Professor Mark Csele

Shocked Skeleton

Our 2008 to 2010 displays, pictured here, featured a skeleton in an electric chair. When a kid approaches the porch the system triggers and the skeleton rises out of the chair accompanied by fog, a strobe light, and the loud sounds of an electrical arc. The front window featured a rear-projection video of a large tesla coil operating with large arcs streaming everywhere to complete the ‘mad scientist’ appearance (also completed by yours truly wearing a lab coat and a wig of “shocked” white hair).

The prototype for the 2008 skeleton is seen here in the workshop. The electric chair has a light rope for the “wires” connecting the skeleton to the chair. Upon triggering, fog is released by a fog machine behind the chair, illuminated by eerie green light and a strobe light.

Mechanical Details

The electric chair prop for 2008 consisted of a simple wooden chair built from low-grade, rough, wood. The skeleton is supported by two pieces of 1-by-2 wood hinged in the middle allowing the skeleton to move in a more natural way when lifting from the chair. The skeleton moves first in a bent-over position, when maximum extension is approached a chair pulls the support behind the skeleton’s back causing the skeleton to move to a prone position. Two actuators could have been used however a single cylinder and two hinges proved to be a simpler solution.

close-up photo of the mechanism shot from the rear shows the arrangement of the cylinder, two support arms, and the chain which pulls-back on the arm to erect the skeleton. Wire ties hold the skeleton to the arms. 

This shot of the rear of the chair was taken before it is covered with black cloth to hide the mechanism. A small fog machine was mounted on a bracket immediately behind the chair – when actuated it releases a programmable length blast of fog (the length set by a digital timer module). Beside the fog machine is a green floodlight which, when scattered by the fog, casts an eerie green glow all around and on the top is a strobe light (flashing associated with electricity). Also seen in the bottom of the photo is the solenoid air valve, timers for the fog machine, two power supplies, the electronics package, and set of computer speakers. The speakers are fed continuously from a laptop playing an audio file of “electricity” noises (loud arcing from a Tesla coil) and are simply connected to the same AC supply as the spotlight: when the display is activated the spotlight, strobe, and sound are all activated.