Phantasmechanics New Product Review:

Lemax Miniature Near-UV L.E.D. Spotlights

Every Halloween season, I find something new to be excited about. While walking around in Michael's Crafts this afternoon, I found the product I had been looking for for many years - a truly miniature, truly ultraviolet blacklight. What's bettter, they look and function like little mercury vapor UV spotlights as seen in places like Disney's Haunted mansion. They even pan and tilt! The tiny fixtures measure about 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" x 1", and they share a 3-AA battery power box which can be AC-adapted.

The selling price is about $13, and they're part of a line of miniature Halloween dioramics - ceramic and plastic builldings, yard scenes, and detail pieces - themed as 'Spooky Town'. All this is definitely worth a look for the miniatures enthusiast; most of the pieces feature sound and/or movement, plus lighting effects. Some are actually little latter-day automata, and a few are quite charming.

These little guys came to my attention in a store display diorama, focused on the exterior of a haunted house. At first, I thought the neat purple glow was only that - deep violet vivible light - because there were no fluorescent-painted objects on that prop. However, after playing with them, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Lemax was really using near-UV L.E.D.s. They really do work well on fluorescent paints. The only drawback is that they shed a fair amount of that visible violet. For many of us in Halloween decorating, however, this is actually a plus. The spillover visible creates a pleasantly spooky lighting efffect on non-fluorescent objects - which, after all, caught my attention in the first place.

As these are intended for miniature displays, they will not overlight something like a full-size FCG. For those of you who have trouble limiting the amount of blacklight in a critical scene, this may be just what you need. They really do put out a surprising amount of UV (2 bright LED's per fixture) and can even be used up close in lit rooms. You'll need to experiment, but that's part of the fun of imagineering. ;-)

The poseable fixtures are truly useful, and if you've ever experienced the frustration that often comes in rigging up a quick miniature spotlight in a model, you'll be very happy with these. I'm not sure how much battery life they provide, but there's always the adaptor option. Yes, you could even do a Halloween diorama in a car (or hearse) rear window with these, and I'm sure someone will. I also know that there are numerous mini-FCG builders out there, and this is probably your lighitng grail.

Finally, since they are LED's, they can theoretically be dimmed. All you should have to do is put a potentiometer in series with the power supply - try one of about 100K Ohm @ 1 Watt (the unit draws 200 mA, as shown above in the image.) I suspect that this method will work (someone let me know if it does!)

NOTE: Don't stare at the pretty violet glow.
You can
And don't point them at guests, either!

The package doesn't warn you about this, but I will. ;-)

Within the next couple of years we'll probably see larger LED blacklights, some possibly with strobing, pulsing or even slow dimming features. Be on the lookout - it just keeps getting easier to light your haunt.

Please note that we don't sell this item. It may be found at a Michael's Crafts store, or possibly a Wal-Mart near you. Hurry, though...