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File:Cit Nagasarete Airantou ghost lights.jpg

I've been possessed. ;_;

Japanese take on Will O The Wisps as ghostly possession.

Will O' Wisps are what happens when swamp gas ignites, resulting in spectral blue flames floating in the air. Ancient cultures across the globe tended to associate this with the spirits of the dead and other supernatural forces.

Japan is no exception. Japanese ghosts and those they possess are traditionally depicted as surrounded by floating blue flames known as hitodama. The victim of possession traditionally tended to keep their free will, but was plagued with fatal bad luck (although Western depictions of ghosts inducing Demonic Possession has spread).

The possession part is rarely played straight in Anime. People dressing as a ghost will usually tie burning candles to their heads to simulate the light. Being surrounded by ghost lights are a visual indicator of someone who is already a ghost. (Which raises the odd Fridge Logic; if one Ghostlight is a soul, why are ghosts surrounded by multiple ones?)

Sometimes, when a character is suddenly mortified or depressed about something, they will be portrayed as squatting in a (possibly nonexistent) corner, back turned to the main cast, with a black halo and ghost lights.

Interestingly, hitodama (or kitsunebi or onibi) are created by rotting compounds of a body. Although these lights give a ghostly/comical atmosphere on TV, it's perfectly possible to witness them in real life by this explanation, and who knows what they mean then...

Not to be confused with The Doctor Who serial Ghost Light. See Cold Flames for "flames" that aren't actually fire.

Examples of Ghost Lights include:

Anime and Manga

  • Kikyo in Inuyasha is surrounded by the blue spheres of human souls at many times to sustain her resurrected body.
  • The ghost girl who appears in two later-season episodes of Ranma ½ manifests ghost lights when she's trying to be scary or when she arrives/departs.
    • Gosunkugi fakes this in the traditional way with candles tied to his head.
    • Every single apparition in the Cave of Lost Love is accompanied by tiny kitsunebi, "fox lights," yet another Japanese version of the will o' wisp.
  • Ghost Aisaka Sayo in Mahou Sensei Negima usually doesn't have ghost lights, but can produce them if needed.
  • A ghost light symbolically appears in the background in .hack//Sign when Bear explains to Mimiru that their enemy is not an entity that can be simply attacked but is both nowhere and everywhere.
  • The ghost girl from Keroro Gunsou is often accompanied by Ghost Lights, and Dororo tends to sulk in the corner with ghost lights around him when his "Trauma Switch" turns on.
  • In an early Detective Conan case, the detective boys think a house is haunted when they see Will O' Wisps in a window. (It turns out to just be from a candle.)
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler there is a priest who has those with him since the time it got revealed he's actually a ghost.
  • Nagasarete Airantou
  • Nube-sensei, from Hell Teacher Nube, likes to introduce himself to his new class by strapping candles to his head to mimic this effect... and then swinging, Tarzan-like, into the classroom, or try to play-exorcise a doll. The irony is that Nube is such a tremendously powerful spiritualist and exorcist that he can summon the real thing at will, but will only do so when he actually needs to. Of course, a vast number of the Obake he encounters is naturally surrounded by hitodama and kitsunebi.
  • Pops up in a couple of files during Ghost Hunt.
  • Shaman King goes crazy with these. In the series, shamans can turn their ghost-pals into these, and then use it for body possession (later used for weapon possession. It's a long story). In this case, the Ghost Lights (hitodama) have faces, mouths, and usually part of the original spirit's clothes/hair.
  • Kana from My Lovely Ghost Kana naturally sports them. They are a good indication of her mood, since there are more of them and they make little "pop" sounds when she is especially happy.
    • Also used amusingly when Daikichi finds an old "dead" cellphone and discovers that Kana can use it to keep in touch with him. A stylized ghost light is her chat icon and takes place of the signal meter on her phone.
  • Kekkaishi has these following Madarao and Hakubi.


