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Making a BB Gun Booby Trap: A Home Security Expert Analyzes “Home Alone”

The kid from Home Alone (Macualay Culkin) screaming

Macaulay Culkin yells during "Home Alone"

Home Alone Home Security

“This is my house, I have to defend it.” – Kevin McCallister

Every homeowner can empathize with these words from the precocious Kevin McCallister in the 1990 movie, Home Alone. While home security is a fairly common concern for adults, most children will never be asked to defend their homes. Fortunately, Kevin proved to be more than capable and his inexperience actually led to a few ingenious home security solutions.

Surprisingly, the real world applications are often discussed and argued among home security professionals. To end this debate, once and for all, I enlisted the help of John “Hoss” Matheney, a former Sheriff’s deputy and home security expert based in Texas. I asked Hoss to watch Home Alone (it was suspiciously easy to get him to agree) and asked him to analyze the various techniques Kevin uses to keep the “Wet Bandits” from robbing his home and family.

Reality Warning

READ THIS SECTION, DEAR READERS!

Before we start analyzing the home defense methods explored by Home Alone, Hoss wants to make it clear to all readers that the vast majority of techniques used in the movie are illegal. Have you ever wondered why you’ve never seen a pit full of sharks in someone’s home? It’s not just impractical but most states have specific laws against booby traps (or man traps for any British readers). In fact, an Iowa farm couple experienced a substantial amount of legal trouble after a burglar was shot on their property by a shotgun rigged to a trip wire.

Many of the traps Kevin uses in Home Alone would have meant issues with local authorities or a major lawsuit. Fortunately, a few of Kevin’s home security are clever and viable home security methods.

Heated Door Knobs

What Hoss Says

“Most of what Kevin does in the movie is pretty clear self-defense but this one is a little tricky. Technically, the burglars haven’t broken the law yet. As they haven’t entered the home, they haven’t done anything illegal so heating the door knobs would also be against the law. I doubt a nine-year-old defending himself would have to worry about police action but it’s worth mentioning.”

The Alternative

Deadbolt locks and an alarm system. Deadbolt locks are notoriously complicated to open and an alarm system will immediately alert occupants of the presence of someone that’s seeking access without permission.

Broken Glass Underneath the Windows

What Hoss Says

“Oh man, I actually have seen things like this. The ‘Poor Man’s Security System’ and it’s legal, to an extent. Once an individual gains entry to the inside of your home, a homeowner is allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to defend themselves and their family and their property. Back when I was with the Sheriff’s Department, a person reported a break in and had all these ‘traps’ under their windows, including broken glass. The person wasn’t exactly playing with a full deck but it worked. Of course, there’s always the danger of hurting yourself with such traps so I wouldn’t recommend it.”

The Alternative

Well, to be honest, pretty much anything would be a better suggestion than broken glass under your windows. Home security measures that harm intruders leave homeowners open to potentially devastating lawsuits. Some of the more clever suggestion from “helpful” friends include: bubble wrap, stale potato chips, or squeak toys. Placing a few plants with thorns under your windows can also be incredibly effective.

Trip Wires

What Hoss Says

“The legality and effectiveness of a trip wire is going to depend on what it’s connected to… The homeowner [that placed broken glass under his window] was cited for booby trapping because he had a tripwire connected to a shot gun that was aimed at his backdoor. You can’t connect a tripwire to something that might cause an intruder serious harm.”

The Alternative

If you’re absolutely set on using a tripwire for your home defense (I have NO idea why), you should connect it to some sort of alarm or attention grabbing device. Sirens or flashing lights would be great compromises. For those looking for more “creative” solutions, a tripwire connected to some kind of smoke or fog machine would be pretty sweet.

Self-Defense Spider

What Hoss Says

“I love this. Yes, dogs are great. Any kind of dog really; the more they bark, the better. Burglars can have some strange reactions to animals. I once heard about a homeowner that allowed his snakes to roam freely whenever he left for work. Well, a burglar entered the home and, turns out, he was very afraid of snakes. This guy actually called the police on himself because he was too afraid to move and needed help.”

The Alternative

I can’t believe I’m actually going to suggest this… Get a few spiders and let them roam free. Sure, this technique is going to be pure terror for most of our readers but it’s the closest thing to a pit full of sharks that you can legally use for home security purposes. The only thing that’s required is an understanding family and the ability to spider wrangle before company arrives… Actually, now that I think about it, please don’t do this. I’m planning on sleeping tonight.

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