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How Would you Catch a Pumpkin Thief?
Now you see 'em...
Now you see ’em…
...now you don't!
…now you don’t!

Hi Makers – it’s time to get those thinking caps on and help TRICK THE TRICKSTERS!  I’m looking for ideas on creative (but non-life-threatening!) ways to deter folks from stealing our pumpkins…AGAIN!make_halloweenbadgeV2 (1)

We just moved into a new town and my wife wanted to make the house look nice from the outside, too, so she carefully selected some special pumpkins (including one she thought worthy of the title “A Charlie Brown Pumpkin”) and set up the display you see in the top photo. That was Sunday evening.

By Monday morning our fair display was void of pumpkins!  (And despite science class teachings NOTHING has replaced the vacuum these missing pumpkins left behind except our sorrow and dismay, OK, and air.)  Apparently somebody decided they needed to trespass on our property, come right up all the way to our front door and then make off all sticky-fingered like with our pumpkins.  (Hmmm, do those two pumpkins across the street look similar to you?  I don’t remember seeing those yesterday either…)

I started looking into security cameras (so I could see who’s doing this), trail cams, motion-activated sprinklers (probably my favorite so far!), but those were all pretty pricey (compared to a pumpkin) so I need some better ideas to stop ’em in their tracks.

So here’s the challenge – I’m looking for ways to TRICK the TRICKSTERS next time (if they should be so bold!) Please post in the comments ways you would recommend making anyone trying to take off with our pumpkins, um, change their minds.  It should be simple and relatively inexpensive to do if possible.  Oh yeah, and safe.

And no, I don’t have electric outlets outside, so no making pumpkin pie out of our display or the thieves.  And remember it’s sitting on a hay bale, so fire is probably a no-no.  Probably…

If you need some starter ideas here’s some I’ve been considering already:

– Secure the pumpkins with about 4 feet of cord so the perps can actually try to run about 2 steps before the pumpkin wants to go the other way!  Ha-ha!

– Purchase a door stop contact switch and modify it to activate the siren when the contact opens (rather than closes). Stick it under the pumpkin and when it’s lifted up – siren away!  (Actually I’d prefer some voice text, to which my wife wanted to add some additional words!)

– As I said, the motion-activated water sprinkler has merit – but we’re makers, so to kick it up a notch let’s add a fluorescent or UV dye so we can find the perps using a special light later as they walk by!

OK, your turn. Let’s see what you come up with ’cause it’s only a week until this year’s Halloween and then another 52 weeks to perfect next year’s TRICKS!

See all of MAKE’s Halloween coverage and projects here

100 thoughts on “How Would you Catch a Pumpkin Thief?

  1. This may not help stop them, but you’ll at least give them a shock: Hollow out your pumpkin and put inside of it two plastic cups, containing baking soda and vinegar. When they pick the pumpkin up, they’ll both get dumped, and, well. They probably won’t be expecting to get sprayed with foam for their efforts.

    1. Nice idea and inexpensive – but we need to figure out how to keep it looking like a pumpkin while still allowing the reaction to escape the pumpkin (maybe some holes in the bottom so it leaks all over them quietly – hee-hee!)

  2. Cut the pumpkin into pieces that you can reassemble into a complete pumpkin. They’ll look the same from the curb but fall apart when lifted.

  3. Rig a pressure switch or pull cord on the bottom of pumpkin to some camera flashes around your yard. Rig a camera too…or not. Either way, it’s sure to scare the pants off of them.

      1. AIr horn – nice! I was thinking also about one of those luggage alarms since I could possibly keep a button pressed down with the pumpkin weight so that as soon as it lifted it would go off!

    1. Catching the action would be fun to watch later, as long as the surprise didn’t give them a heart attack that is!

  4. Add orange kool-aid mix inside the sprinkler. When is goes off, they will get a nice dye job. OR… Get a windshield washer bottle and pump from a junkyard. fill it with some obnoxious smelling fluid (like that rotten meat smell that is in fly traps). Set it up like a PIR triggered squirt gun and fire away…..

    1. Hmmm – PIR triggered water gun – now THAT might be a project to work on (might be good to keep out the roaming neighborhood cats too!) I’ll have to look around for some ideas on that one.

