Lase Maze Header|

Laser Maze

Creating a laser maze for a party.

I have a client whose son always gives me a challenge that just makes my day! A few weeks ago, we sat down to discuss his “James Bond” themed spy party. He was quite adamant that it be high tech and include things like computer decoding and flight simulators (thank you Apple and your iPad for inexpensive flight training apps!). As we started to riff on scenes from movies that we could recreate into activities for his party, we both hit upon the same image at the same time: Catherine Zeta Jones snaking her way under the laser beams in the the movie “Entrapment.”

Sophie as CZJ|

I admit that I can’t honestly tell you anything about that movie other than the image of CZJ and those lasers. Those of you who have seen the movie know exactly what I mean...

After the entire room erupted into squeals of delight, we set about deciding what the parameters of the maze would be. We decided there need to be sirens, a treasure (in this case, king-sized Hershey bars wrapped in gold, for Goldfinger, of course), and it needed to be dark inside the maze. Armed with these very specific instructions, I began to create my own Goldfinger Laser Maze.

Long before this party, my team and I made a similar, but cheaper and simpler version of this laser maze. It was, yet another Stephen Breen creation. We used a refrigerator box to make a tube filled with criss-crossing strings (much as the way CZJ did with her practice strings in the movie). We used Chinese jump ropes for the strings (which we got at the Dollar Store) which were elastic and stretched, so no one got caught up in the maze.

How to create a laser box|

To secure the jump ropes in place, we simply made two holes in the box, pulled the jump rope through, and secured each end by tying it to a piece of dowel that then formed a T-shaped stopgap. The effect, was pretty incredible. But for this client, it needed to be more sophisticated. It needed to be literally wired for sound.

I knew I needed a confined space, and so I chose their long narrow garage to serve as the maze. Creating the ambience wouldn’t be hard; all I needed to do was cover all the walls with black, and as a party planner I have tons of fabric drape. Over the entrance I used two overlapping drapes so that you had to slip through the two into complete darkness. I placed a single white light spotlight (stolen from my disco ball set up) at the far end of the room. I made a pedestal out of an overturned planter, and placed one shining bar of "gold" directly beneath the beam.

Now onto the fun part: the beams! I had to turn to Steve, my warehouse manager and inventor extraordinaire in order to pull this off. After ordering one of the Wild Planet Lazer Tripwire from Amazon, both Steve and I discovered the disheartening truth: you couldn’t see the laser beams. You needed something to make them visible... and that thing turned out to be fog. However, the alarm’s beams were so weak that the fog actually tripped the alarm! Finally, we discovered that if we used a higher-powered beam from an actual laser pointer, it worked perfectly.

I found these amazing laser pointers that did the trick. Steve and I both decided that two or three real booby traps would make for a big enough challenge, and that the rest of the beams would be bogus beams that would just serve as distractions. We figured that in the dark, the kids wouldn’t really be able to see which ones were connected to the actual alarms.

The tricky part was how to make the beams stay perfectly in line with the alarm bases. It was Steve, of course, who came up with the solution. Using small wooden bases and 1/2 inch PVC, he constructed little stands that I could place on opposite sides of the room. Both lasers and bases were secured into place with putty and duct tape, and the bases taped to the floor to make sure they didn’t move. Once they were set, we were in business! For the decoy lasers I simply taped and puttied the flashlights all around the room.

Laser Maze in Fog|

The one thing that I discovered as I was setting up the maze on the day of the event, was that the fog needed to be just right: too much (you couldn’t see anything, let alone the lasers), too little and you only caught glimpses of the lasers when you were right up next to them. I ended up using two fog machines, one at either end of the garage, but only sparingly. I also discovered that a blacked-out room full of lasers is a seriously dark place! To make sure everyone was safe, I marked the walls with some color-changing LED light bases that I had from another event. They added a cool effect, and also kept the kids away from the walls where all the apparatus was placed.

When everything was set, we let the guests make their way through the maze. It was awesome to watch! Each guest had their own technique. Some were very cautious, some just went gangbusters and ran through the beams (of course setting everything off and having to go back to the end of the line), some stood there and tried to figure out where the actual trip wires were, and how to avoid them. All in all it was a very interesting experiment in stealth.

My favorite thing was hearing the boys compare strategies, and watching them put their names on the list over and over. Even the parents and siblings got into it!

I’m sure there are ways to make a more sophisticated system, but for me this laser maze ranks up there with one of my top ten party activities. And even if none of us looked like Catherine Zeta Jones while going through the maze, in our imaginations... we all did!