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Engraving by T. W. Cook

A spectral light is spotted upon the misty moors one night. If by chance there are travelers who are lost, the Will-o'-the-Wisp's light is an alluring sight, but a savvy traveler knows that the light of the Wisp may only lead them further astray. The light itself is supposed to resemble a flickering flame. The explanation for the lights is that the areas where the flames were often seen were bogs, and the flames were the result of methane combustion in the air.

What the Will-o-the-Wisp is depends on the mythology, sometimes it can be a ghost when it's played straight, other times it can be a fairy or demon, it goes by many different names and most of the time a Wisp is malicious, but on rare occasions they can be helpful. The Latin name for it is ignis fatuus, "fool fire".

Will-o'-the-Wisps tend to appear in desolate locations with a macabre history, appearing as vengeful apparitions or a lost soul wandering aimlessly. Wisps in video games function as a (usually) weak enemy found in graveyards or swamps.


See Hitodama Light for ghostly lights of Japanese folklore, Faux Flame for a supernatural illusion of fire conjured up by someone, and Spark Fairy for fairies or magical insects depicted as a point of light. Supernatural Light is the Super-Trope.


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    Card Games 
  • In mythology, Will-o'-the-wisps are considered to be ghostly lights that lure travelers to their doom. "Umbral Horror Will-o'-the-Wisp"'s art and effect in Yu-Gi-Oh! reference that.
    • There's also Evilswarm Obliviwisp, whose name was originally Vers O-Wisp, obviously paying tribute to the will-o-wisp. In practice, it's the Evil Counterpart of a fire elemental.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics has a villain named Will o'the Wisp, who most often fights Spider-Man. He can control his density and hypnotize targets.
  • In the Johan and Peewit adventure "Le Pays Maudit", the duo is crossing a bog on a raft when they notice Will o'the Wisps. Unfortunately the King is traveling with them, and superstitious; he soon causes the raft to capsize.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Fate Revelation Online: Will-o-Wisps are ethereal monsters that are intangible to physical attacks and have a compulsion spell to lure players into the swamps of the Fourth floor, before shanking them with a knife projection.
  • In The Meaning Of Harmony the group runs into several Will-o'-Wisps in the Hayseed Swamps, the first of which nearly manages to kill them by luring them into the swamp.
  • In The Power of the Equinox, there lives in the Everfree Forest a fiery fae that giggles a lot and loves enchanting whatever creatures it can, leading them to Ghastly Gorge, and causing them to fall to their death. When it enchants Scootaloo, its flames glow blue (though it shows itself to be capable of changing colors), as do the victim's eyes. Fortunately, Scootaloo is saved at the last minute by Zecora who proceeds to destroy the dark fairy by throwing at it salt and wrought iron shavings, causing it to change colors in agony before exploding in flames.

    Film - Animated 
  • Brave has the Wisps, which appear as glowing blue lights and apparently have the power to lead people to their fate and encourage them to change it. They are based on Scottish lore of will o' the wisps that lead people to treasure or doom. They guide Merida to the witch's cabin. At the end of the movie, it's shown that they are actual ghosts.

  • In The Lord of the Rings when Sam and Frodo are being guided across the Dead Marshes by Gollum he warns them not look at them. His term for them is "corpse candles."
  • Harry Potter has a creature called the Hinkypunk that floats around bogs and marshes and glows. In Prisoner of Azkaban Professor Lupin tells the third year Defense Against the Dark Arts class that they “[Lure] travelers into bogs. You notice the lantern dangling from his hand? Hops ahead -people follow the light— and then...” "Hinkypunk" is the name for a will o' the wisp in the West Country region of England, where J. K. Rowling grew up.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles, Will O' The Wisps are glowing fairies who disorient and confuse.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy books, Will-o'-the-wisps are small spirits that are described as "struggling to keep up with the times." Visible as flickering flames on the first plane, they were once employed to lure travelers to their death in pits or quags, but with the invention of cities, were employed to lurk over manhole covers, to rather less effect.
  • Will o' the Wisp is the name of the main phantom ship in The Nautical Ballad Of Ben Bo Bohns.