  5. I have two words for you: Pulling Fireworks.

    Basically, its a firecracker that makes a bang when string is pulled.
    step 1. attach to pumpkin , step 2. attach to something solid but hidden (ground?), step 3. Profit.

    1. David – I read the page you linked. That should certainly get their attention. Better still if I could rig up about 6-10 to each other so that one trip would make it sound like high-noon at the OK Corral!

      1. You need something to play a recording of someone yelling “Drop those pumpkins” or something of the sort just before it starts shooting.

  6. All the prior suggestions are good, and there are lots of ways to modify them. In addition, what about a fake pumpkin? You could use orange crepe paper to wrap some horrible, gelatinous stuff, and see if they take that. Or you could just mount a fake security camera and spotlight on your front porch. But that’s probably not as fun.

    1. Actually crepe paper with stuff inside is funny, and it makes me think of making one out of CONCRETE or filling a real one with 50 lbs of lead shot or something (Oh?! How did you get a hernia walking in my yard?). And I am now looking into some motion-activated lights (found some battery powered ones since I can’t run power to the areas I want to light up.)

  7. Instead of dying the thieves how about stinkifying them. It works for skunks! It even saves you the trouble of finding them afterwards. They will be punished enough.

    1. Wow – crime REALLY doesn’t pay in your neighborhood! I’d say they’d never forget that attempt – nor would anyone around them! Pew!

    1. Tilt switch – good idea. I’d have to give it some thought as to what would happen when activated. I always thought the tilt-switch in an OS retail box with a mini-ITX computer in it was a cool idea too.

  8. Maybee somebody was just hungry and could not afford to buy food. making a freaking surveillance on pumpkins is just sick..

    1. I was thinking the same, more or less, but with something more unpleasant. Like tar. You’d only want to put it around the back near the bottom, which wouldn’t be visible but which the thief would probably touch while picking it up in the dark.

  9. screaming pressure switch. Hollow out pumpkin like some of the other ideas, inside put a very loud screeching circuit or something of the like.

    Just wondering, if they are that round it would not take much for a raccoon or opossum to roll them away.

  10. Around the back and well hidden use one of those drywall expanding toggle bolts into the pumpkin with a rope or chain connected to something really gross like a dead rat. On second thought that might result in the pumpkin getting tossed in your window. How about a simple sign next to the pumpkin saying this haunt under video surveillance?

  11. Remember the compressed air rocket launchers posted on here a while back. They used PVC, a 9V and a sprinkler valve to launch. Build a smaller version and fill it with flour. It can be hidden within the hay bale. A simple pressure switch to activate…

  12. A mouse trap or rat trap set under the pumpkin could be your switch, you wouldn’t need to fully set the trap, just bend the kill bar back and let the weight of the pumpkin hold it.
    What would I wire to the mouse trap? A loud horn and a bright light. At two AM that combination can be very laxitive.

    It reminds me of one old timer who had his outhouse tiped over every Halloween. Well, one Halloween he waited until after dark, moved the outhouse slightly, and went back to wait in the dark on his back porch. About an hour or so later he heard anguished screams and found the would be vandals in the pit.

  13. Take one of those electric bug swatters apart, rewire to two strips of foil or on opposite sides of the pumpkin. The thief probably won’t even hang on long enough to lift the pumpkin.

  14. As a high school teacher, I’m here to say it’s a bad idea to start a prank war with adolescents who don’t know the boundary between harmless cheeky humor and maliciousness. I, personally, would get a few IR wild game cameras, and then send that to the cops. Def point one out to the road to catch what type of car and/or license plate. I warn you that you’ll get a laugh, but they’ll scheme all day and return fire.

  15. You can use the Little Bits motion trigger, wire, and buzzer, along with a power bit (it has an on/off switch and is powered by a 9 volt battery). Place it behind the pumpkin with the motion trigger on the side. Conceal it with a little hay perhaps.

  16. Just fill the suckers with cement! Worked for my mailbox when kids kept hitting it with baseball bats from the back of a truck.

  17. People, people, people, VERY easy!!

    Poison ivy vines beautifully wrapped around the pumpkin…..someone will get the last laugh for weeks to come :)

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A Life Long Learner who's making the transition to more of a doer, which will gladly mean more learning! Constantly dreaming up inventions, occasionally writing them down, and hopefully, one day, making some of them a reality.

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