their loosely articulated joints make it seem like they are shaking the fence. The effect works so well that guests often wonder if these zombies are real people!


The hangman is among our most realistic-looking animatronics. It uses two cylinders behind each knee for leg movements and one cylinder at the waist. To build out the body, I used an entire foam mannequin that fits around the steel structure.

hopping drum

This very simple pneumatic prop uses one cylinder at the very bottom with a rubber foot that makes it hop around. I used a 55-gallon drum and put spray foam around the top that glows green with the help of a black light. It is extremely loud which helps to jump scare guests walking by!