Goblin Lights, as we call them,
produce a very eerie effect that we first used in the late eighties for one of our outdoor
Halloween parties. Looking up, our visitors could see strange glowing lights bobbing gently in
the night sky with no apparent means of support. This effect is simple and really
We usually put up six or eight Goblin Lights at slightly different heights
above our yard and house. All you need are some Light Sticks, 16" black
colored balloons, helium and light weight fishing line.
Light sticks are
fairly light-weight, but compared to the weak lifting power of helium
every gram of weight makes a difference. Generally, one 16" balloon filled with
helium will lift one of the small four inch light sticks, but to lift one of the larger ones you'll
either need a balloon with a capacity twice that of a 16" balloon or two 16"
balloons tied together.
Compare the two light sticks
on the right. The small one is found just about everywhere during the Halloween season and
weighs only 9.4 grams. The larger one on the right is a more powerful, 30 minute
light stick that produces a very bright orange light, but weighs 21.2 grams, more than twice as
much as the smaller one. This means you need more than twice as much helium to lift it.
Helium for your balloons can be bought in
disposable tanks or you can have the balloons filled at a local party shop.
We begin by filling a
black 16" balloon with helium and tying it off. Then we securely tie one end of some
very light-weight fishing line to the balloon.
letting out about twelve feet of line from the
balloon, we tie a light stick to the fishing line at this point. The distance between the
balloon and light stick helps to
keep the illumination from the light stick from reflecting off of the surface of the
balloon and giving away the secret.
Just before we are ready to launch the balloon,
we snap the light
stick and give it a good shake to activate it. Now we let out the line allowing the balloon,
with it's cargo to raise into the night sky. When it's at the desired height, we like between
fifty and a hundred feet, we cut the line from the spool and tie it off
to something stronger than the pull
of the balloon.
Obviously this effect will only
work at night, preferable with little or no moonlight showing. Wind can
be a real problem and can push the balloon away and down towards the ground, preventing the
balloon from raising straight up. Since Cyalume sticks come in different colors and
intensities you can mix-and-match to create a great Halloween special effect.
Update - You
can now buy balloons that contain a very small battery
powered LED light inside. These typically have three modes,
slow blink, fast blink, and constant on, and stay lit for up
to ten hours. Filled with helium and tethered via fishing
line, the balloon will float over your house just about all
night long. Plus, the balloons are available in orange.
While this looks different from our Goblin Lights above, it
is a really cool looking effect! Check your local party
supply store for this type of balloon.