Instructables

Floating Spirit Lights

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We live a little off the beaten path, so getting trick-or-treaters to walk the extra block to our place takes a little work.  Rather than resorting to Hollywood premiere style search lights, this year we floated up some spooky Spirit Lights to try an entice people to make the trek, and it worked extremely well.

This is a very quick and easy project, with huge effect.  Our "spirits" were attracting people from entirely different neighborhoods!

One caution:  If you live near power lines, or it is an excessively breezy night, you should NOT attempt this project.

 
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Step 1: Tools & Materials

Required Tools
  • Scissors

Materials
  • Very large, BLACK, helium balloon(s)
  • Miniature glow sticks
  • 12" size, white balloons
  • Cheesecloth
  • Spool of fishing line
Not all party stores carry balloons large enough for this, so you may need to ask around.  The ones I used were 3' in diameter, and a little pricey ($14 filled), but well worth it.  I've attempted this before with standard size balloons and it did not work well.  It took three standard balloons just to hold one ghost aloft, and even then it was a little sketchy.  The monster balloons cost a little more, but they can keep up 2 - 4 ghosts each, depending on how many glow sticks you use.
Grunambulax10 months ago
How about breaking open the glow stick and pouring it into the balloon. Same glow. Much less weight.
Good idea! Tried squeezing and pouring glow into spirit balloon to reduce weight so a smaller helium ballon could be used (or none at all). Wouldn't suggest doing what I did for several reason: 1) glowing effect is dull, oily glow liquid spreads too much then separates, end up clinging to the inside balloon wall, balloon might have to be full of glow liquid for this to work. 2) high probability sharp tube fragments get inside the balloon and, 3) the oily slippery liquid gets all over the balloon, even if a pipet is used. You'll end up tasting the liquid when you go to blow it up. Maybe you could blow up the ballon first or use a pump to get the air in.  Bottom line for this method.... Not safe, weak glow effect, and too much fuss. Going with the original no pour method. Thanks for the instructable and good comments.
Some Dork (author)  Grunambulax10 months ago
Not a bad idea at all, the issue there is that it's just messy. Two years ago I made some glowing IV Tubes (http://www.instructables.com/id/Mr-Grinz/) and it looked really cool, but was a bit of a mess doing it.

I'll definitely give this a try though. After inflating the balloon, and shaking it around, you'd probably actually get a better level of glow out of it!
jackriley7710 months ago
I wish methane was commercially available. I love helium but it is rare on earth and I feel like its a waste using it in balloons when it may be needed in more important applications. However these floating spirit lights are pretty darn cool
shrinkie1 year ago
just a suggestion but why dont you just paint parts of the helium balloons in glow in the dark paint ?
Some Dork (author)  shrinkie10 months ago
The problem with the glow in the dark paint is that it requires a light source to "charge" it up. So they'd only last a short while before being invisible again. :)
cool! ill have to remember this... or just favorite it...
doo da do1 year ago
You can go to a outdoors camping store I got a safety light, weighs nothing and it blinks red. Think you could use one small balloon, a blinking light may draw them in. Just a passing thought.
jerjod1 year ago
Pretty cool!
tinkerist1 year ago
this looks great! for a longer lasting effect, perhaps you could use throwies,
they might even bee lighter than a chemlight.
Some Dork (author)  tinkerist1 year ago
The glow sticks actually last pretty well, given the expected window they're used for. They were still quite visible after the last trick-or-treaters came by, so a good 4 hours. But LEDs would definitely extend that quite a bit!

Like godofal said though, would need to be the larger, diffused type and not sure how it would look compared to the chemlight...just doesn't have that same "glow". I'm definitely going to have to give it a try now though! The giant black balloons still have plenty of lift in them. The LED solution would definitely be cheaper in the long-run. The smaller glow sticks weren't too bad though, about $0.25 each (I bought them in packs of 12, after Halloween last year).

They'd naturally be bottom heavy with the battery, but I think I'd try tying a short length of fishing line just below the lens, and extending that outside the balloon, and tying the knot, to suspend it mid-balloon. The fishing line is thin enough that the balloon should still hold air for a while even with the line running through the knot. Trying that over night right now. :)

Actually not a bad idea to suspend the sticks inside too, rather than just having them sit on the bottom like I did.
there's always the old cut-off-the-top-of-the-cheap-5mm-LED-and-sand-it-to-a-frosted-finish-to-disperse-the-light trick.
that could also be a problem
with LED's you often have a high intensity beam instead of a well spread light like you have with breaklights

i think the best (even only) way to get a similar result is to get diffused 10mm LED's, and make it bottom heavy so that the LED always points straight up

if you get regular 5mm LED's and make regular throwies, you would have a single spot in the baloon that's really bright while the rest is barely lighted at all

but it would work if you do it right
it would also be cheaper, and last longer, while being reusable (bonus points for rechargeable batteries)
while i havent had a chance to test it, if you coated the LED in hot glue it should disperse the beam, i recall a dance floot that either make or popsci featured that used hot glue on LEDs to soften and disperse the light.
Very very cool!! I wonder if there is some way to tie them to a motorized wheel or something that would make them go up and down slowly thoughout the night :) Definitely going to try these little ghosties out at my house next year!
Some Dork (author)  tabbykittie1 year ago
Hahaha, you totally read my mind. I wasn't thinking up and down specifically, but have been pondering for next year to rig something across our "graveyard" which has a motor in the middle, and then attaching some of these to it and thus have them circling the yard. If there is a little breeze, they float around pretty good, but I think that's a great idea to try and add better vertical movement, that would be really cool!
lime3D1 year ago
What do you think about eliminating the black balloon all together? You could take your glow sticks to the store, and have the clerk insert one into a white balloon before inflating with helium. For the ghost effect, could you use white or clear trash bags? They wouldn't be affected by rain.
Some Dork (author)  lime3D1 year ago
That would be great, except a single "standard" balloon isn't capable of keeping even the small glow sticks aloft. :( As an alternative to that, there are some balloons you can get which are designed to have the glow chemicals mixing freely inside of them. Those could be worth trying, but would probably have to get your own mini-helium tank to fill those. Cool idea with the bags, rather than cloth. I think the cheesecloth has a better look to it, but would be a very good alternative in places where it rains a lot (here!).
wm5e1 year ago
Using bright, white leds and insert them into a ping-pong ball would diffuse the light really well.
Some Dork (author)  wm5e1 year ago
That's a cool idea. I'm LED shopping today, and happen to have some Ping-Pong balls available from another project, will have to give it a try!
l8nite1 year ago
Thats a great advertising idea
Some Dork (author)  l8nite1 year ago
Haha, yes, it definitely draws in curious folks. :)
didibemi1 year ago
wow, that looks really great!
Some Dork (author)  didibemi1 year ago
:D Thanks!
OMG! That is brilliant! I would never have know how you did that from just looking at it! Seems like it would be so hard and complex, but it's not :)
Some Dork (author)  Penolopy Bulnick1 year ago
Thanks Penolopy! Yes, it really is very easy to do, and turned out better than I thought it would. :)
poofrabbit1 year ago
What a nifty idea! Well done!
Some Dork (author)  poofrabbit1 year ago
Thank you! :)
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