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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: Ignis Fatuus


Ignis Fatuus: Luminous lights seen in meadows, marshes, and bogs. Folk names for these faint, wavering lights include Will o’ the Wisp and Jack o’ Lantern. A “wisp” was the name of a torch made of straw, so both names imply someone carrying a lamp or light. Supposedly, the purpose of Will and Jack is to fool travelers and lead them to their deaths. Another myth is that they are the spirits of people who died in the area.

Ignis Fatuus is the scientific Latin name indicating that indeed, these lights do exist. However, they are not spirits or the souls of unbaptized infants. Rather, they are methane, a flammable gas produced by fermentation of organic waste that is released from the damp ground and under certain conditions can become luminescent.

In March of 1966, a wide variety of people in Southeastern Michigan saw multiple UFOs perform amazing maneuvers. The US Air Force sent its expert, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, to determine what had taken place. After investigating and talking with dozens of witnesses, including several police officers, he concluded that there were no UFOs and what the people saw was simply swamp gas. Debunkers have declared that UFOs were swamp gas ever since. However Dr. Hynek, originally a doubter, eventually changed his mind and came to believe that UFOs exist.Donald Michael Kraig


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