View Full Version : Ground Level Drop Panels

Kevin Dells
08-03-2008, 07:51 AM
Yep you read write. A few years back i thought up this idea while touring a haunted trail back in Illinois. It was one of those what if i owned or worked an outdoors haunt what would i build.

So now im working an outdoor haunt i drew up this device and gave the drawings to the owner and he loved the idea.

Last season we toured Spookywoods and they had something similar but i wanted this to be a faster more startling effect.

Tony's haunt they used what appeared to be spandex covering a hole that the actors slowly came out of, at our place we wanted it fast and startling.(fast paced zombies like many seen in movies)

So we have dug two holes for two Zombie pits staggered slightly apart.

Yesterday we framed in the holes with wood and i started building the track the panels hatches will slide along,these will be attached to the pit wood framing as well as staked into the ground behind the wood box.

It's designed with a counterweight run off behind the pit under a fence out of harms way.

So the idea is the actor waits inside the box for the group, hits the lever (and ducks out of the way of the lever!)the top panel slides open and the zombie comes out at feet level.

We are putting small wrought iron fences in front of the pits so the actors don't get kicked yet the patrons still have a great veiw as the zombie fly's out of the box at them.

Were going to dress the whole system to look like freshly dug graves.

Building these yesterday i couldn't help but think man is this going to scare the crap out of people in a dimly light situation. My buddy and i even talked about the timing and how it would work for different sized groups and we laughed our arses off at how effective these pits will be!

He and I are really contemplating actually working these pits the first night were open just to see how effective they will be.

Has anybody seen anything of this idea at any other attraction? The ground level drop panel? May need to rename these since their not dropping their sliding.

Attack Hatches, there we go!

08-03-2008, 11:12 PM
I dunno, I'm having trouble visualizing the whole thing. I think I understand the underground box, and the sliding hatch, but you lost me with latch and the counterweight. Will the actors be about waist deep or so when they pop up?

Greg Chrise
08-04-2008, 12:39 AM
It sounds good. If there was somekind of tumble weed on top that was light weight, that alone would clue the people to look and then see. By time they focus they have a zombie in their gaze and you have let the brain go through 3 to 4 WTF responces and a much bigger scare.

I would want the "lever" to actually be a peg on the floor that when pulled up is in the same direction the actor is headed and the only timing is that the lid is really out of the way.

At other places there could be just a fake out of no hole, no zombie, just sliding objects? Conditioning for thinking nothing is going to happen about 3 times and then wham again from the same effect.

For the return patrons, there might be mutiple wack a mole loactions but, like the missle defense system there is no specific ones that are going to be used or not used.

Twitching shrubbery defense Initiative.

08-04-2008, 02:03 AM

I'm not sure I'm visualizing this the same way you are but I think I know what you want to do. I think Greg hit on it with the lever - don't overthink this.

If the panel is only there to hide the zombie until everyone gets close and then has to not be there so the zombie can jump out, who says you need a heavy panel with counterweights? Heck, use cardboard. Cheap and easily replaceable. As safe as can be and the zombies can toss it into the air without any trouble. You could glue a piece of tumbleweed to the top of it, or use Great Stuff to look like dirt for the graves. Attach a piece of string to it so they can pull it back if it flies off too far.

Since no one will see it, I would put a ladder in the box to make it easy to get in and out. Jumping is cool - the first three or four times. After a couple of weeks, I can picture the zombies moving the panel back (however you decide to do it) and just yelling.

Kevin Dells
08-04-2008, 05:11 AM
Well we worked late into the evening last night and finished one of the pits and tested it. We found it needs heavier wire and not rope to activate it,too much stretch in the rope.

We did put steps in and out, fart smellers...i meen smart fellers aren't we! LOL

We had to build these very durable to last, Cardboard no way!

The counterweight is to help assist the actor opening and closing the lid..well opening it anyhow. We found it was tough to close so were kicking around idea's to make closing it easier.

I did get some pictures that i will post tonight, i would now but im running late to work. Just to many good threads here to quick check in i always spend a lot more time reading then i allow for!

Kevin Dells
08-04-2008, 05:18 PM
O.K here are the pictures of our Zombie pits (Undressed still )

You dig a hole and build a basic box for actor comfort and something to mount the track to.


Put it in the hole,backfill around it

Second box were building

Give it a lid that fits losely in the channel, throw a weight system on it, Adjust weight system many times!

Put your favorite goon in it and scare the crap out of people!

