How to Make Artificial Lightning Storms

Written by megan shoop
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How to Make Artificial Lightning Storms
Create fake lightning effects with some fancy electronics tricks. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Thunder and lightning may occur without rain, but they never occur without each other. Lightning, according to Clouds R Us, happens when the opposite charges inside the cloud become neutral and release as lines of electricity. Thunder soon follows because lightning creates a rift in the air, making it rush and clap quickly into the void. If you're going to create a fake lightning storm for a play or haunted house, it's important to know how they work. That way, you can time the light show with the sound effects for the perfect storm.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sticky hooks
  • Large-bulb outdoor twinkle lights: white
  • Strobe light adaptor box
  • 2 foot by 3 foot aluminium sheet
  • Tape recorder
  • Stereo

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  1. 1

    Press sticky hooks across your ceiling, spacing them about 1 foot apart in staggered rows. These hooks come in many styles and are available at your local hardware store. Choose hooks with deep curves.

  2. 2

    Slip the wires of your twinkle lights into the hooks, zigzagging them across your ceiling. Large outdoor bulbs offer more light and more of an effect than smaller lights.

  3. 3

    Plug a strobe light adaptor box, available at party supply stores, into a wall outlet. Plug the end of the last string of lights into the adaptor box.

  4. 4

    Set the timer on the strobe light . Turn the dial to cause the lights to flash brightly every minute, every few minutes or every couple of seconds.

  5. 5

    Hold a 2 foot by 3 foot aluminium sheet between your hand so it hangs down in front of you. Shake the sheet rapidly forward and backward so it makes a loud, rippling, banging sound similar to thunder.

  6. 6

    Record the thunder sound with a good-quality tape recorder, spacing your shakes as you spaced your strobe lights. For instance, if you timed two minutes between each strobe flash, wait two minutes between each thunder clap.

  7. 7

    Put the tape into a small stereo and turn the volume all the way up. Turn out all of the lights. The twinkle lights should be "off," with the strobe adaptor turned on and ready to make them flash.

  8. 8

    Turn on the stereo and let the lighting show begin.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep guests from seeing where the lightning is coming from with black cloth draped over your ceiling and tacked at the edges.
  • Record rainfall and to play as an additional sound effect.

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