The Corpse Candle

I originally set out to write my own little story about the Jack O’ Lantern to go along with my Urban Legends stories. As I was digging through the variety of stories about Stingy ol Jack I came across the myths about the Will-O’-The-Wisps. Of course I have heard of these before but only on Lord of the Rings… I didn’t realize that there were lights like this that actually take place.

I am big into different types of ghost stories and UFO sightings so I am familiar with people reporting seeing lights in different areas that are unaccounted for. I wasn’t aware that these Will-O’-the-Wisps take place over water AND land. There is a reason my curiosity was enhanced by this… see I have had a very similar thing that happen to me. However it wasn’t like the scene off of the Lord of the Rings where Gholem is leading Frodo and Sam through the marsh… It was MUCH stranger than that scene.

How do you tell the difference between a tall tale and a true story?
A fairy tale starts out with “Once Upon a time.” And a true story starts with, “This ain’t no shit man!”

This ain’t no shit man…
Lots of little towns have teenage “parking” spots… sorta a lovers lane deal. My town is no different than any other. Ours happens to be on the outskirts of town right next to a bridge. There is parking along the side of the road for a car or two. Its not a big hot spot with the teens now days but it had its hay day roughly 20yrs ago. The bridge is said to be haunted. Aren’t most bridges located on dark country roads in secluded places always haunted? This one actually is.

(a picture of the actual river, this is not in the same spot).
As the story goes, During the 1970’s a group of boys that lived on the road often got together to play. One evening they decided to play hide and seek. As it became darker out, most of the boys came out of hiding on their own. All had been found but one boy. All of the boys were looking for him… They thought maybe something had happen to him. As it got later, parents went out looking for their own children. After hearing that one of the boys still had not come back they joined in on the search. As they made their way back to the river and bridge, they all saw something hanging in a tree. Upon closer inspection they realized it was the missing boy. To this day the murder has gone unsolved. During that time and because of the close proximity to “the Cross Roads of America” it wasn’t uncommon to have vagabonds move through the area. I think suspicion has always been on a passing stranger that may have been taking shelter in the woods. Also there are enough strange people in this area that it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out a disturbed neighbor had done it.

So, my story happen in January/February of 1997. My boyfriend (husband now) and I often drove along that road and frequently parked there. One evening roughly around 11pm we stopped to park. While we were sitting there we noticed flashes of light coming from the river. This is a rather shallow river, two feet deep at most through that area. Trees and brush grow along the sides of the bank, but areas are vaguely cleared by fishers. We got out of the car to take a closer look and noticed that all throughout the river was green fluorescent lights. Flashing green lights like glow sticks. Immediately we got back in the car and drove over the bridge. We stopped the car on the bridge to try to get a closer, but safer look at what was in the water. The bridge began shaking violently as if it was going to collapse. We drove on forward and noticed a truck coming the opposite way. We moved on slowly to see if they made it over the bridge. They stopped on the bridge too, I am assuming to check out the green flashes in the water. The bridge shook while they were on it too and they drove off. The bridge didn’t appear to shake when there were not any cars on it. We drove on to the nearest place we could turn around at and went back. The green glowing flashes were still every where in the water moving with it and what looked like above it. I was sure the bridge was going to collapse so we ended up crossing it that last time and leaving all together. There is not an easy place to just turn around down there so there was no since in staying.

For years I had wondered what it was that we saw. It didn’t make any sense. It was not pollution, no factories empty toxic waste into the river there or any where near by…there aren’t any factors close to it anyway. Years later I was watching something on Discovery channel that had an explanation. Out on the ocean, planes flying over head will often see a large ship with strange green glowing lights coming up out of the water behind the ship. Apparently its moss. The large propellers on the ship wake the algae/moss and it emanates a green light. It has been referred to as “Red Tide” when it happens on the beach.

