Friday, October 18, 2013

WILL-O-THE-WISP: a small matter.

Nothing profound here, but maybe a bit of interest....

In a form of "sinful desperation" in search of intellectual stimulation, I have engaged in the immorality of spending too much money on myself --- in this case for a lengthy run of FOLKLORE magazine. I wasn't even sure that there would be much of interest per dollar spent, but at least on that front I can say that quick early perusals indicate a fair harvest awaits. Hopefully, this will encourage some worthwhile entries in time.

But today, to begin, something small..... I picked up one of the latest volumes and there was a Pookha article inside. As the Spirit Dog is becoming one of my favorite Faerie entities, that made me smile. The references indicated an older article in FOLKLORE much further back --- the article by Ethel Rudkin, which all the crypto-pros know about, but which is the sort of thing that amateurs like myself must discover for themselves by luck. This is now of course rumbling about in my head asking for a Pookha-oriented blogpost.

But, it's not a "quickie", so it needs simmering. Instead, in that same FOLKLORE volume {#49, 1938} was another Ethel Rudkin article --- a short one entitled "Will o' the Wisp".

Ethel Rudkin turns out to be one of my favorite types of people: a romantic collector of encounter stories, happy to travel "into the field" to speak to real people at length, and then to write it all up so that the rest of us can be enlightened and thrilled by it all at the same time.

If it were not for interviewer-explorers like Ethel Rudkin, stay-at-home bums like myself would have nothing to do our "academic" armchair theorizing about. There should be a Hall-of-Fame somewhere for these folks.

Back in the 1920s and particularly the early 1930s, Ethel Rudkin began to try to save the "legends" of Eastern England, particularly Lincolnshire, from the grinding oblivion encouraged by Modernism. Although her study of the Pookha stories is deeper and more well-known, she also collected several incidents of what the UFOlogists call BOLs in the area around her home.

This is the general area of most of this BOL activity. The teardrop marked "A" is Willoughton, the home of the main informant for these tales. On the rightside of the map is Atterby. Drawn acroos the middle of the picture horizontally is a straight-ish road called {intriguingly} "Old Leys Lane". What you see marked as "A15" was once a road called Ermine Road. In the straight stretch between Ermine Road and to the left across Old Leys Lane was where the BOL would regularly be seen.

Prior to the publication of this article, the Light of Old Leys Lane was seen many, many times, and most often in the night in Wintertime. [Whether it still manifests, who knows? Ms Rudkin was of the opinion that as the road becomes more auto-traveled the phenomenon might stop]. It always moved on the road, suspended above it, but not high [perhaps belt-to-shoulder height]. It was described as like a bicycle lamp in size, height, and color. The informant's daughter had seen the BOL often, and in her case it was between 8&10pm. Many others had. One young man, who lived in Atterby but was wooing a girl in Willoughton was so afraid of the thing that he'd take the by-ways instead of the Lane, costing him much walking time.

Perhaps the key incident involved an Atterby policeman just getting off duty. He spotted the "bicycle-light" coming up Atterby lane, and decided to wait on it. The Light came on all the way to his position, But when it got abreast of him, IT SIMPLY WAS NO LONGER THERE! Well, now, just the sort of thing that we like around here on this blog. Weird. Strange. And completely impossible to figure out.

Ms Rudkin found other things worth noting. The area we've been talking about is just south of the village of Kirton-in-Lindsey as marked in the upper portion of this map. Ethel Rudkin may have herself lived in Lincoln. Between them, at about the teardrop, is Cammeringham Top [or Hill]. This structure was {is?} also associated with a BOL, called the Cammeringham Light. From the language in the article, it sounds as if Ms Rudkin's own postal carrier had an encounter with this thing. He saw the light at Cammeringham Top and it continued to pace him, bounding up and down near the hedge which ran along the west side of the road [then called Middle Street]. Suddenly: Vanish. The carrier stopped and searched off the road but could find no sign that anything had been there.

In another courting calamity, a young man from Willoughton, who was amorously involved with a girl in Kirton, felt that he had been chased so badly by a light, causing him to run all the way back home to Willoughton, that from then on he talked a friend into walking the way with him, his friend spending the courting time drinking while the other did whatever he and his lady did [not recorded].

