The Swamp Road Chronicles®

"Ignis Fatuus”


Dear Swamp Road,

I guess I'm kind of a strange person; I am a total science geek, but I love a good ghost story too. As a science buff, I KNOW that aliens exist. As a paranormal fan I KNOW that ghosts exist as well. I approach every situation with a critical eye but with an open mind as well. I had an experience one night on Swamp Road that, 150 years ago, would have given most people a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Let me explain.


My sister Melanie and I were walking down Swamp Road about 2 a.m. looking for anything out of the normal. Melanie is really smart, but not into science as much as I am. She's 17, I'm 25 and a senior in microbiology studies at The Ohio State University. We both find paranormal things fascinating. We were about 1/3 of the way down Swamp Road walking south from US Route 40 where we approached the lowest part of the road; the ditches on both side are very shallow there. I guess I should mention that Swamp Road is elevated so as to get the road up out of the water and in some places it is more elevated than in others.


We came over a little rise and on the other side of the rise we could see that the lowest part of the road was flooded, not by water, but by light! There was about a 33 centimeter deep pool of light about 20 meters in diameter covering that apart of the road. The light was a pale green in color, not very bright, but quite discernible in the ultra-dark Swamp Road environment.


People used to call such a pool of light "Ghost Lights" and they thought that it indicated that a ghost or evil spirit was nearby. But there is a scientific explanation for it: it is simply swamp gas. It glows in the dark because there are chemicals within the gas that are decomposing and putting off light. There is a phenomenon called 'Foxfire' that is a glow you find emanating from old rotting logs, for example. Jack-o-lantern, Will-o'-the-wisp, and Friar's lantern are other names for basically the same process. The scientific name for it is 'Ignis Fatuus' which means 'giddy fire'. Depending on the exact proportions of the chemicals in the gas, it can hug the ground or, rise into the air. Many balls of light that people thought were UFO's were, in fact, glowing clouds of swamp gas. But rest assured, not all of those balls of light were that. The pool of light Melanie and I found was apparently heavily made up of methane, which is heavier than air, and so, it formed a puddle, a puddle of light.


We knew what it was, so, we were delighted, not frightened. We walked through the puddle and our footfalls caused the gas to ripple away like a pool of water would have. We jumped up and down in it and sat down in it too. It was great fun and simply fascinating.


In retrospect, we should have been more careful; methane is combustible. Ask the many miners killed by methane explosions. If our shoes had caused a spark we may have been badly burned, or killed, even. There could have been a huge blast. I just didn't think about it at the time. We were too amazed by our good fortune of seeing something that few people ever see and being able to play in it.


As we were headed back up to our car I remarked to Melanie: "I'm sure glad that those "Ghost Lights" didn't mean there was a ghost around", she responded, "Me too" then, someone whispered into my right ear, "Me too"!


As submitted by Bathsheba Creek 10-12-2022


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