You might be wondering, “if that happens in the ocean that’s one thing, but you said this was a river.. obviously in land because you mentioned the cross roads of America.” And I say, “YES! That’s what I thought!” I also said it was January/February which would imply that there was snow on the ground. And it being 1997, we got a lot of snow that year. I am assuming that the snow melted much too fast and created a pretty heavy current in the water, a current strong enough to pull up the algae/moss and “agitate” it so that it emanated those green lights. At least that’s what I think and that’s what helps me sleep at night.. sometimes anyway. There is also the possibility that the lights we saw were some type of Will-O’-The-Wisp.

Will-O’-The-Wisps are held to be mischievous spirits of the dead or other supernatural beings attempting to lead travellers astray. Some people believe that the Will-o’-the-wisps mark the location of treasures buried deep in the ground or water which can only be buried up when the fire is there. I suppose that could account for Pirates killing the part of their crew when they buried treasure. Maybe instead of marking the site with an X they marked it with a Will-O’-Wisp.

This is what J.G. Owens said about corpse candles in 1891,
“This is a name that is sometimes applied to a phenomenon perhaps more frequently called Jack-o’-the-Lantern, or Will-o’-the-Wisp. It seems to be a ball of fire, varying in size from that of a candle-flame to that of a man’s head. It is generally observed in damp, marshy places, moving to and fro; but it has been known to stand perfectly still and send off scintillations. As you approach it, it will move on, keeping just beyond your reach; if you retire, it will follow you. That these fireballs do occur, and that they will repeat your motion, seems to be established, but no satisfactory explanation has yet been offered that I have heard. Those who are less superstitious say that it is the ignition of the gases rising from the marsh. But how a light produced from burning gas could have the form described and move as described, advancing as you advance, receding as you recede, and at other times remaining stationary, without having any visible connection with the earth, is not clear to me.” -J.G. Owens

Side note: I know that Indiana actually has the title of cross roads of America… The actual cross roads of America are in Ohio. Where I-75 and I-70 cross.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Littleskew
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 14:32:03

    I really enjoyed reading this entry. For years I’ve heard tales of Will-O’-the-Wisp and Jack-the-Lantern and I never tire of them.
    I first heard of them when I was little on one of our yearly summer trips to Ireland. My aunts and cousin used to refer to these Will-O’-the-Wisp and Jack-of-the-Lantern characters very casually. One day/visit i asked who they were and i was told the story of Stingy Jack. In this little Irish village they refer to Will-O’-the-Wisp and Jack as the same person… other tales may vary but I love them all šŸ™‚


  2. Whimsical KT
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 19:49:15

    Summer trips to Ireland sound WONDERFUL! I love the stories too! I had heard of Stingy Jack, but I didn’t know the folk lore behind the Will-O’-the-Wisps. That is so awesome that you got to hear the stories that way! šŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by Littleskew! I am glad you shared your story!


  3. Don Miller
    Mar 16, 2015 @ 15:00:16

    Years ago Vandalia, Ohio was called the “Cross Roads of America”, because Hwy 25 (north and south) crossed the old National Road there, now Hwy 40 (east and west). Great story, Katie. At sea, especially in the Caribbean, I have seen lights in the ship’s wake at night. They are caused by small, sea animals being churned up by the ship’s propellers. What caused that in the river, I don’t have a clue.


    • Whimsical KT
      Mar 16, 2015 @ 18:24:12

      I always thought Englewood was the Cross Roads of America but when I looked at it on a map, I see it is actually Vandalia, lol. Oh my goodness, for years I thought I70 and I75 cross in Englewood. That was a “duh” moment for me!
      I’m still not sure what we saw out there. Other people here have seen it too though. A few years ago I was talking to a teenager that saw the same thing out there in the summer. She contacted me about it after having read my story. She was shook up over it. I really thought that maybe it was caused from the snow melting and turning up algae, but now I’m just not sure. It’s weird.


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ALL Images, Illustrations, Photos Are Copyrighted BY K.T.A and MAY NOT be authorized for use in any way without consent of K.T.A . Written Permission required for use of any images, photos, illustrations, and material. THAT includes Writing! (Unless otherwise stated)
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