How to Make Halloween Extra Spooky With Smart Home Gear

Smart-home devices can help you save energy, make your home more secure, and even protect against catastrophe. But they’re also just plain fun, especially when it comes to putting the trick in trick-or-treat. Here’s a few relatively simple options enhance your Halloween night using smart gear you might already have at home.

Bathe your entryway in bloodcurdling lighting

The trick: When costumed kiddies approach, have the front porch or doorway area automatically turn blood red.

What you need: Color smart bulbs, any Amazon Alexa device, and a video doorbell. (If you have a lengthy driveway, outdoor cameras would be great, too.)

How you do it: If you have any Alexa device (I like the Echo Dot because it’s the cheapest), you can easily conjure up this creepy effect using cameras or motion sensors. Just launch the Alexa app, tap More at the bottom, and then tap Routines. After you hit the plus sign in the upper-right corner, the app walks you through creating rules that will change the color of the bulbs as someone approaches and then put them back to normal after the visitor leaves. The motion sensor on each of my EufyCam 2 Pro Wireless outdoor cameras triggers my Routine to turn two porch-based Wyze Color Bulbs red. (And if you have the Wyze Cam v3, you can create a Device Trigger under Rules in the settings section of the Wyze app.) I also have a separate Routine that changes them back to white if our Ring Video Doorbell Wired hasn’t sensed anyone’s presence for two minutes.

If you don’t have an outdoor camera, note that all video doorbells have motion detection, which can trigger the same effect when someone approaches the door or pushes the bell. For those without cameras, another option is to link a smart motion sensor to turn on smart bulbs.

Rachel Cericola

Summon a thunderstorm in your entryway

The trick: Spawn a bone-chilling tempest for visitors to your porch, front walkway, or even inside, with convincing lights and sounds evoking lightning strikes, driving rain, and ominous rumbling thunder.

What you need: Philips Hue color bulbs (any variety), the Thunderstorm for Hue iOS app or Android app, and one or more AirPlay or Bluetooth speakers.

How to do it: Install the Hue and Thunderstorm smartphone apps. Install your Hue bulb or bulbs—the effect works great with one bulb but gets even more powerful with a few—in a lamp or fixture wherever you hope to mimic a thunderstorm. To make setup easier, in your Hue app create a Group of all your Hue smart bulbs and name it something like “Halloween” or “death from above.” Place your preferred wireless speaker or speakers nearby in the same area. If you’re using AirPlay, you can also group your speakers rather than selecting them individually.

Using your smartphone, select your speaker or speaker Group either Bluetooth or AirPlay. Open the Thunderstorm app, select Lights or Groups and pick which bulbs you want to be triggered during your storm. Then select Storms and toggle on your desired type of storm—it ranges from a heavy thunderstorm to a light rain. Tapping the settings gear icon brings up a menu to tweak a variety of settings, such as the length of the storm cycle, the frequency of the lightning strikes, the color of the light, and so on.

—Jon Chase

Turn a fake skull or jack-o’-lantern into a screaming head

The trick: Make your guests feel truly unwelcome by greeting them with a screaming skull (a plastic jack-o’-lantern works, too) as soon as they dare to press your doorbell with their greedy little claws.

What you need: A plastic Halloween skull or jack-o’-lantern, an older Echo Dot (the current-generation Dot is too big for most skulls, but will fit inside a jack-o’-lantern) and a doorbell camera that works with Alexa Routines.

How you do it: If you happen to have a spare skull lying around, as well as a small smart speaker (I used a second-generation Echo Dot) and a smart doorbell camera to act as a trigger, you can greet visitors with a talking head. First, be sure to integrate your doorbell camera with the Alexa app—I used a Eufy wireless model, but other brands’ doorbell cameras will work, as well. (Some may require an Alexa Skill for this.) Next, cut a hole in the bottom of the skull or jack-o’-lantern that will allow you to hide the Echo Dot inside. Be sure to turn the Dot’s volume all the way up, because the skull may muffle the sound. Choose one of the several available Halloween sound effects in the Skills section of the Alexa app, and then create a Routine that activates the ghastly scream whenever someone presses the doorbell button. Place Mr. Bones on a table on your porch, preferably near the candy bowl. Use it in tandem with one of the lighting effects described above to make your porch especially unwelcoming.

If you don’t have a doorbell camera, an outdoor security camera or a motion sensor can also serve as the trigger. Also, if you don’t have a porch outlet to plug in your Echo Dot, you can use a small portable Bluetooth speaker like the Tribit XSound Go and wirelessly connect it to an Echo speaker inside the house, as long as it’s within Bluetooth range.

—Grant Clauser

Have visitors trigger spooky whispers

The trick: Make your video doorbell completely creep out anyone standing on your front stoop.

What you need: Any video doorbell and an Amazon Alexa device, depending on the doorbell you have.

How you do it: Many of our video doorbell picks allow you to enable this trick in one way or another. Last year, I created a Routine in the Alexa app that would play wolf sounds on an Echo Dot in the window whenever someone rang my Arlo Video Doorbell. To access these effects, tap Sounds and Animals in the Alexa app. You can find creaky door effects, too. If you want something even more special, the Eufy Security Video Doorbell 2K (Wired) allows you to customize responses by tapping Doorbell Settings, then Quick Response. From there, you can record screams or even the Halloween theme, but you’ll need to manually enable them from the app whenever someone rings the doorbell. Before conjuring up any special spells, though, check your app. The Google Nest Doorbell (Wired), for example, allows you to change the bell tone to Halloween sounds right in the Google Home app.

If you don’t have a video doorbell, you can set up an outdoor camera to trigger sounds on an Echo Dot using Alexa Routines and the camera’s embedded motion detector. If you don’t want to spy on Halloweeners with any video devices, a smart motion sensor on the stairs or by the front door can trigger sounds instead.

—Rachel Cericola

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