Dr. Hallard's Dream Transmission Box

A custom puzzle box created for an original party game.

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This box was built for the purpose of being a code-entry/messaging system for an original social deduction party game. The party game, titled "Dr. Hallard's End of the World Party", involves five rounds of voting on a group of three codes to be dialed into the "dream transmission device". Once all three codes are successfully found and voted on, that team wins and the device triggers a special message from Dr. Hallard herself while activating the "lucid dream frequency".


The original goal was to build a "mysterious looking device" that allowed players to enter in codes that were found through a series of puzzle hunts and interactive social gameplay. The box would give feedback on what kind of code it was as well as be programed to have two different endings or outcomes depending on which team won. I decided it would be easier to build a box out of the shell of some old vintage electronic that ideally featured dials and switches built in. After many lost ebay bids, i came upon a broken vintage National NC-33 Ham Radio from 1948. The rest of the work was retro fitting it. See project log for more details on the build.

How it works:

  • When the box is switched on you hear static and see a yellow light. The device is ready for the codes to be entered.
  • Once all three dials have been set, the player switches the bottom toggle to "send" state, the box will message back whether team blue or team red has entered any codes with a quick flash of either a red or blue led.
  • If all three dials are set to red codes, the red team wins and hears a special message through the speaker just for them. The laser lights and smoke machine will be activated at the same time.
  • If all three dials are set to blue, a different message will play as well as activating the smoke machine and laser lights.

*Due to the fact that this box will be used in future runs of this game publicly, I cannot show the actual winning video without spoiling it. I will post the "winning result" video when the run of the game is over.

  • 1 × National NC-33 Ham Radio 1948
  • 1 × Arduino Uno
  • 1 × Adafruit MP3 Music Maker Shield
  • 3 × Small potentiometer
  • 1 × RGB Led

View all 10 components

  • Dream Device 2.0!

    thomas.meston01/01/2019 at 05:26 0 comments

    The box was so successful that it was requested to be used in an immersive, theatrical puzzle show involving escape room elements as well as live actors.

    The box by itself was a little underwhelming for the show, so we found an old Korean karaoke machine from the 80s. We gutted it, painted it, installed LED strip lights and placed the radio inside of the top compartment.

    New additions:

    - Korean karaoke machine circa 1980s (as an enclosure for the box)

    - Laser light boxes (blue and red) x 2

    - added an additional 12v relay

    Depending on which final code is entered, one of the two lasers with trigger (red or blue) as well as the smoke machine hidden in the bottom compartment.

  • Final product

    thomas.meston09/26/2018 at 04:56 0 comments

    I chose a yellow color for the LED and an eerie static sound for the default standby mode. The switch at the bottom acts as the "enter" button once all three dials in play are set. When the switch is flipped the LED will turn either RED or BLUE depending on which team's code is entered. A nice sonar blip sound plays upon each LED flash.

    The winning code was entered! A recorded message plays through the speaker, the light turns on and the smoke machine is activated!

    The Lucid team wins! Time to drink!

  • Retrofitting the radio

    thomas.meston09/26/2018 at 04:55 0 comments

    Everything crammed into the box. Probably should have spent just one more hour making it less of a rats nest. The party light ended up taking more room than anticipated. I added a mirror to the inside of the lid for extra party light action.

    Here you can see i had to come up with completely new metal structures salvaged from other parts to install the potentiometers to the analogue dials. This involved many days of headaches, calibration and lots of cold welding. The 12volt relay fit in quite nicely allowing for two plug in devices to be triggered by the box. The goal was to trigger the party light and a small smoke machine hidden behind the box when the winning code was entered.

    The box ready for prime-time. The bottom left dial needed some sort of information around the dial so we chose a colorwheel for code entries. The other dial and switches are not in play.

  • Building the prototype

    thomas.meston09/26/2018 at 04:52 0 comments

    Initial testing of the potentiometers and entry codes.

    The guts of the box ready to be installed. Here are the three potentiometers, the switch, and servo connected to an Arduino Uno with an MP3 Music Maker Shield via the proto perma breadboard.

  • Gutting the radio

    thomas.meston09/26/2018 at 04:46 0 comments

    While broken, the radio was in very good condition.

    Didn't anticipate the gear and pulley system connected to the two major dials. This would prove to be one of the most difficult parts of the potentiometer retrofit.

    The plan here is to utilize three dials, the switch at the bottom, and find a place for an RGB LED. I ended up using the two large dials at the top and the "pitch" dial at the bottom left. The headphone jack proved to be the perfect size for an ultra bright 5mm RGB LED. The original internal speaker luckily still worked and was used in the final product.

    After a few hours of ripping, pulling and drilling. The radio is gutted expect for the original speaker.

View all 5 project logs

Enjoy this project?



Ember Leona wrote 10/08/2018 at 05:54 point

I like this project I like ham and bacon too!

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Gary Giles wrote 10/03/2018 at 20:00 point

As a Antique Ham radio restorer, This National receiver (NC-33) is a good choice for your project. The receiver is what is called an All American 5 tube and employs a hot chassis eg. a shock hazard. Very nice concept.  

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thomas.meston wrote 10/03/2018 at 20:29 point

Thanks for that background info Gary. I do recall the primary issue with the radio as stated by the seller was an un-resolvable electrical issue so that would explain it. I knew this project might ruffle some radio restorer's feathers, but i felt confident that it was un-reparable when i started the project. I didn't meaningfully modify any of it's exterior and kept the original speaker so i think it maintains the original spirit of the box.

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Richard Milward wrote 09/28/2018 at 20:26 point

Kind of a shame you gutted that nice old ham rig for this...

  Are you sure? yes | no

thomas.meston wrote 09/28/2018 at 20:45 point

It was non operational and being sold for parts. I think i gave it a nice second life.

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