Notes and Queries, 1891

Charles Leeson Prince (1891), Will-o'-the-Wisp. In "Notes and Queries", 7th S. XI., 4th April 1891, p.275.

This phenomenon is seen occasionally in this neighbourhood. The following is a copy of a letter which a neighbour sent to me on the 5th of last July. His house is situated in a ravine, in which are several large ponds and marshy ground :—

"I wonder whether you have ever observed the Will-o'-the-wisp which for several years we have observed from the windows of the house here facing W.N.W., that is, in the direction of Gill's Lap. He is a stately fellow, and does not condescend to dance, hopping and skipping close to the ground, like some of his brethren, but prefers a sort of stately minuet high up in the air above the tree tops. He was magnificent the night before last, and I never saw him so high. His appearance always betokens bad weather, and the higher he goes the worse the weather. So you see we have quite a novel kind of barometer, and always a true prophet."

In confirmation of this prognostic, I will add that during the twenty-four hours following the gentleman's appearance I registered 1·83 inches of rain.

C. Leeson Prince.

The Observatory, Crowborough, Sussex.

The sighting would therefore presumably have been on the night of 3rd July 1890, if it was the "night before last" on the 5th of last July, being hence in the year before 1891. The neighbour mentioned is almost certainly Fielding Ramsbotham, who wrote to the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society later in the year.

Sean B. Palmer