An Ohio man has given control of his home’s Christmas lights to strangers online, drawing responses from people as far away as Australia and Germany.
Tom Hammond, 45, of Doylestown, Ohio, took the idea of an extreme Christmas light display to a new level thanks to technical expertise that allowed him to connect the Christmas lights on his home to a website.
The website, ITwinkle.org, features nine lighting options for people to choose from. There is also a webcam, located in a tree on Hammond’s property, that lets users see in real time the light display they chose.
"I wanted people outside of my community to enjoy it," Hammond, who lives in what he described as a "rural area," told ABC News. "The nicest thing I got was an email from an older lady who lives with her mother who said they couldn’t decorate their house this year and she showed her mom my website and said that was one of the best gifts, that she got to decorate."
Hammond, who works as a computer lab support specialist at a university, began research elaborate light displays a few years ago but found the ones coordinated to music to be too expensive. He connected with others interested in light displays over the internet to build his first light display on his own house four years ago. Those collaborations led Hammond to be able to pull off internet-controlled lights for the first time this year.
"I’m not an inventor and I’m not a genius," he said. "This is just through the help of other people who have helped me."
Hammond’s website is active every night from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. EST. The light show will run through Jan. 7.
Hammond posted photos last month on Facebook of the microcontrollers that connect his light display to the internet and the world.
Hammond said he had 800 visits to ITwinkle.org on Thanksgiving night, the first night he announced on Facebook the website was live.
"Sometimes I’ll be in the house working and the lights are flashing and it makes me feel wonderful that people are having a blast with it," said Hammond, who also set up a 16-foot scrolling message box in his front yard that identifies the location of the person controlling the lights.
Internet users also have the option to control the Christmas display at the home of a family in Alaska. Ken Woods, an information technology employee in Fairbanks, and his wife, Rebecca-Ellen, have allowed internet users to turn areas of their Christmas light display on and off at all hours of the day and night since 2010.
This year, the family has given internet users the chance to control 12 different parts of their light display through their website, ChristmasinFairbanks.com.