Sept. 18, 2002

The Self-Haunted House

By Roy Rivenburg
Spook-a-thon Bureau: Why wait till Halloween to freak people out? Act now and you can outfit your home with a $14,000 ‘‘industrial strength’’ mechanical alligator, a remote control vomit barrel, a Deep Fryer Electric Chair and an automated ‘‘living wall.’’ These and other gadgets are on sale at

The creepiest prank is probably the $3,000 living wall, which is designed to scare house guests while they sleep. Place it behind a bed, turn on the switch and the wall roars to life with two hands and a head trying to push through it.

Another fun gag is the 6-foot-high T-rex head, which lurks behind foliage until an unsuspecting visitor approaches. Once activated, the screeching dinosaur head bursts forth with teeth bared and eyes flashing. It’s yours for pocket change -- $9,999.99.

If traumatizing small children is your thing, try the mechanical alligator, which lunges five feet with its mouth agape. (Smarthome advises keeping the unit ‘‘bolted to the floor.’’) Another kid-friendly gizmo is the life-size electric chair, complete with a thrashing mannequin, a fog machine that belches smoke from the prisoner’s wrists, and ‘‘authentic foamy drool’’ that dribbles from the dummy’s mouth.

Or how about having a car crash through your wall? Push your guests into cardiac arrest with this fake brick wall that suddenly gives way to the front end of a car with working headlights and blaring horn. Price: $5,000.

If none of that frightens your guests, haul out the fully automated, life-size Backstreet Boys kit, guaranteed to send even the most hardened visitors fleeing in terror. OK, we made that one up, but we think the idea has great Halloween potential. Other spooky props, all 100 percent real, include:

-- A 13-foot-tall animated demon that writhes around and jumps out at visitors, $8,000.
-- A candy bowl with a hidden hand that reaches out when trick-or-treaters try to grab sweets, $20.
-- A mannequin that spews fake green barf into a vomit barrel, $3,400 (vomit not included).
-- A talking mirror activated by a pressure-sensitive floor pad. When triggered, a skull appears in the glass and delivers personalized messages. $2,000.

Meanwhile, in other Halloween news, a Wisconsin website called is peddling Halloween costumes that make your dog look like a pirate, a cowboy, a prisoner, a soldier or a hippie. The hippie outfit includes love beads, faded jeans and a hat with built-in dreadlocks.

Alarming Trends Watch: Actor Verne Troyer, who played Mini-Me in the ‘‘Austin Powers’’ flicks, is scheduled to lead 20,000 people in a kazoo rendition of the chicken dance song at Cincinnati’s annual Oktoberfest.

If Dr. Ruth Were Pennsylvania Dutch: A Weekly World News article on ‘‘how to make love the Amish way’’ recommends buying a butter churn because ‘‘when you see your partner churning away, it’ll be an erotic sight that you won’t soon forget.’’ Or, as the Byrds once sang, ‘‘To everything, churn, churn, churn.’’

Press Releases We Ignored This Week: ‘‘Waffle House Salutes Public Servants With ‘Waffles For Heroes’ Campaign,’’ ‘‘The World Unites Through Tupperware.’’

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘John Gotti’s Ghost Running Mafia!’’ (Weekly World News)

Bonus headline, also from WWN: ‘‘Man Circles the Globe By Being Shot From Cannons!’’

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, PR Newswire.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
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