Pop Goes the Haunted Jack-in-the-Box

Is Halloween sneaking up on you, too?  It’s less than two weeks away, but there is still plenty of time to build something that will scare the pants off trick-or-treaters and party guests alike. This year, Hackaday regular [Sean Hodgins] hacked his favorite holiday by taking something that ships with a base level of scariness and making it autonomous. What could be more frightening than a haunted toy?

The (decades-old) jack-in-the-box mechanism is simple. Turning the crank operates a mechanical music box that plays the traditional “Pop Goes the Weasel”. When the music box hits the high note, a jutting piece of plastic on the barrel of music box disturbs the other end of the latch, which frees the scary clown inside. [Sean] used a 100:1 DC motor to turn the crank from the inside, and a Pi camera to detect victims in the vicinity. Once the camera locks on to a face, the box cranks itself and eventually ejects the jester. Since most of the space inside is already taken up by the spring, [Sean] housed the electronics in a custom 3D-printed base with a hole cut out for the camera’s eye.

Many modifications are possible with a project like this. [Sean] is now in complete control of the latch operation, so he could make the clown pop appear instantly, or randomly, or sometimes not at all. Check out [Sean]’s entertaining build video after the break.

Want to make your own fright machine from scratch? We’ve got all the inspiration you need, from tabletop to trash can-sized monsters.

9 thoughts on “Pop Goes the Haunted Jack-in-the-Box

  1. Dang, I’ve been working on this exact same thing for the past year. The only difference is I used one of the antiques that’s now slightly off key and has an old creepy clown with flaking paint. I couldn’t get the drive system quiet enough to maintain the creepy effect, so it still sits on my unfinished project shelf… :/

    1. People don’t notice the motor noise at all, they just think its the noise the crank makes. Just finish it! I had my eye on a few old antique ones online, but I didn’t want backlash for destroying an antique. Plus I only had a couple days to make it, and didn’t want to waste any time looking for a perfect one, or buying something broken, etc.

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