The Ballymoney Mystery Light
Regular readers of this blog will know that the Irish often take a “route one” approach to paranormal investigations. The following case, which appeared in The Northern Whig of 26 April 1913, is no exception.
Marsh gas, which is well named “ignis fatuus,” may account in many cases for the lights which have been observed travelling over the surfaces of lakes and bogs during the past winter, and which have formed the subject of letters in our newspapers, but I think there is at least one such occurrence which cannot be accounted for in this way.
|Attribution: Edd Deane from Swaffham, England|
[CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
Many were the conjectures formed as to the cause, and with some a superstitious view held sway. One observer gave his opinion that phosphorescent substance was disengaged from the peaty soil of the bog, which approaches near to the place, and that birds or other animals may have been the cause by loosening the material; but the light moved in too regular a manner for this theory to be accepted.
Another stated that he had seen the light disappear into trees which encircle a demesne close by, and this set one thinking that birds may have something to do it after all. A keen observer who knew that Owls were very much in evidence in that district gave his opinion that the light was caused by their luminous eyes, which glowed in the dark.
Certainly they do glow, but only for the benefit of the bird, not to give light to others. This would come to be almost as good as the opinion expressed elsewhere that “Waders” carried something analogous to an electrical battery, and which they emitted when swimming on the surface of the water.
The mystery was no further made clear to an inquiring mind until a young man, ever ready with his gun, stated that on a dark night, and when waiting for other quarry, he encountered the light, fired into it, and found that he had shot an Owl.
Had the problem at last been solved? The experience of our gunner friend was believed to be reliable, but other means to verify it were wanting. Searching the best authorities revealed the following, which is so far encouraging. In Harmsworth “Natural History,” recently published, the writer states — “Barn owls are sometimes more or less distinctly luminous, owing probably to the presence in their plumage of phosphorescent bacteria, derived from the rotten wood of the trees forming their dwelling places.” — J. L. N. (Ballymoney).
The Northern Whig, 26 April 1913