08-04-2008, 05:59 PM
Wow... that looks really cool and will get some AWESOME scares! You'd have me running! Nice work man! -Tyler

Greg Chrise
08-04-2008, 07:18 PM
The problem isn't the rope, it is the friction on the pulleys. Some how I was thinking the counter weight would also be in the box. Hitting the floor would be an attention getter and there is enough distance to only have one pulley at the back of the box, and the cable on the front. To assist the reset, the monster can simply lift the counterweight to a temporary hook, close the lid, set the peg and then ready the counterweight.

Now that I see it, I'm thinking a tombstone to read behind it. There cold also be some flash light action ( or powered lamp) with a colored gel that comes on with perhaps the monsters body weight on the front edge of the pit. 12 or less volt and two copper wires that make contact or the pressure pad for the fasten seat belt thing from an automotive seat. Of course you could buy a mat or switch but, that costs money.

08-04-2008, 08:21 PM
If it slides easily enough, why not just put a handle on the underside for the zombie to slide back and forth? I still think you're overthinking it - simple is better when you're going to be doing something dozens of times in a row.

Kevin Dells
08-04-2008, 08:47 PM
We decided to use a thinner cover maybe 5/8" or 1/2" this will make the channel it slides along more open. When we tested it we used 3/4 and thats really to heavy but i was thinking safety for the wandering person who dosent realize it's there during the day. ( Our actors)

I like the weight inside the box idea for re setting purposes but were talking a pretty big hole already and were trying to leave the woods as untouched as we can so theres not a lot of extra fixing to get it back to natural.

Shawn my thinking was to have it where the actor triggers that latch and then just straight up lurches forward. We wanted to take one of the persons motions out of it. By having to pull back quickly and then spring forward to attack from the crouching stance is pretty tough.
Hell i was having a tough time just coming out of the box fast from crouching,yanking the board back would be out of the question.

I like the idea of lighting the hole just before releasing the hatch, and it would be cool as hell to add a fog machine to each one and have the actor hit the button for a burst right before he opens it, grave glows, hatch opens and zombie and fog pour out. We may even build a small frame just over the hatch where it stops when fully open and put a gravestone that stays staionary attached to it to dress it up

Like i said we have more adjusting to do, hopefully we inspired a few oudoor haunts with this. Think underground and overhead! One of those tough things to do in an indoor haunt at least the underground part.

08-04-2008, 09:47 PM
You could use a spring. Extend it to close the door and have a latch at the front. Move the latch and the spring retracts, snapping the door open. The effort to pull the door shut shouldn't be that difficult.

This would make the opening instantaneous with no effort on the actor's part, and would only take a second to reset.

Haunting Copy
08-05-2008, 03:41 AM
So, the argument against the cardboard cover is because it could pose a safety hazard during the day, right?

Could the hole be marked by little flags that stick in the ground when the night is over, like the ones used in construction?

I don't mean to beat the cardboard vs. sliding board idea to death, but I agree with Shawn that you might be making things much harder for yourself.

But OMG, the fog and light added to the zombie jumping out? YES! YES! YES!


08-05-2008, 07:37 AM
Hey Kevin,

For future installations, you could always make the cover of the box pneumatic. And before anyone jumps on me, yes, there are ways to make this totally safe so that no actor gets harmed.

Matt Marich
08-05-2008, 12:32 PM
Don't forget drainage in case it rains! Here in Phoenix, that box would be full of scorpions pretty quickly, yummy!


08-05-2008, 12:40 PM
Don't forget drainage in case it rains! Here in Phoenix, that box would be full of scorpions pretty quickly, yummy!


Wow, that would be horrific. The only thing worse would be spiders. And then the latch get stuck, and your drowing in a box full of scorpions and spiders. ICK. sounds like something from the next saw movie.

08-05-2008, 01:09 PM
This is very cool -- love this idea and started building it right away! We're in a cornfield, so we opted for cardboard lids, well, actually foam core and a handle from the inside for the actor to lift. It probably won't last a night, but we'll play around with it and see what's most comfortable to work with after 50 times of lifting the lid :) We thought about tombstones on the back of ours...like you say, to prevent accidents in case someone doesn't realize there's a hole in the ground (it would be me, no doubt)

We have a heavy clay soil that holds water, so we did have to make drainage holes in the bottom of the box and I decided to put a little gravel/sand mix in the bottom of the hole before putting the box in -- hopefully, if it rains it'll help provide at least a little drainage. We don't have scorpians, but we do have snakes who would love to find this! If I thought for a second that I was squatted down in there with a snake....wow, that'd be a whole new level of fear for me!

