water Creature with an lantern

My sketch guess on two famous sump creatures

I like hiking at night because the darkness give my imagination so much to tune into as I suddenly become more aware of many sounds, sensations and smells I tend to overlook in daylight.

But maybe I can even double this feeling when I try to imagine how  it must have felt like in the old days when  “ghost lights” could suddenly appear out of nowhere and everybody knew that strange creatures with lanterns were known to move around out in the marches:

water Creature with an lantern

How did a Will o the Wisp look… did it have a lantern?

The “ghost lights” has been described as controversial, but back then people walking through the wetlands at night wouldn’t be disturbed by electrical street and headlights, so they must have been able to see even weak lights much more clearly than we can –  and  they could even see what they believed and described in their stories as strange creatures silently moving among the trees out in the water.

Today we still know at least two of those creatures as  “Will o the wisp” and “Jack the lantern” But theese strange lights / creatures are known from stories from many parts of the world and their names  change from place to place, and they can be called things like: chir Batti, Naga, puck, boi-tata, min-min-light and hinkypunk.

The mystical fires/lights often had local stories and explanations attached to them that would connect them to lost souls, treasures, strange creatures and sometimes they would be seen as warnings about the future in ways that would storybind the locals to these landscapes in ways that, I think, are hard for us to even understand.

Modern science

Science today say the lights most likely – technically could appear where gas compounds naturally rose from bogs and marches.  What science believe happened is that the gasses would sometimes mix and spontaneously  ignite in many colors when they got in contact with the oxygen in the air.

But somehow I still like the old mind-triggering  and more colorful  explanations about those strange ghost lights.  And you can read much more about them here on Wikipedia on Will-o’-the-wisp.

Jack the Lantern in the swamp illustration

Did the mystical “Jack the Lantern” look like this?

Unfortunately, at least for us night-hikers, the strange lights are, as far as the experts know, all  gone today, together with the marches, bogs and all the other creatures that used to see them, because we have drained and converted most of these magical wetlands into the more productive and less fearful farmlands we prefer…  And somehow I can’t stop to wonder if maybe it is a bit the same we have done to our imagination in a parallel process?

At least it must have been a fascinating experience back then, walking at night when the marches and wetlands could glove with strange and sudden lights in many colors…

Keywords: jack-o-lantern, hobby lantern, illustration, fantasy, Halloween, fireball,

About Frits Ahlefeldt

Painting watercolors, researching, writing & sketching up thoughts, understandings and ideas for a sustainable future, connecting thrive, trails, places and technology


Environmental, illustrations, Storytelling


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