Ignis Fatuus
A wavering luminous appearance frequently observed in
meadows and marshy places, around which many popular superstitions
cluster. Its folknames, Will o’ the Wisp and Jack o’
Lantern, suggest a country fellow bearing a lantern or straw
torch (wisp). Formerly these lights were supposed to haunt desolate
bogs and moorlands for the purpose of misleading travelers
and drawing them to their death. Another superstition says
that they are the spirits of those who have been drowned in the
bogs, and yet another says that they are the souls of unbaptized
infants. Science now attributes these ignes fatui to gaseous exhalations
from the moist ground or, more rarely, to night-flying
insects.