Thanks for sharing this idea -- I cannot wait to see reactions to this!
Happy Haunting :)

08-05-2008, 02:06 PM
Wow, that would be horrific. The only thing worse would be spiders. And then the latch get stuck, and your drowing in a box full of scorpions and spiders. ICK. sounds like something from the next saw movie.

Scorpions, spiders, and without proper drainage, the possibility of drowning inside! Sounds like you're trying to scare the people inside the box instead of the customers! How awful! You wouldn't catch me in that box during a rainstorm! LOL!

08-05-2008, 11:27 PM

The effort your putting into this is more than needed. Our spandex covered graves can also be fast, just have the actor come out faster. We decided to go slow since zombie don't move very fast.

We also put the graves on a incline with drainage, just to make a nice comfy grave for the actors. You need to have another actor working above ground just for added safety to keep the drunks from jumping in it. Gotta love haunting, the more I work on our Christmas show the more I dread the haunt season. Their is something about seeing beer bottles, condoms and panties in the parking lot that pisses me off the morning after a busy night. Maybe I'm getting old.

Here is a photo of our spandex grave. Talk about scary as hell, this guy made them scream all night long!


Greg Chrise
08-05-2008, 11:38 PM
Maybe we need a parking lot web cam?

08-05-2008, 11:39 PM
Great idea! I can mount a telephoto web cam and charge for it.

Kevin Dells
08-06-2008, 05:23 AM
The picture i didn't post was the actual hole, we dug extra deep and the boxes are set on top of cinder blocks as well as we took the auger down in the hole and dug a center hole in the middle three feet deep just for drainage.

We have no scorpions but the toads are finding a new home and we do have a snake hanging around eyeballing the place,but we love snakes here.

There isn't a day gone by that somebody dosen't walk up with a snake.

08-06-2008, 07:15 AM
Just throw some clowns in the box and it's just about become everyone's biggest fear combined all together. Kevin's creating a Pandora's box of fears.

Haunting Copy
08-06-2008, 08:16 AM
And another theme is born: Pandora's Box of Fears.

Eh. Probably been done a gazillion times.

08-06-2008, 03:31 PM
Wouldn't it just be simpler to put hinges on the back of the lid, so when the actor stands up the lid flys open. all he would have to do would be flip the lid back over and he/she is ready for the next group.

Kevin Dells
08-08-2008, 05:08 AM
The cardboard and lid on hinges are great suggestions and thank you for posting the idea's.

BUT we were asked to build stuff that will last the duration of five years. The pits we built as overkill as they are will be lucky to even withstand three being as that their in the ground.

And the whole look were going for is the casket sliding open and the zombie crawling out, If we use a flip top lid it really takes away from that look.

Again the whole idea is for the actor to just flip a latch and perform his bit for the group. By doing the counterweight that is doing the work as they pounce on the group. Were taking out a full motion the actor would have to do to get that scare.

Im trying to make it fast and right at the groups feet, a good true startle scare,fast and furios never saw it coming.

08-09-2008, 11:27 PM
What kind of casket has a sliding lid, every casket I have ever seen has a hinged lid. If you wanted it to last 5 years you should have dug a hole lined it with treated 4x4's or 6x6's(stacked and interlocked) and attached a lid to that. If you use heavy duty hinges and bolt them not screw them it will out last the lid. If you want the lid to last 5 years you can't use plywood unless it is marine grade as it will just rot. Beside owning the Darkside Haunted House on Long Island(in our 11th season) I am also a Contractor. I hope these tips help.

Greg Chrise
08-09-2008, 11:39 PM
It would be a crypt with a marble slab for a lid that slides. With the dyed tumble weed option, even though it isn't in the old West and they didn't have access to marble. The movies have screwed up people logic and expectations so just go with it...

Exit poll: What did you like or not like about our haunted trail?
Responce: Dude, florescent tumble weed is bogus!

Haunting Copy
08-10-2008, 05:56 AM
Phantom, do you mean the plywood itself needs to be marine grade?

Or do you mean it has to be *treated* with marine grade paint?

I ask this because I had a coffin built of plywood once, and I painted
it with marine grade paint. It did pretty well for a few years.

But if I ever do it again, I'd like to know the best way.


08-10-2008, 09:40 PM
Yes the plywood itself, Marine grade plywood is meant for wet conditions and does well outside, the only down side is it is pricey. But plywood left untreated outside will delaminate over a short time left exposed to the elements. OSB will rot very fast and is not recomended for exposeure to the elements unless covered (Ex. roofing siding Ect.) Any wood will rot with contact to the ground where it will retain moisture, treated wood will last longer and there is wood made for ground contact. Hope that helps