There I was, stuffing a red chemlight up into a cow skull with the intentions of hanging it on the cemetery fence in Reno’s front yard when it dawned on me: I’ve got precisely one chemlight in my entire house.

Great Googly-Moogly!

Call them chemlights, snaplights, lightsticks, cyalumes, glowsticks, whatever — I’ve held a deep affection for those plastic snap-and-shake lights ever since my military days, and I’ve usually got a mixed box of various sizes somewhere in the house.

Chemlights are one of the few things that I’ve acquired as a solution to a particular problem, but then kept turning up new uses for them.

The only surviving chemlight in my house is attached to my emergency house key. There is a single key — to the front door and deadbolt — that shares the keyring with the four-inch-long green chemlight.

This little gem is used in case of a bona-fide break-in. Family members will hole up in the master bedroom and call 911. When the police get here, the chemlight will be activated and the keyring thrown out of the window facing the front lawn.

The brightly-glowing chemlight will insure that the responding officer can’t miss the key in the grass — no matter how dark, snowy, raining, foggy, or whatever the weather conditions are — and the key will allow him to get into my house without kicking in the door or breaking a window.

See? Once you get some chemlights, various new ways to use them keep presenting themselves.

Children love to carry activated light sticks while shaking down the neighborhood for candy and such on Samhain, and the chemlights don’t break if little hands drop them, they don’t get hot, and the bright glow is easy for motorists to see.

Orange chemlights fit into a Jack O-Lantern right nicely, don’t get blown out by the wind and can be left in your pumpkins all night long with no fear of setting various odds and ends alight.

As mentioned above, the red ones give any old skull a nice eerie glow, and the green and yellow ones — being waterproof — won’t short-circuit if you put them into a punchbowl full of colored water and dry ice.

And that’s just the uses on All Hallows Eve.


Time to restock.


Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

14 thoughts on “Chemlights.”

  1. I thought chemlights had a shelf life of a year or two. That’s why I’ve got a little LED keyring light on the end of the throw-out-the-window keys.

    – NF

  2. Good idea. I love chem lights.

    I took apart an old lamp and put a red bulb om my cow skull and hung it on the wall.

  3. Try a krill light!

    Now last year we gave out chem lights (commercial small ones) to the kids for Halloween. It was quite popular! I think we had an order of 1000 for $30 delivered.

  4. The high-intensity ones are handy, too. Stick one of those in a holder and it’s about as bright as a flashlight, and you can use it even around a gas leak or something else flammable.

  5. I used to keep a set in my trunk with my emergency tool kit. Always felt a little uneasy keeping combustible road flares in the trunk so close to the gas tank. Sure, the odds of flares spontaneously igniting are negligible, but hey, chemlights are cheaper too. Especially when five-finger discounted from your unit’s S-4.

  6. I am powerful fond of glowsticks. I bought oodles of them at the local dollar store and took them to Roswell to adorn those of my traveling party for the UFO Festival.

    We wore all of our glowing finery to the Parade and had people clustering around us trying to find out where we got them so they could acquire some.

    Glow jewelry and bubble guns can be an endless source of fun!

  7. If you dive they are a neat way to mark divers on a night dive. If there are a bunch of us diving I try to make sure my buddy and I are using a color combintion different from every one else.

  8. Thanks for the pumpkin tip! AND I would love a picture of the cow skull in person and aglowing. Pretty please????

    Hummmm, I see a dollar store run coming up.

  9. If your “neighborhood” Target still has any in their Halloween section (ours is getting turned into Xmas real quick), they’d be on sale right now. Three-packs of ’em, we grabbed several last year right after Rita while we were still bugged out at the Grandparent’s place near Hemphill. They came in handy for lighting the tool shed where we shut the dogs in for the night.

    As for the PAPD…who knows, it’s probably a SOP CYA, non-endorsement of armed self-defense.

  10. You can also cut them open (after activating) and spread the glow-juice on whatever you want to glow (I’ve seen faces, tummies, necks all glowing by themselves in the dark). The stuff is non-toxic.

    I’ve even seen college students with chemlight glowing hair.

  11. Just what out for the broken bits of the glass tube what had held half of the glowy chemicals. Chemlight juice may be non-toxic, but broken glass really isn’t all that yummy…

  12. Chemlights are the right up there with WD-40, duck tape, and the Leatherman multitool. I always keep a couple in my flight bag if my flashlights fail, and break one on a night flight if the cockpit lighting is inadequate.

    Trivia: during a night raid to knock out Iraqi radar installations on the opening night of the First Gulf War, Pave Low crews tossed out bundles of chemsticks taped together for Apache crews following to use as nav markers.

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