It’s time for another dose of Wednesday Weirdness. Today’s post comes with a bonus—a free book of Halloween stories. But first . . .
Beware the marsh when night unfolds,
and darkness sends the sun in flight.
‘Tis no place for mortal creature,
home to Fae and ghostly light.
Spook lights have many different names depending on culture and location, but have long been intertwined with magical things that go bump-in-the-night. Often referred to as ‘foolish fire’ for the propensity to lead night time travelers astray, these lights have various names including will-o-wisps, elf light, fox fire, and ghost lights among others.
Commonly attributed to the Fae or elemental spirits, they rarely bring good fortune to those who see them. When viewed in a graveyard, they are called corpse candles. Dancing over marshy grounds and bogs, locals have dubbed them Jack o’ lanterns or friar’s lanterns. In some cases they’ve been said to mark treasure—assuming one is brave enough to go slogging through bog-muck in the middle of the night.
The practical explanation is that ‘ignis fatuus’ is produced from swamp gases when organic matter decays. Not very lyrical, is it? I much prefer the views of country folk who lived on the edges of bogs and forests and whispered of glowing lights that bobbed and weaved through the darkness. You can almost hear the hushed warnings as villagers huddled in their cottages and locked doors to ward off the spellbinding bewitchment. The night came alive with a symphony of light, whispering of enchanted paths, restless ghosts, and unexplored byways.
Corpse candles make an appearance in my short story The Lady Ghost, about two brothers who decide to dig up a grave on Halloween. It’s one story among a collection of creepy tales all themed around October’s ghoulish holiday.
In this short excerpt, Conner, and his brother, Dorian, have been discussing the legends associated with an old cemetery overlooking a bluff along the Atlantic. They are there to dig up the body of a man name Grim, but the cemetery is gated and locked.
The seaside cemetery where Grim and his Lady Ghost were buried was reputedly haunted and had been a haven for unexplained phenomena for centuries. Corpse candles danced among the tombstones, a mysterious figure in black roamed the bluff overlooking the ocean, and a horrible keening wail sent trespassers fleeing in terror. Ironic that they’d decided to put those folktales to the test on All Hallows Eve.
Conner stopped abruptly, whistling softly as the cemetery came into view. A portion of the perimeter fencing jutted above the bluff. Even from a distance, the spiked tines looked weathered, coated with the coarse white grit of ocean salt. Trees clustered nearby, many blighted and stripped of leaves, a few nothing more than husks of dead wood. To the right, and below, the fury of the Atlantic crashed over spines of black rock.
“You know what I don’t get?” Conner had yet to look away from the brooding gated entrance to the old graveyard. “If the whole thing is a hoax, why lock the cemetery up tight and keep everyone out?”
Dorian rubbed the top of the wolf’s head cane. A crisp breeze chased dried leaves across the footpath, a tangible whisper of autumn rot snarled among brambles. Up ahead, towering stone angels flanked the gate.
“Maybe it’s to keep something in.”
If this snippet appealed to you, be sure to pick up your copy of Macabre Sanctuary FREE from the bookseller of your choice. Just use this link.
And if you enjoy the tales, I know the authors, myself included, would greatly appreciate any thoughts you’d care to share in a review.
I’ve always been fascinated by night time lights, which is probably why I love using solar lights to illuminate pathways in my yard. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t a throwback to the enchantment our ancestors felt when they saw a dancing elf light or hinky-punk (the names are endless). I can’t help wondering what a stray will-o-wisp might feel should it blunder into my little oasis.
Would you follow a disembodied light into a dark forest or swamp? As much as I love legends, I’ll content myself with writing about them.