What is a Wisp? by Cinnamon Worth

What is a Wisp? by Cinnamon Worth

Wisps – magical creatures or scientific anomalies

Wisp - cracked phone

Last week, my son cracked his phone screen. Although we had to replace it, I thought the crack was pretty cool looking. My first reaction was that it reminded me of a will-of-the-wisp, but then I realized I known next to nothing about wisps.

What are they supposed to look like? Is it a human fairy looking thing, or a ball of flames? How do wisps differ from sprites?

Well, it turns out wisps are less mystical than other forest creatures you might read about. Wisps are balls of light, usually colored, hovering in the air at night. Although different names have been used, stories of wisps appear throughout history and are part of nearly every culture. Historically, supernatural explanations have been used to explain the sightings. Some societies believed they were the souls of the dead, while others thought they were evil beings attempting to corrupt humans.

In 1776, Allesandro Volta, the man credited with creating the electric battery, developed a more scientific theory. He suggested wisps occur when swamp gases are ignited. People doubted this idea because it didn’t explain where the gases came from, how they were ignited, or why the wisps would disappear when people approached them.

With time, we solved these mysteries. Normally, when organic material decays, the material is exposed to oxygen. In these cases, decay results in water, carbon dioxide, and heat. In wet areas, dead materials are not always exposed to oxygen as they break apart, so the chemical reaction will be different. If organic material decomposes under water or under wet soil, the result will be methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, phosphines, and other chemicals. Some of these chemicals are so unstable they will spontaneously combust. And when people approach these balls of burning gas, the air currents move the balls away from them.

Volta’s theory is now the most widely accepted theory on what causes wisps, at least the wisps in the wild. How one became trapped in my son’s phone screen still remains unknown.

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14 COMMENTS
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DarcyBennett
DarcyBennett
April 23, 2022 8:06 PM

I had heard of this phenomenon when I saw a documentary on the Civil War. Thanks for sharing!

Buturot
Buturot
April 21, 2022 11:59 PM

Amazing how we now canexplain a lot of msyterious things. Thank you for sharing

Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
April 20, 2022 3:49 PM

Fascinating post!

Riana Everly
AuAu
April 20, 2022 8:40 AM

Wouldn’t that be a fun plot bunny for a paranormal? A fairy spirit caught in a phone screen, passing on arcane information through Siri…
Thanks for that fun post.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
April 19, 2022 7:11 PM

Cool post! I never really knew about Wisps!

Kirstin Odegaard
AuAu
April 19, 2022 12:47 PM

Science sure does kill the mysticism and intrigue in things. But I guess it also clears up our terror and stops us from burning witches. This was interesting! Very impressive to find inspiration in a cracked phone.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
April 19, 2022 9:16 AM

I think that broken screen would make an amazing cover… further embellished, of course. I love the explanations. I couldn’t help but think of the Lord of the Rings movie where they had the flames in the swamp. Or the gas flames in the Princess Bride. I’m sorry, my mind just goes off sometimes. Thanks for the research and I hope you get to use that broken screen as inspiration for a story. I can just imagine a back story for that creature or maybe it is a sentient flame. Blessings.

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
April 19, 2022 7:58 AM

Thanks for the cute, informative article! I agree that the crack on the phone screen looks like a wisp!

Regina Jeffers
Admin
April 19, 2022 6:57 AM

I am 40% Scottish in my DNA, and my favorite Disney princess is Merida. I most assuredly know “wisps.”

Last edited 1 month ago by Regina Jeffers
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