    Live Action TV 
  • Lost Girl: Will, the Will-of-the-Wisp of the "Where There's a Will There's a Fae" episode is a humanoid Fae that has the ability to create bursts of green flames that he uses to lead humans away from his home and treasure.
  • The Wisps from Brave also appear in the first episode of Season 5 of Once Upon a Time. Merida needs one to find her brothers; Emma needs one to find Merlin.

  • Manuel de Falla included a song about it, titled "Canción de Fuego Fatuo," in the ballet El Amor Brujo.
  • An Opeth song also has this title.

  • In Brazilian folklore, will o' wisps were said to be the Boitatá, an enormous fire serpent that went after hunters and loggers. Similar to a basilisk, its blinding brightness could drive people insane or cause death. Oddly enough, it could also try to crush people by turning into a burning tree trunk and in the state of Santa Catarina it was depicted as a cyclopean bull instead.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Jeff Hardy's masked gimmick, Willow The Wisp, in OMEGA. In TNA, it is stated Willow is nothing but a figment of Jeff Hardy's imagination. Willow's light show makes his surroundings deliberately monochrome.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Shadowrun, the Corpselight, or will o' wisp, is a mysterious magical being that looks like a wisp, floating about two metres above ground in desolate areas. They are solitary and malevolent, draining their victim's essence in a way similar to Vampires.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Will-O-Wisp is a monster that haunts dangerous and deserted places like catacombs, swamps and bogs with traps that can kill the unwary (Pit Traps, Quicksand Sucks, etc.). When a victim is killed by one of these hazards the Will-O-Wisp feeds on their Life Energy.
  • The Marshlight creatures of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are ethereal undead that cannot physically harm their victims, instead they mesmerise them and lead them into danger. They are impossible to harm unless hit with a magical weapon which banishes them in a single hit. There is also the Marsh Lights spell that allows a caster to create a number of lights within 100 yards of themselves and then send them off in any desired direction.

    Video Games 
  • Venus of We Know the Devil sometimes sees these in the distance. It is a character tic that hints towards her element, and the nature she takes on when possessed.
  • Several enemies in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura are glowing balls of light found in swampy terrain.
  • The Willowisp monsters from Diablo II are ethereal undead that are transparent until they use their lightning attack. They shoot incredibly fast, come in packs that will focus fire on one character, and are some of the most prominent Demonic Spiders in the game.
    Created from the vapors that rise from the dense jungle swamps, these mindless forms seek out the energy contained in all living things. While not evil in nature, their feeding habits do make them a serious threat to adventurers.
  • Wisps in Dragon Age: Origins are demons who lost their power by being in the physical world without a host for too long or by being destroyed, often by other demons. What remains of its mind clings to a hatred of all living things. Wisps mindlessly attack in the Fade while in the physical world, they pose as light sources such as lanterns to lead the living into dangerous areas. The Spell Wisp is a spell from the Creation tree summons a wisp that grants a small bonus to spellpower while maintained.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Oblivion has them as a mid-level monster encounter. They're incorporeal like ghosts (meaning they can only be hurt with magic, weapons made of silver, or magic weapons) and can use lightning-based magic.
    • Skyrim:
      • Skyrim has glowing hostile creatures called Wisps, which are found near feminine, ghostlike beings called Wispmothers. Unlike the Will-o-the-Wisps in Oblivion, these can be hurt by any kind of weapon. Killing a Wispmother disperses the Wisps surrounding her. These also appear in The Elder Scrolls Online.
      • Yngol's Barrow has mysterious orbs of light that follow and surround the Dragonborn, but they are harmless.
  • Evil Islands: Willow-o'the-Wisps are enemies that appear in the first island (especially around the swamp areas and around the City of the Dead) as a group of lights that start burning when attacking. They throw fire at you, an attack which isn't very damaging at later stages, but makes them quite a threat when first encountered.
  • Pokémon:
    • Will-O-Wisp (originally named Onibi) exists as a status move that inflicts the Burn status on the target Pokemon if it hits. It is commonly learned by Ghost-type and Fire-type Pokemon.
    • A Pokémon that learns this move is Duskull, which has a light floating in its skull. In German, it's called Zwirrlicht, which is a wordplay on Zwielicht (Twilight) and Irrlicht (Will-o'-the-Wisp).
    • It is also learned by the Litwick line, which take the shape of animated candles (Litwick itself), lamps (Lampent) or candelabra (Chandelure) lit with a ghostly blue flames, which they use to mesmerize people and consume their souls.
  • Will-'o-Wisps spawn in Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale when you spend too much time on a dungeon floor. The first time you see one, Tear recommends outright that you drop whatever you're doing and make tracks for the level exit. Most of the time, Wisps are not worth fighting due to lack of reward except they are the only enemies to drop Salamander Scales which are needed to make high level items. Since you need a) 28 Salamander Scales total to make all possible items once each and b) the drop rate of them is 1:50, you will have to kill a lot of these very dangerous enemies if you aim for 100% Completion of the item encyclopedia.
  • The Secret World: The pumpkin patches Jack inhabits are often surrounded by flickering lights.
  • The "Late Night" Expansion Pack for The Sims 3 adds wisps that can be caught like butterflies and are quite valuable.
  • Warcraft
  • In ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal, will-o'-whisps are found in the Great Swamp around the Goblin village of Dunmore. You are supposed to follow them to get to the island in the middle of the swamp, because the area is extremely convoluted (by design) and covered in fog, to boot.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Ermac (who is a being made of thousands of souls shoved into one body) has green lights similar to these orbiting him in his Master Of Souls variation. He can use them as projectiles to temporarily paralyze the opponent.
  • Nexus Clash has them as some of the low-level minions of the Lich. They're not very effective in combat but they're cheap, can heal their masters with Life Drain, and their ghostly nature means that even invisible characters can't hide from them.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, Will-o'-the-Wisps are the souls of dead children, and they hang around the swamp at night. Following them into the swamp, naturally, is foolish, but they're also there for a good reason. The Hero must capture a few of them in order to find one of the Dark One Rituals.
  • Ancient Empires has Wisps as a type of unit. They appear as bluish balls of light that increase the attack of nearby allied units. Their attack does increased damage to skeletons, but their base attack is still too weak for this to be effective.

     Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, wisps are semi-sentient balls of light which are attracted to anything which oozes with mana, whether it's a place of power or a creature. They live by leeching magic from their target and are thus desired by mages who wish to channel the magic within them.
  • The No Sleep Podcast:
    • The narrator of "I Used To Sit There" sees faint lights in the woods across the lake that he sits on the shore of.
    • A mysterious light stalks the narrator and his friends in "The Midnight Hike".
  • The Thrilling Adventure Hour:
    • Will-o'-the-Wisps are a creature present in the "Beyond Belief" universe. They feed by draining people of their souls while lulling them off their guards by telling stories. In the Valentine's Day episode, one tries this on Frank and Sadie Doyle, telling them tales of their exploits only to fail before he even began due to The Power of Love. This particular Will-o'-the-Wisp, known as Spooky Hal, is also the narrator who opens and closes each Beyond Belief episode.
    • The episode "The Skeleton Grief" features a Will-o'-the-Wisp trying to force a re-do of a previous story, "The Skeleton Brief." He was dissatisfied with how the antagonists, organ-harvesting skeletons, were hit by a bus and tried to change the story to save them. Spooky Hal eventually takes the story back and forces the enemy Wisp to share in the skeletons' fate.
  • In the Creepypasta "If You See Ghost Lights, Don't Leave the Trail," the narrator describes his run-in with them. His friend, a folklore buff, states that sometimes they lead to a body, sometimes to treasure, and sometimes to the persuer's death. Subverted, however, because they turn out to be the Glowing Eyelights of Undeath of a group of ghostly murdered factory workers.

     Web Video 

     Western Animation 
  • In the "The Siege of The North Part 2" episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender after being transported to the spirit world, Aang runs through a swampy region chasing a mysterious small light sphere. When he climbed up a tree and grabbed it, it made the tree branch dissolve.
  • Willo The Wisp was also the title of a British cartoon; the stories of various creatures in an enchanted forest whose adventures were narrated by Willow the Wisp, a ghostly creature voiced by and caricature of Kenneth Williams.

Alternative Title(s): Will O Wisp


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