Booby Traps: for & by Boobs

ACME Styled DIY Home Security = Epic FAIL

Anyone who grew up in the heyday of Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner cartoons remembers Wile E.’s “SUPER Genius” adventures with ACME products: ACME Bombs, Detonators, Dynamite, ACME Giant Mouse Trap, and a variety of ACME Anvils (1). Most of Wile E.’s charades backfired. But he was lucky. In Looney Tunes land characters have the ability to walk on air, defy fire, easily shake-off explosions and other ingenious snares that slice, dice and chop them into a zillion different pieces all with the goal of entertaining millions of cartoon-watchers. Daffy Duck had his beak blown off nearly everyday, but he’d pick it up and screw it right back onto his head. 

In our modern civilized world we face the threat of intrusion, theft, and other predatory crimes. In some cases certain among us are inspired to respond with “clever” if deadly booby traps they’ve convinced themselves are fair and reasonable child’s play.

Brief History of Booby Traps

booby trap

If you take a quick foray into the evolution of “booby traps” the trip is not nearly as funny or light-hearted as the visual pranks drawn in a Warner Brothers cartoon. In fact, booby traps are almost a required part of tactical guerrilla warfare everywhere: they’re cheap, constructed of materials at hand and designed to intentionally inflict horror or maim and kill as many people/soldiers/enemy troops as possible in one fell swoop. Booby traps have been used in both major World Wars, in Vietnam (2) and they are being currently employed in the Middle East (3) and other combat hot spots around the globe. Humankind centuries ago learned the value of ingenious hidden traps and lures for eliminating attackers with little effort and human expense. The practice of laying booby traps has survived and become just one component of an effective war strategy.  

By definition a “booby trap” is “An explosive device designed to be triggered when an unsuspecting victim touches or disturbs a seemingly harmless object….” (Answers.com) 

In guerrilla combat camouflaged or otherwise hidden killer traps are physically and psychologically effective at securing and destroying important weaponry, transportation routes, and strategically eliminating enemies with little or no trouble at all. But booby traps are also used as a low-tech strategy for protecting home and property, sometimes with lethal results.

The Booby Trap Mentality

Today if you subscribe to the hard-core booby trap school of thought, most people think you’re a survivalist, an anti-government crusader (4) or just plain nuts for your off-kilter tactics that usually involve duct tape and a sawed off shotgun or some foolish fishing-line contraption and a homemade grenade.  

The array of curiously sarcastic, slightly to totally deranged, and misguided social misfits chatting about in online “booby trap” forums and posting homemade do-it-yourself booby trap videos to multi-media websites is as enlightening as it is disturbing. Almost anyone can learn, step-by-step, how to fashion an assortment of dangerous homespun defensive devices and primitive foils. Even more unnerving is this: more online users have searched for “booby traps” than for “diy home security” or “diy burglar alarms” put together.

Do home security booby traps work?

Check out the list below. Unfortunately the results seem to be that the truly effective booby traps often land their inventors in the news and in jail – certainly not at the top of any list for heroism.  

house trap

Real Dumb, Dangerous, and Lethal Booby Trap Tales: 

What the Law Says About Booby Traps


Most traditional booby traps like those in the list above are nothing but huge legal backfires if they actually work against anyone. You, on the other hand, think you’re being clever, outsmarting the system in every way: you strategically lay out your fishing line trip wire attached to some homemade grenade you’ve concocted and set the device to trip when an intruder comes through your front door. …  

Here’s the legal low-down on that bit of gadgetry you’ve got rigged: It doesn’t matter how hardened, how notorious or how outfitted with weaponry your victim is-he can be a prison escapee for that matter. If your homebrew booby trap hurts him, maims him or kills him, or anyone else, you’re going to jail. Why? The law in America plainly states that any device rigged as a trap and “intended to harm” is against the law. Period. 

There are better ways to protect your home and property without going to jail and still get the endorphin rush of cobbling together your own devices and gadgets.

DIY Home Security

DIY, or do-it-yourself home security kits and gadgets answer the innate urge to create, cobble, and otherwise mash-up your own defensive homebrew with the legal sting removed.  

We’re in the high-tech, internet age which not only offers you endless gadgetry, but also puts you in touch with online handbooks, guides and video tutorials that lead you step-by-step through home security installations. And you’ll find legions of gear-heads more than willing to collaborate and share tips and tricks for ultra-cool home security systems that far outsmart the barbarian booby contraptions.

Homebrewed High- and Low-Tech Home Security

Informal, or homemade, home security devices or systems are differentiated from booby traps because they are non-lethal, usually quite passive high-tech or low-tech devices. When you have the hankering to rig your own home with lights, cameras, and sirens, consider the staggering assortment of do-it-yourself home security devices and burglar alarms available online and offline.  

The cost variables alone make it worth looking into a DIY kit. You could turn a simple inexpensive web camera and an old Windows PC into a remote surveillance monitoring station (5). Do-it-yourselfers may hook up a single, standalone device or develop sophisticated interconnected systems of devices and gadgets each designed to monitor, divert, and/or collect data, on their home security status, trespassers, intrusion attempts, and break-ins. Many such home prototypes can be started with a simple $30 PC webcam. And the techie know-how for getting even an advanced DIY home surveillance system functioning is readily available on the Internet for free. You could learn to build AND monitor your own home security system in a pinch.  

Tried and tested DIY home security devices worth your time: 

As intriguing as some booby traps may be, and as strong as your instinct may be to “take down” anybody that dares cross your threshold uninvited, the truth is that booby traps – when they actually work – often deliver tragic results. Many have injured and killed unexpectedly, been left unwittingly set to trigger, and a few have even killed the “geniuses” behind them. 

Don’t get your beak blown off trying to protect your home. 

1 “The Acme List,” Looney Tunes Crash Course

2 “Booby Traps Take High Vietnam Toll,” New York Times

3 “A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery,” New York Times

4 “Fed Clear Booby Traps, Seize Tax Evaders Compound,” CBS2Chicago.com

5 “DIY Home Security,” Forbes.com

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