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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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     Anime and Manga 
  • Pumpkin Scissors: Invoked. The 901st used Bottled Heroic Resolve in the form of a special kind of lamp oil that burns at a specific frequency of blue light that drove them Ax-Crazy. At a distance, at night, this looked like Will O' the Whisps, and a legend sprang up around them that they were evil ghosts "guided by the Will-of-the-Wisp."

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Will-o'-the-Wisp is a Spirit creature that doesn't do much beyond fly, but it's Black — the color associated with swamps, and its card indeed shows the wisps drifting in a dark mire — and its flavor text references will-o-the-wisp myths of various sorts. Its original text consist of lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner describing ghost-fires on the sea, while its modern one references an in-universe myth of the ghost of a deceased woman wandering the moors at night with a lantern in hand, trying to find her lost brother and dooming the living who meet her to join in her endless search.
    • Withering Wisps are a Black enchantment that damages creatures once for each swamp card you have in play.
    • The Shadowmoor set includes a group of five cards — Aphotic Wisps, Cerulean Wisps, Crimson Wisps, Niveous Wisps and Viridescent Wisps — depicted as clusters of floating, ghostly lights, which whisper indecipherable messages to the living and show omens and visions in their glow.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Evilswarm Obliviwisp, whose name was originally Vers O-Wisp, is an Evil Counterpart of a fire elemental.

    Comic Books 
  • Johan and Peewit: In "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.
  • Marvel Universe: There's a villain named Will o'the Wisp, who most often fights Spider-Man. He can control his density and hypnotize targets.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • The World is Filled with Monsters: Will-o-Wisps are among the creatures that have been encroaching on the lands around Hazelnacht. They're described as clusters of little lights that appear on the moors at night, bobbing and weaving and enticing travelers to head closer and investigate them. They have an almost hypnotic effect, making victims obsessed with reaching them and finding out what their excited movement is about, luring them further and further away from the path. Particularly lucky or perceptive people are able to see past the light and see the wisps' wings, eyes and teeth. The rest are eaten.

    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.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Apparitional: The ghosts haunting the Freeling State Penitentiary are shown to manifest as little balls of light.
  • El amor brujo: Candela things she's being haunted by the ghost of her dead lover, Diego. In one scene she goes to his grave and sees will-o'-the-wisp that seem to be leading her to him.

  • 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.
  • 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 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."
  • The Nautical Ballad of Ben Bo Bohns: Will o' the Wisp is the name of the main phantom ship.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles, Will O' The Wisps are glowing fairies who disorient and confuse.

    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.
  • Once Upon a Time; The Wisps from Brave also appear in the first episode of Season 5. Merida needs one to find her brothers; Emma needs one to find Merlin.

  • Manuel de Falla includes a song about it, titled "Canción de Fuego Fatuo," in the ballet El Amor Brujo.
  • Miles Davis's version of this tune on Sketches of Spain is titled "Will o' the Wisp."

  • 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 
  • 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.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Will-o’-wisps are aberrations resembling floating balls of light, which can modify their appearance to take on a number of forms — winged humanoids, floating skulls, and so on. They lure travelers into the wilderness and feed on their life energy when they die.
    • The empyreal lord Ashava is a benevolent version of this. Her true form is a hazy sphere of silvery moonlight, and she entices others to follow her so as to lead them home (if they're living) or to the afterlife (if they're dead). Conversely, she despises true will-o’-wisps due to them deliberately leading people astray and encouraging fear of the wilderness and the night.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Marshlights 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 
  • 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.
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: Several enemies are glowing balls of light found in swampy terrain.
  • Diablo II: The Willowisp monsters 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.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: Wisps 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.
  • 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 War: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: Will-'o-Wisps spawn 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 Sims 3: The "Late Night" Expansion Pack adds wisps that can be caught like butterflies and are quite valuable.
  • Warcraft:
  • We Know the Devil: Venus sometimes sees these in the distance. It is a character tic that hints towards her element, and the nature she takes on when possessed.
  • 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.

     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.
  • In "If You See Ghost Lights, Don't Leave the Trail", a Creepypasta, 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.
  • 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.

     Web Video 

     Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the "The Siege of the North Part 2", 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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