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.

Wednesday Weirdness: The Dog Suicide Bridge

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageWelcome to another Wednesday Weirdness. Today, I have a strange tale that will certainly strike at the heart of any pet lover.

Many people love to take their dogs for a walk. Whether it’s a turn around the neighborhood, a stroll down a country lane or a jaunt through the park, it’s a relaxing experience for owner and companion. If you have a dog, you may have even meandered across a bridge or two, your best friend trotting happily at your side. The image certainly conjures a quaint picture.

Unless you happen to be walking your pet on the Overtoun Bridge in Scotland. 

Looking across Overtoun Bridge. Stone bridge with greenery on either side, rain puddles in pathway

Looking across Overtoun Bridge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. Lairich Rig [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tucked into the countryside, near the town of Dumbarton, the Overtoun Bridge is a gothic looking structure that carries a much darker name—the Dog Suicide Bridge. Built in 1895, it soars fifty feet over a placid stream below.

Since the 1960s more than fifty dogs have leapt to their death from the bridge. Making that anomaly even stranger is the fact all of the dogs have jumped from the exact same spot, and each apparent “suicide” has occurred on pleasant, sunny days. All of the dogs involved have been “long-nosed” breeds—collies, labradors and retrievers.  A few, fortunate enough to survive the fall, returned to the top of the bridge and leapt from the same spot again, as if compelled by a supernatural force.

Why this horrifically odd behavior from man’s best friend? Is it possible a dog can suffer depression and commit suicide? Or is the bridge cursed, as some speculate?

Overtoun House, forbidding Gothic looking abode at end of long drive

Overtoun House, Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. By dave souza (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s long been believed animals have a keener sense of the spirit world than humans. Perhaps the dogs in question sensed a malevolent presence in Overtoun House, a nearby residence rumored to be haunted. Or perhaps they detected something extraordinary in an area considered a “thin place.” According to legend, Overtoun exists in a region where Heaven and earth are nearly joined.

The most practical explanation to date involves the presence of mink below the bridge. In marking their territory, it’s believed the mink emit a scent powerful enough to lure the dogs to their death. Overcome by the odor, the dogs react instinctively. Blinded by the wall rising beside them, they fail to realize the height from which they plummet.

Why, however, would any animal that survived such a fall, willingly return to the bridge and jump again?

Perhaps the answer will never be known. Thus any dog-owner should be wary when taking their pet for a stroll across Scotland’s Overtoun Bridge. I certainly would!