Sunday, May 26, 2019

Blue Ghosts

Last night I witnessed something magical that is apparently quite a rare phenomenon: Blue Ghost Fireflies.

I’d been visiting at a friend’s home in North Carolina. Ken owns about 40 or so acres that border the South Toe River, you might say in the shadow of Mount Mitchell. Every once in a while, Ken hosts a little potluck dinner around the campfire. We enjoy good food and great company, and last night was a fairly typical night.

After dinner, my cousin Sally, new friend Kay, and beloved adventure-dog Henry took a walk down to the river. It was a little more exercise than I’d bargained for, although I’m not sore today and it was surely good for me! It was also a little more than Henry had bargained for, because he is sore today – but very, very happy!

After we returned from the walk, the party dwindled down to six humans and one dog. It was so peaceful up there, just sitting around enjoying quiet conversation. No one seemed to want to leave, but all good things must come to an end, and we tidied up and started packing things out to our cars. We walked out in darkness, gradually becoming aware of a sort of blue-white glowing in the rough clearing off to our left.

“What is this?!” we kept asking each other. They didn’t seem to be fireflies – or lightning bugs, as some of us call them – because they weren’t “winking” on and off. Plus, lightning bugs usually hang out in the trees, and these were hovering close to the ground. Finally, Ken recalled hearing of “blue ghosts” and we realized that, whatever blue ghosts might be, these were probably blue ghosts, because they certainly gave off a ghost-like, eerie glow.

We watched, mesmerized, for a while. They moved and hovered in complete, spooky silence. I thought to grab a little video from my cell phone, with absolutely no success. This is just one of those special moments in time that will be preserved only by my memory.

Returning home, a quick google search revealed this article, which not only explains the science behind “blue ghosts” but also gives some valuable tips for trying to experience this phenomenon for yourself. Which I highly recommend.

Atlas Obscura, always informative and entertaining, posted this article:

Apparently, local legend has it that the blue fireflies are the ghosts of Confederate soldiers – although it was pointed out that since the fireflies are blue, it would make more sense if they were the ghosts of Union soldiers. Now, you can believe or not, as you will … but isn’t it interesting that these things are active around Memorial Day, which originated in the years just after the Civil War?