This question:

What is the nature of ghost lights like Naga Fireballs, Will-o'-the-Wisp, Min Min Light, Hessdalen lights, Chir Batti, et. al

Asks for a scientific explanation of these phenomenon. My leaning is this is a 'good off-topic example'.

It's not a bad question because there are many claims throughout history of people believing and documenting seeing these things.

However, there are too many possible explanations for these. It could just be a kid hiding in the grass with a torch, someone lighting fireworks or some ancient guy taking hallucinogens.

To answer the two questions asked:

  • Have any scientific inquiries determined the real cause of these lights?

No because the claims are not based in science

  • Are there any credible photos or videos of the phenomenon?

No because the claims themselves are not credible

Nobody is going to perform a serious 'scientific' study on fairy lights. So this question cannot be sensibly answered.

The same question could be asked about dragons. It could be based on ancient people spotting elephants or crocodiles etc. and enough crazy people believe in them to make it a notable claim, but it is not practically answerable.

2 Answers 2


I think there are two main problems

  1. It has a hidden unscientific assumption that all phenomena presented are different names for the same thing;

  2. It is too broad, a book could be written on it..

I don't see it as off topic, and I disagree that the phenomena have not been studied: I was able to produce a non-peer-reviewed example straight away.

I think it should be split into two questions:

  • is it true that the following phenomena are the same?
  • are will-o-the-wisps supernatural phenomena?
  • I think both of the two questions you proposed are off topic. I think you miss the point that an identical question could be asked about dragons, werewolves or ghosts.
    – going
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 23:45
  • @xiaohouzi79 -- we did allow the question about ghosts, or orbs, etc. So I think we should at least allow something like this. On the other hand--at least in Italy, "fuochi fatui" are commonly treated as a natural phenomena. So they might even be real phenomena (differently from dragons).
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Oct 1, 2011 at 8:28
  • Some of the pheonomena have plausible scientific explanations. But there are many phenomena and they might not all be the same. Question might be better phrased "are there plausible explanations for ..." since the evidence is too thin for definitive proof but plausible physical or chemical explanations narrows down the scope for non-scientific stuff.
    – matt_black
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 23:48

The question is rather broad. I don't think that each of the named phenomenon have the same appearance or are caused by the same thing.

I could see breaking it into two (maybe more) categories:

  1. Orb lights. Seemingly spherical lights that float, hover, or fly away, such as the Naga Fireballs or ball lightning.
  2. Glowing fogs. Glowing haze that is mostly formless and seems to follow the movement of the observer (not unlike the way the moon follows you when you drive at night.) Will-o'-the-Wisp is an example of this.
  3. Other? Open to suggestions...

Part of the problem with the claims, particularly the Naga Fireballs, is that there doesn't seem to be any photographic or video evidence of high enough quality to be able to see what's going on. One video that was available on YouTube (don't have the link right now) showed people lining up along the river with children playing with sparklers in the foreground and in the background you can see some people with "hot air balloons" made from, what appears to be, small paper bags and tea lights. This latter item would easily explain the descriptions given about the Naga Fireballs--get a bunch of people with boats out in the middle of the river with tea light hot-air balloons and you have instant ascending orbs...

The Will-o'-the-Wisp phenomenon seems to have a much longer history and there have been some studies attempted, but it does not seem to be consistent or predictable enough to be able to be in the right place at the right time (kind of like looking for Bigfoot.)


Would it be preferable to split this question up into several questions? If so, should phenomenon with similar descriptions be lumped together or should each named phenomenon be addressed in a separate question?

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