Royal Meteorological Society Journal, 1891

F. Ramsbotham (1891), The "Ignis Fatuus," or, Will o' the Wisp, in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. 17, p.260.

The "Ignis Fatuus," or, Will o' the Wisp. By F. Ramsbotham, F.R.Met.Soc.

For some years now, since I have been living at the Warren, Crowborough, in Sussex, I have, in common with many others, been struck by seeing Will o' the Wisp, or Ignis Fatuus, playing about in the evening at various times, sometimes in one place, sometimes in another, and sometimes two at once, but not in the same place. Now I have observed that these appearances always coincide with unsettled weather, that is, that bad weather has invariably followed their appearance—in fact, it is quite a storm warning to us, as bad weather is sure to follow sooner or later, generally sooner.

On Saturday, September 26th, 1891, one of my brothers and myself watched one for some time, and last night (October 1st) it appeared in the same place and was visible quite half-an-hour. It does not dance about, but now and then takes a graceful sweep, now to quite a height, and then makes a gentle curve downwards, after sparkling and scintillating away for ten minutes or more.

In the winter there is generally a very remarkable one which appears to rise in Ashdown Forest beyond this estate, which I have known to keep steadily in the air for half-an-hour, and then sail away a long space and stop again. Our keeper has seen it dozens of times, and in every case bad weather followed.

This gentleman is likely to be Fielden Ramsbotham (b.1846), son of James Harrison Ramsbotham. He had two sons and two daughters by his wife, Edith, by the time of this letter; he was fifty-five years old. In 1888 he's recorded as living in the Old Mill at Crowborough Warren (TQ 485 302 GB), presumably where these sightings are from.

The letter from Charles Leeson Prince to Notes and Queries earlier in the year quotes a "neighbour" who is almost certainly Mr. Ramsbotham.

Sean B. Palmer