Friday, November 4, 2022

Ghost Lights: Real??

 Author: M. King

Ghost Lights are known throughout many cultures, telling the tale of “ghostly lights that hover above the ground deep in marshes, bogs, and wet, decaying places.” (McLeod) They’re known by many names such as the ghost lights, corpse candles, “will-o-the-wisps", Jack-o-the-lantern, fairy lights, spook lights, and many more. Since there are so many different things this phenomenon is called, there are also many different interpretations as to why this phenomenon takes place. The explanations are more widely known in myths, fairytales, or in some cultures. Some say that the eerie lights are the cause of fairies or even leprechauns, goblins, others have said they are the restless spirit of children who passed young or were miscarried. Despite all the differentiations and stories that have been made about these strange lights, they all circle back to one thing: “their cause is unearthly in nature and not to be trusted.” (McLeod)

Paulding Light By Flivver 99 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,
Flivver 99 “Paulding Light – Wikipedia" Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, 9 October 2022,

There are many stories, theories, and tales of ghost lights from around the world. Most are like each other, and some are exact opposites. An example of related stories is one from Wales and Ireland, they tell a tale of someone named Jack or Will. In the Ireland interpretation, he was doomed by their mischievous behavior to wonder the Earth till the end of time. These gentlemen were denied access to both heaven and hell, he was granted one gift: “an ember from fires of hell to light his way a warm him in his travels.” (McLeod) Then in the Irish version of the tale, it goes on to talk about a traveler named Jack, receiving the same ember, as the previous story, but he kept his ember in a carved turnip that he used to light his way on his everlasting journey. He was named, “Jack-o-the-lantern", because of the turnip lantern he carries. Furthermore, there are tales in the United States, specifically in Arkansas, where these have been seen. Their ghost light is called “the Gurdon ghost light.” In local legend, it says that in 1931 a man by the name, William McClain, a foreman that worked for the Missouri-Pacific railroad. He was involved in a disagreement with an employee, Louis McBride, talking about when he is allowed to work. To say the least, McBride was livid and ended up brutally killing McClain with a shovel to the head and continuously beating him with a railroad spike hammer. (Arkansas)

Even with all the tales and stories of this phenomenon, there has been some scientific research done on them. The hypothesis is that the decaying matter around the area, such as rotting animal corpses or bad vegetation, releasing gases such as methane and phosphine. These gases that are released from the dying creature or plant have been known to spontaneously ignite when encountering oxygen, which causes low temperature flares for a moment. But there is nothing truly deny the existence of these strange ghost lights.

Works Cited:

Paulding Light – Wikipedia" Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, 9 October 2022,

“MARFA LIGHTS” Youtube, 5 June 2019, 

“The Spook Light” Joplin Missouri. Ex. 20 October 2022,

“Ball lightning” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 3 October 2022,

“Will-o’-the-Wisp: Monstrous Flame or Scientific Phenomenon?” Youtube, Ex. 25 October 2022,


Links for Further Research:

McLeod, Jamie. “Ghost Lights: A Weather Folklore.” Farmers’ Almanac – Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life. 21 June 2021, This source gives information on the folklore and science behind the ghost light sightings. The purpose of this article is to explain and give information on possible origins and reasoning as to how/why these sightings happened. This source is unique because it gives a scientific hypothesis as to why these lights occur. This source is useful because of the cultural involvement as well as the many different stories explaining why these are occurring. As posted on Farmers’ Almanac this article is intended for people who have seen/heard of the strange phenomenon wanting to learn information on the ghost lights or will-o-the-wisps, as they say in the article, and seeing why they occur.

“Mysterious Lights”. Arkansas. The Natural State. Ex. 20 October 2022, This sources gives information on the sightings and folklore in Arkansas. The purpose of this article is to give information on the sightings in the state and what the origin is. This source is unique because it gives detailed stories about the lights. This source is useful because of the stories it shares of the folklore in Arkansas surrounding the ghost lights. As posted on Arkansas: The Natural State this article is intended for tourist or natives in Arkansas to bring information on things they have possibly witnessed.

“Atmospheric ghost lights” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. 5 April 2022, This source gives information on the phenomenon and gives many, world wide, examples of sightings as well as legends/folklore. The purpose of this article is to mostly allow access to more resources as well as provide information. This source is unique because it provides hyperlinks and gives resources for further information. This source us useful because of all the additional details. As posted on Wikipedia this is intended for someone wanting to find all possible knowledge.

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