A will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus (Medieval Latin: "foolish fire") is a ghostly light. It is seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.
It looks like a flickering lamp and is said to go farther back if approached. This draws travellers from the safe paths. This is a folk belief in a lot of English folklore and in much of European folklore. They are often said to be the work of fairies or elemental spirits. Some people think will o' the wisps are souls, spirits or spaceships.
Scientists try to use a natural explanation. Some say they are a gas, like methane, that goes up from the ground and burns. Other people say they are electric things, like ball lightning. One flying ball of light was explained: it was an owl that had a bright stomach. Sometimes animals or fungus make some light - this is called bioluminescence by scientists or foxfire. Sometimes diphosphine (P2H4) is also produced over marshes, which are highly flammable. Therefore, it burns in air and causes a flickering glow.
There are many old and new stories about will o' the wisps around the world. These lights have different names in different cultures and languages. Some of the names are jack-o'-lantern, hinkypunk, hobby lantern in English.
Reported light locations[change | change source]
Europe[change | change source]
- Ferbane in Ireland
- Hessdalen light in Norway
- Martebo lights in Sweden
- Paasselkä devil in Finland
- Virvatuluke in Estonia
North America[change | change source]
- United States
- Arbyrd/Senath Light of Missouri
- Bragg Road ghost light (Light of Saratoga) of Texas
- Brown Mountain Lights of North Carolina
- Gurdon light of Arkansas
- Hornet ghost light or Spooklight of Missouri-Oklahoma state line
- Maco light of North Carolina
- Marfa lights of Texas
- Oviedo Lights of Florida
- The Paulding Light of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
- Skinwalker Ranch lights of Utah
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- A Review of accounts of luminosity in Barn Owls
- New Course Chemistry. India: Pradeep, India. 2018. pp. 7/33. ISBN 978-93-86008-79-4.
- Marie Trevelyan (1909). Folk-Lore and Folk-Stories of Wales. London. p. 178. ISBN 9780854099382. Archived from the original on 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2010-09-18.