The last BOL story recorded was of a BOL at Harpswell [you'll have to locate that yourself, I forgot]. This thing would appear, cross a fish pond, move along the grass at the foot of a hill, and sometimes break at an angle and race off towards a cottage before disappearing.

So...? Well, the "natural process" theory will need a lot of help to "solve" this one, methinks. In this case things like the piezoelectric rock-squeezing speculations of Michael Persinger are particularly hard to swallow since the countryside [like Lincoln Ridge above] is not quartz-rich igneous rock, like the granites, but "low-energy" sedimentary rock, like limestone. Also, the main informant, and presumably everybody else involved, was very familiar with swamp gas-type firelights, as there were marshy areas elsewhere which produced that phenomenon. The informant remarked how different the color and motion characteristics were.

And, so.....?

By the way, Ethel Rudkin kept a travel diary of all this stuff, which she later published....

Hmmm.... I don't have this in my resource collection, and......

It would be a really nice Halloween present......


  1. Looks like you can get the book on ebay- her adventures in a "bull nosed Morris" sound interesting!

    1. Thanks. I may get all three of them eventually, but I mainly was just being "cute".

  2. Prof , In your opinion , these BoL :
    - Are they specific to a certain location / within certain area ? Any relation with past history of the sites which BoL appears often ?
    - Are they appear only to specific persons or a certain type of persons ?
    - How often does a sighting of BoL also recorded as UFO sighting ? especially in documented cases in MUFON or NICAP ?

    1. These really sound like questions that you or somebody very like you has asked before.... and I think that I answered them already.

      #1: some yes; some no.
      #2: No.
      #3: by definition, all reports to MUFON and NICAP are reported as UFOs.

      Please try not to ask repetitive questions. My time is limited. Questions are welcomed. They should show "discipline" however.

  3. This business of sudden "vanishing" when a BOL comes abreast of the witness just might fit into the claim that these lights are sometimes really VERY directional. I'd think that you might have a large amount of the "ghost light" investigation reports of the group Vestigia. As I remember, they got EM sensor readings that indicated a geologically-based EM phenomenon (roughly Persingerian?). But they also had the problem that (in at least one appearance) the light was visible from one side of it, but couldn't be seen by another observer located some distance to the other side of it. Line of sight should have permitted seeing it. This would indicate an optical explanation, either mirage-type or of some sort of illusion-due-to-context (with the light source being lights on a building or auto headlights). But then why the EM? And why did not Vestigia figure out the optics?

    There is an enormous literature, most of which I never came near, and I only vaguely remember that Deveraux (spelling?) thought it possible that his geological-origin ghost light plasmas might have light-emission from one side only. The vanishing MIGHT then be because the blasted plasma is about as directional as a real bicycle headlight, which also would "vanish" (if the air were too clear to show much of the beam) as the bike drew abreast. The directionality might be due to an asymmetrically-distributed layer of dense smokey stuff that simply blocks the light (cf. Corliss [I think] on black ball lightning).

    I realize this is dangerous speculative ratcheting of the strangeness without much cause. Most likely is that the light simply "goes out," and the drawing abreast is (dammit)coincidence. So I merely say that if anyone has a mountain of BOL/will-o'-the-wisp/etc cases, it might be worth the effort to go through it all, attentive to any such peculiarities in the descriptions. Might.

    Frank John Reid

    1. Hi, Frank. Interesting as usual.

      I may get a chance to look at this a bit more. But......

      The Natural Odd Thing boys see the vanishing-once-coming-abreast as a force-environment-change caused by our body or our car or whatever it came abreast of. The Random Portal boys think sort of the same thing. The Paranormalists see intelligence and Tricksterism. UFOlogists of a certain stripe see simple intelligence {sort of like a Probe}.

      If these have anything to do with plasma, it must be VERY "mild" plasma indeed, as the nearby observer usually feels no effects of being near it at all. But if it has no "force" to speak of, how's it holding together??

      Re: mountains of BOL cases: Greg Long is trying to collect just that. Perhaps he'll see a pattern.

  4. From these 5 photos, you may find how a group of UFO light balls vanishing:

  5. Are there any chance that the BoL are natural phenomena like fireflies ?

    1. like fireflies?... no. Odds on that are as close to zero as can be.