  • In the section of Schubert's Winterreise titled Irrlicht or Will O the Wisp, a young man who is wandering distraught after breaking up with his girlfriend follows an illusory light.

Video Games

  • In Capcom's Darkstalkers series, the demonic samurai Bishamon is accompanied by these; not only do they symbolize his own possession by cursed armor, he can dispatch them as an attack to temporarily "possess" (paralyze) an opponent.
  • In Kingdom Hearts 2 these float aimlessly and harmlessly through the underworld. Sora can smash them for money and health. Think about what this means.
  • The default form for a ghost in Ghost Trick is a little blue whisp of flame. After the spirit remembers what they look like ( or what they think they look like), they can take on the shape of their original body. When Sissel realizes that he can't hold on to the image of himself as the blond-haired man anymore, he reverts to a blue flame with sunglasses.
  • These exist in The Legend of Zelda as Poes. They can usually be captured in bottles and traded for money, plot coupons or upgrades.
  • Touhou has several examples:
    • As the princess of a ghost palace (and a ghost herself), Yuyuko Saigyouji seems to be continuously surrounded by these. Her servant, Youmu Konpaku, also has one of these next to her at all times, which happens to be half of her own soul — because she's only half ghost (don't ask me how that works).
      • Both Yuyuko and Youmu use their Ghost Lights as Attack Drones in the games where they are playable. So does Mima from PC98 games.
    • Rin Kaenbyou is surrounded by what appears to be skull ghost lights — appropriate, since her job is to carry off corpses into the underworld.
      • In some spell cards, she is accompanied by zombie fairies, which look pretty similar (though a later guidebook claims that they're just normal fairies who like to dress up).
  • The second Paper Mario game features a chapter searching for a pirate ghost's treasure. Will O' Wisps play a prominent role, attacking the ship at the start and as common enemies throughout the island.
  • In World of Warcraft, night elf characters will turn into small glowing blue balls (with, if you zoom in close enough, a face) similar to this as they return to their body.
  • Will O' Wisps are a discovery in Skies of Arcadia.
  • In the Shining Force series whenever a playable character is seen while dead they have a large ghost light as their sprite until they're revived.
  • Will o' Wisps are the souls of dead children in Quest for Glory IV and appear as colored lights above the swamp at night.
  • The Pyreflies at the Moonflow in Final Fantasy X.
  • Appear in a single stage in Guardian Heroes. They don't attack, can be hit, but can also possess killed enemies and reanimate them.
  • Ghostbusters The Video Game (and by extension the Tabletop RPG where the classification system comes from) identifies these as Class 1 paranormal phenomena, alongside things such as cold spots and spectral voices.
  • In Super Mario World, the ghost enemy Fishin' Boo dangles a blue flame from a fishing rod.
  • In Animal Crossing (Gamecube), when wandering the town at 3AM you can sometimes be disturbed by an unknown presence whispering, which reveals itself to be a ghost if you stay in one place long enough. He explains his dire situation, where he needs to retrieve 5 Ghost Lights which slowly float around the town. If you don't, his Master (whose name changes every time) will be very displeased. Collecting them for him before Sunrise will have him perform a favor for you, one of which is simultaneously plucking every Weed in town for you.
    • He also appears in the Wii version, but instead requires his missing Lamp or else he is stuck in town for the night.
  • The Zombie Possessor in Earthbound inflicts this as a status ailment.
  • In Gotcha Force The demonic samurai borg has two floating skull ghost lights that can be used for attack.
  • Will O' Wisp is one of the attacks in Pokémon. It is classified as a Fire-type move and burns the opponent. However outside the TM it is learned mainly by Ghost pokemon naturally. And Vulpix to reflect it's kitsune influence.
    • And the Litwick line.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In the first season finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender after being transported to the spirit world, Aang runs through a swampy region chasing a mysterious small light sphere. When he climbed up a tree and grabbed it, it made the tree branch dissolve.
  • Mater and the Ghostlight
  • Brave has the Wisps, which appears glowing blue lights and apparently have the power to change fate.