From the creator of the bubble stroller — the one that floods the air with bubbles during Bay to Breakers — comes the Haight Ashbury Hippie Trap, an event event hosted by one man who claims he encapsulated the minds of hippies high on DMT.
The Hippie Trap Guy sprung his cylindrical light show to life just before Christmas Day, drawing revelers that gazed up beneath it and illuminating the Haight Street sidewalk until Saturday when a neighbor whose window faced the throbbing lights complained that it was disturbing the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
“Turns out you can only please 99.9 percent of people,” The Hippie Trap Guy said. “The 0.1 percent had their bedroom right next to it, so fair enough.”
Apart from the uninteresting electronics and LEDs, this guy constructed the marvel from his daughter’s wiffle ball, two hula hoops he found on the street and spliced together, four dollar store Christmas decorations and a 2-by-4 plank. Oh, and twist ties, a plastic bucket and some clothes lines.
[jump] Though unavailable to the public now, the festivities were open long enough for him to capture some great video of spectators in awe of the device with a questionably legal hidden camera he positioned through New Years Eve.
“I really prefer it to be kinda the ‘guy behind the curtain’ like the Wizard Of Oz,” he said (which is why he won’t let us tell you his real name). “It just demystifies it a bit to put a regular name — like how Bono isn't known as ‘Paul’”
Accompanying the videos, The Hippie Trap Guy posted on Facebook his feral hippie catch-and-release policy:
- Using modern LED technology, feral Hippies are painlessly hypnotized and captured in a cruelty-free manner.
- We operate a catch-and-release policy; Hippies are released in northern Mendocino to forage for marijuana in their natural environment.
- We renounce cruelty; we never subject them to physical or verbal abuse, forced showers, Phish concert recordings or gainful employment.
- Selected Hippies are occasionally made available for adoption, please inquire.
- If you own a domestic Hippie please ensure s/he is tagged, neutered and bathed annually.
After seeing all this, SF Weekly had to meet this guy just because. Here's how our conversation went, lightly edited for clarity, of course.
SF Weekly: I think that's interesting in and of itself that you'd rather see how your creations do out in the world than attached to your name. It seems like you want to create experiences for other people. Am I correct in thinking that?
The Hippie Trap Guy: I try not to be personally associated with my projects because I just get the same meaningless questions over and over (“Is that your bubble machine?” “What's it for?” etc); the effect is better if they're seen as things that just magically appear at random for no obvious reason, also people feel much freer to dance around and express themselves if the devices are unattended.
SFW: What drives you to create works such as the bubble machine and hippie trap?
The Hippie Trap Guy: It's exceedingly gratifying watching people lose their inhibitions and laugh and dance to something you've created, just inspiring joy and merriment in people. It never stops being rewarding. Young kids are ridiculously delighted by the Bubble Stroller and the Hippie Trap — drunk people equally. It really pleases me to help Keep Haight Weird — most other places in the city I'd get a more ambivalent response.
SFW: How'd you come to call it the Haight-Ashbury Hippie Trap?
The Hippie Trap Guy: The hippie trap was originally untitled. I bought the LEDs for a suit for Burning Man, but it occurred to me in November that an overhead suspended thing would look good. In two previous years I'd put up a big disco ball in the same location — in 2013 I really nailed the lighting technique and added a radio-activated bubble machine and blacklight. It was exceptionally well-received by the locals. In 2014, I figured it'd be lazy to just do the same thing again, so I rebuilt the LED suit project into a suspended cone.
The intent was that when you walked underneath it'd look like “the UFO has come to beam you up.” It's quite complicated technically (mostly tricky power supply issues) but I got it completed in the week before Christmas. It uses nearly 2,000 individually controlled color LEDs (hundreds of watts when all-on) plus some motion sensors for interactivity. It has a hidden camera so I can stay tucked away in the warmth while enjoying people enjoying it.
The Hippie Trap Guy: On New Year's Eve one of the neighbors approached a hippie who'd been trapped under it — hypnotized by the visuals for more than 30 minutes — and, assuming it was his, said “how's your hippie trap going?” The name was perfect, so it stuck. It does look rather trap-like, as it's conical and suspended from a rope and pulley. It looks like it could drop on you at any second.
SFW: Do you have any sort of background or profession in electronics that affords you the ability to make these?
The Hippie Trap Guy: Yeah, I'm a geek. I do electronics and software stuff both professionally and for my own amusement.
SFW: Where do the ideas come from?
The Hippie Trap Guy: I have a seemingly endless supply of ideas, many of them don't make it all the way to fruition. Some are unsuitable for putting out on Haight, so I make a lot of stuff for Burning Man.
I've done many random Burning Man projects (including) an incredibly loud amplified cuckoo clock, bike-o-phone (that) plays variable speed music as if the wheel is a vinyl record, geodesic dome with a swing inside, a “bicycle slingshot” — 50-feet bungee, very dangerous but very fun — “orgasmic pinball,” an art car, many things.
SFW: What happened with the neighbor complaints? How did people who enjoyed it react to it?
Locals and hippies have really enjoyed it, lots of positive comments. The best effect is lying directly underneath it and on several occasions we've found people lying under it going “oh wowwww.” One guy spent several hours under it one night and became convinced he was controlling the lights with his mind. Actually, to relay the story verbatim, Mother Earth was transmitting vibrations through the ground into his mind, he was relaying those up to the lights. He's easily my favorite catch in the trap.
SFW: How do you feel about hippies? Tell us the truth.
The Hippie Trap Guy: Incidentally, I think of “hippie” as nowadays referring to the street people. They may not be as idealistic as some of the '60s originals but they enjoy doing drugs, getting freebies, not having jobs and rarely wash. So if the tie-dye fits…
SFW: Any chance we'll see it again?
The Hippie Trap Guy: I engineered it so most of the light shines directly downwards, and it makes no noise itself, but the people right next door have their bedroom at street level. Eventually, after a particularly raucous group of revelers (school kids during the day), they were pushed over the edge and announced they were done being kept awake all night by people laughing, doing whippits under it and so on.
It's a shame, but I'm sympathetic. It had a good couple of weeks and many residents are pretty sick of the often disrespectful behavior of the street kids. For that reason it won't return at least in its current location. If anyone would like to buy it or commission a larger or brighter version, the sky's the limit. I'm open to inquiries via the Facebook page.