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Spooklights 101 * A Ghost Light by Any Other Name

Ghost lights have many names. Following are some of the other terms you may have heard in connection to this phenomenon.


The derivation of this name is obvious, as many ghost lights are associated with ghostly legends. The seemingly intelligent behavior of some ghost lights can also be quite spooky!

Ignis Fatuus

This term has been in use for well over a century in the literature, if not considerably longer. Translated from the Latin into colloquial English, it means "Fool's Fire", likely a nod to the fact that most ghost lights are, in fact, cool rather than warm.


According to Sean Palmer, this term was invented by Paul Devereux in 1982. The term earth lights is often used to refer specifically to light phenomena produced by seismic activity.

Nocturnal Lights

William Corliss notes in his Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomenon (page 68) that this term came from UFO literature.


Will o' the wisps are a specific form of ghost lights, those which hover over or close to marshes or swamps. Will o' the wisps are most often explained away as ignited swamp gas.


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