Wednesday Weirdness: Spook Lights and Corpse Candles

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageIt’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.

ghost lights over a bog with dead trees, Gothic structure in background

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.

Spooky trees in the dark of night backlit by moon

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.”

Book cover for Macabre Sanctuary shows a close up of part of a spooky old house at nightIf 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.

67 thoughts on “Wednesday Weirdness: Spook Lights and Corpse Candles

  1. Yikes! Terrific scary writing … and I felt goosebumps reading this in the bright morning sunlight! Corpse candles, tombstones … and what is being locked in! Great about the free book and congratulations on the inclusion of your story! Happy Halloween! 🎃 I’ll be staying safely indoors watching a light and happy film!

    Liked by 3 people

    • The brothers do have a surprise or two waiting for them in that cemetery…and hopefully a big surprise for the reader, too 🙂
      A light and happy movie sounds like the perfect way to pass he hours, Annika. Many thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Corpse Candles’ sound alot more interesting than just boring old ‘ignis fatuus,’. (eyeroll) “Oh not that silly old ‘ignus fatuus’ myth again.”
    Great and chilling short story . . . I really want to know what is being kept in. Also downloaded a copy of Macabre Sanctuary.
    Have a ‘spooktacular” Halloween, Mae!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I loved your story, The Lady Ghost. This would be a good time to go back and read Macabre Sanctuary. (Thanks for posting the link.)

    Those unexplained lights are a mystery. I wrote about the Marfa Lights several weeks ago in one of my Mystery Monday posts. That part of Texas is dry and arid, so it’s definitely not swamp gas!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve always been attracted to light source myths. They comprise some of my favorite bits of folklore.And I remember your Marfa Lights post. So intriguing!

      Hopefully, Macabre Sanctuary will find new readers this Halloween season!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you liked the line, Teri. It was one of those inspired moments when the scene and close fell perfectly into place. I’ve written a fair amount of short stories (I’ll have a book of them releasing in 2020), but The Lady Ghost remains one of my favorites.

      I think hinky-punk is my favorite, although corpse candles is perfect when writing a creepy story!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Really enjoyed the various names and legend of ghost lights, and LOVED your excerpt. Those two boys should just turn around and take themselves home, but you know they won’t. Downloaded the book. And happy Halloween!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh sweet Lord… not a chance! It’s a fascinating phenomenon, though. One admired from a safe distance. 🙂
    I really enjoyed the excerpt. The phrase “Maybe it’s to keep something in.” always gives me shivers. Thanks for sharing, Mae, as always. Happy Halloween!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do think it’s a very cool phenomena. It probably appears very pretty and benign, especially on a summer night. But in a cemetery or a dark wood land? No thanks, LOL!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt, Natalie. I had fun writing that story. Happy Halloween!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always held fascination for bobbing, weaving lights. Even so, I hope I’d be sensible enough not to follow one. Well, I KNOW I wouldn’t follow one, if I came across it in a cemetery or dark woods.
      Glad add some weird to your Wednesday, Tessa! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • You have a great approach, Balroop. My mind tends to wander to impossible and odd scenarios rather than grounding in logic. Probably why I will never go on a ghost walk or step foot in a rumored haunted house—or chase a bobbing light into a dark forest, LOL.

      Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Happy Halloween!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. And that excerpt is why I love your writing so much! It’s brimming with description. I could practically feel the ocean as a malevolent presence on this spooky night!
    Thanks for the freebie, I scurried over and grabbed a copy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ooo, thank you! Both for the kind words and for downloading a copy! I know all of the authors will appreciate it. I had a blast writing the descriptions in The Lady Ghost….a cliff side cemetery, a chill autumn night, raging surf…yeah, count me in. Er, as the author, not as a visitor, LOL.

      Thanks so much, Jacquie. I hope you enjoy. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Michele. As freaky as I am about things that go bump in the night, I love reading about them too. I’m a fan of the shivers and goosebumps kind of horror.


  7. Oh i’d love to experience these spook lights for myself one day… but I’m too chicken! Only this morning I came across an interesting phenomena that would be perfect for your weird Wednesdays. Have you ever heard of the near-constant lightning storm that hovers over a lake in Venezuela? Look it up…. fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love how spooky this is, Mae. I live in an old lumber town and back in the day when the mill was still operational (1930-50s), residents used to see lights in the millpond. There are stories of people sitting on their porches at night to watch the “aliens.” I like the idea of fairies betters, despite their dark dispositions. Thanks for the spooky book! Happy Halloween.

    Liked by 1 person

      • After the mill closed, the town “cleaned up” the pond and turned the area into a park. I think the pond was probably pretty gross when it was part of the mill. One old timer confided to me that the lights weren’t aliens, just “swamp farts.” Lol.


  9. Great excerpt, Mae! Very spooky! The corpse lights remind me of your PP series; there was a will o’wisp in that, right? Or my memory is whacked again. Sigh. I have Macabre Sanctuary in my Kindle app. Now to work my way to that entry in the queue!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such an intriguing snippet. The mention of spook lights reminds me of the legend of the ghost of the Summerville Lights, in Summerville, South Carolina. Some say he was a railroad man who lost his head on the tracks, at night he carries a lantern and looks for his head. There is the question of how he can see anything–

    Liked by 1 person

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