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will-o'-the-wisp

will-o'-the-wisp, phenomenon known also as ignis fatuus and jack-o'-lantern. It is seen at night as a pale, flickering light over marshland. There is no generally accepted explanation for it it may result from the spontaneous ignition of gases (e.g., methane) produced by the disintegration of dead plant or animal matter, or it may be a form of phosphorescence. The eerie lights have given rise to many superstitions.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.