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.

Mythical Monday: Australia’s Min Min Light by Mae Clair

This one doesn’t really qualify as mythical because its existence has been documented, but there’s plenty of debate about what it is and what causes it.

A dark night sky with several glowing discs of lightA light phenomena of the Queensland region of Australia, the Min Min is a large flickering disc of luminescent light that appears at night, hovering about three feet above the ground. Named after a small settlement in the Outback, the Min Min made its first appearance in 1918 when discovered by a stockman (cattle worker). Its origin, however, can be traced farther back in time to Aboriginal myths that predate western settlement of the area.

The lights do not appear to be harmful and will vanish if fired upon, only to reappear later. They have been known to follow people on foot, horseback and in cars, sometimes keeping pace for miles. A few night time travelers have reported them assuming the shape of a horse or a man. Most, however, claim the Min Min to be a glowing amorphous light. According to legend, anyone who chases the lights and successfully catches one will never return to tell the tale.

Sign welcoming visitors to Min Min Light Territory in Boulia, Queensland, Australia

Photo by GondwanaGirl 6 January 2009 (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Theories put forth include an optical illusion, swarming insects that have taken on bio-luminescent characteristics, and a geophysical phenomenon produced from an natural electrical charge. Whatever the cause of these unusual lights, thousands have reported seeing them. The town of Boulia in Queensland, welcomes visitors to the Land of the Min Min Light with a large sign proclaiming the mystery.

As someone who has been fascinated by atmospheric ghost lights and spook lights since I was a kid, I find the idea of the Min Min enchanting. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these eerie weaving lights?

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Ghost Lights

Beware the marsh when night unfolds,
and darkness sends the sun in flight.
‘Tis no place for mortal creature,
but faerie, nymph, and ghostly light.

They have many different names depending on culture and location, but ghost lights 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 spook 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 ghost 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. *shudder* ).

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.

I’ve always been fascinated by night time lights, particularly during warm weather months. There are so many attractive ways to add soft lights to our outdoor living spaces these days, 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). So while I strategically dress my yard with ornamental lighting in hopes of conjuring a soothing, inviting environment, 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? Personally, as much as I love myth, I’ll content myself with writing about it. 🙂