Jack In The Box - black art model
Jack-N-Box, the black-art model.
Within your haunt here is a room filled with giant toys. Sitting near the next room is a large Jack-In-The-Box toy. The box stands 4 feet square give-or-take. It appears to be innocent, and not threatening. Decorations accent the see-through walls convincing you there is nothing inside, just empty blackness. As you near this box, the lid springs open and a large clown with alien-long arms reaches for you.
Almost every magician serious about learning stage magic knows of black art. In earlier posts I talk about it (posts on hauntworld.com). In this drawing a Jack-in-the-Box toy springs to life, popping out from a lid of a large square box. This box should be decorated in clown/circus themes and accented with night symbols (stars, moon, planets, and or rockets).
The walls of this box are see-through with solid frame work and decorations. The lid can either be solid or decorated with see-through parts. ĖI would suggest a see-through lid (much like the walls, if your customers will not be getting too close. From a distance, like across the room, the lid can be decorated mimicking the walls.
The floor can be left open and back of the box can be left open. Ultimately, depends on where youíre going to place this box. In the center of a room, It might be best to make the back, making this illusion surround-able. The same could be said about the bottom. If you stand this box on top of other boxes, then you will need a floor.
How this works is completely actor driven, or manual. The actor sits comfortably inside a large tube container.
Traditionally, the tube is a simple aluminum can covered inside and out with black velvet (or velveteen). The container, in this case, will not require a bottom (again, unless you have a need to stack this box above the floor). Please add the eye-holes as they will not be seen by anyone other than the actor.
The black fabric cannot be seen behind the brightly painted art work of your box. I heavily suggest using UV paints. For lighting, any light will be fine, but since most haunts use black lights in their circus areas, go ahead and use that.
I have added the see-through walls to let people see inside this box. As they walk closer and passed, their eyes will see the other side or the room making it seem that itís empty (or at least, emptier than it appears). Ė In the light this effect is minimal, in the darker areas of haunted houses, perfect.
Let me point out that the innards of this box need to be painted black. This includes all the edges and detailed decorations.
Most haunts are dark and this means that this illusion will be perfect for you. But, if youíre outside or at a childrenís haunt where the lights are on, well, here is how the magicians do it: Add a painted mesh screen behind the decorations (see pic). The mesh or window screen should be darker than the decorations but will work to mask out the black container inside.
This box can be used as a pneumatic prop, just remove actor and replace with a cylinder or two.
The costume: In this description I included the extra-long alien arms. These are included to maximize the box. I would suggest stuffing your actor with all kinds of things to help get that ultimate scare. He or she could shoot a water cannon, throw beads, stand on stilts (although I would like to see that). There will be a lot of space for them so use it. The actorís real arms are hidden by the clown costume and holding sticks that make up the second half of the longer arms.
Using similar method.
Complete appearance of an actor from head to toe.
The picture says it all actually. To get a full actor to appear (and vanish), instead of using a stationary tube, use a collapsible tube made of rigid (but still foldable) fabric sections. The only firm part needs to be the hoop or ring sewn into the fabric. The hoop would connect to rods attached to the lid. As the lid is opened the hoop drops revealing the actor filling the box. Reversibly, the lid may be closed to make the actor vanish. Each version should be fairly quick.
No magic illusion has used a method of collapsing black tube. This would be an original for haunts since the lighting would be dark, it is more appropriate. The tube should fall flat to the ground and as it does, the actor should spread out inside making it seem there is more inside the box than there really is.
Connect a rod to the lid with a hinged pin. Attach the bottom of this rod to another rod that is pinned to the box via pivoting dowel. This second rod lowered the hoop.
This effect is great for the home haunter and even better for the professional.
Presentation is everything...
I was once pretty involved in magic myself years ago. If there is one thing that I could tell anyone about the art of magic it would be that its not about how illusions are made as much as it is how they are presented to the audience.
Being that most haunts are not setup as a show as much as they are a walk through, the audience is moving more than not. This creates some difficulty in designing an illusion based on techniques that have been developed and passed down for generations based on audiences that are usually stationary. The trick "In my opinion", would be to create an illusion that has a perceived set. Meaning that the set or scene can be instantly recognized by the human senses. (like a table, you have seen a million tables in your life and your brain instantly recognizes the shape and imagery of a table even if it just out of the corner of your eye) Your audience has to be able to recognize your forced perspective instantly, because they don't have time to study what you're trying to present.
I like the idea of using a variation of the traditional squared circle illusion in a haunt. There are so many different ways that this could be incorporated into a scene. With a little imagination and hard work this could used in everything from steam punk, gore or even as presented here in a clown or toy room scene.
Iíve been thinking of incorporate a metamorphosis into a scene but Iíve have been having trouble coming up with just the right scene or scenario to make it a big scare. I think the largest obstacle is timing and presentation. It almost has to be a scene thatís setup a few rooms before the actual illusion to give the customers a basis to relate to, almost like this;
5 actors: 2 victims, 2 perpetrators, 1 monster
2 identical rooms
(First room) a perpetrator tortures a victim on an operating table but the customer doesnít get to see the results of the full torture, the customers continue to move thru the hant and come back up on the same scene from the opposite side (Second room) the perpetrator doesnít want them to see the victim that is now shaking and convulsing and pulls a curtain around the table to hide the victim. But as soon as the curtain is pulled shut itís torn down by a monster thatís now standing on the table were the victim was just lying.
Major Draw-Back: fatigue, performing a true traditional metamorphosis is very physical. Performing it over and over, night after night would be extremely exhausting.
Solution: Abandon the idea and do something else or figure out what aspects of the illusion can be left out or made mechanical. Then scale back the timing to make it all work in one scene instead of two.
Jack In The Box - black art model
I can tell your a fan of the art. Magic illusions have very little place in a haunted house. That being said (too often) you have to let go of the illusions you see on TV. At best you will need to re-design illusions to work in your haunt. Once you do this you can create your own from the effect (the results) on up. In other words it would be like writing a mystery, you begin from the end and work you way to the beginning. This will help you with the way the illusion should look and function.
I would suggest not having people come back to the same room again. You can slow them down if you need to though. The concept your looking for I am assuming, is a lightening fast change (metamorphosis). This is very easy to do and even easier inside a haunt. A person can change into another person at the blink of an eye. For example, if a man standing in front of you suddenly changes into a grotesque zombie, that would be the effect. How it could be done is the man has two half costumes. Looking directly at him, he looks normal. On his back is the zombie costume including a fake head. He would only need to turn around to shock you. Before you want to add special lighting to this, try it first in your haunt you might be surprised at how simple this is. Another way to pull this off is having a costume change. Not the expensive ones that you find on stage but a simple half-costume from head to toe. Have your actor dress in full zombie costume then put over it this 'regular guy' costume. When you need a change it (the regular guy costume) is pulled away.
These are easy solutions but there are many, almost countless ways to make your illusions work. If you would like something more technical shoot me an email. But for now, Having 2 actors in a room where one is being tortured while the other is doing the torturing is all you need. Try the costume change while laying down. I would like to know how that turns out for you.