• Sarah Coomer

100 Ghosts: The Lantern Men of Wicken Fen


Ghostly lights in the Cambridgeshire Fens are carried by evil spirits drawn to the sound of jolly whistling passers by, a method which only makes their intentions even more dastardly. The Lantern Men lure their victims to a horrid death by drowning in the marshes and inlets of this most flat and damp of counties, and the only way you can evade their clutches once they have you in their sights is by lying on the ground and sucking the mud. Great.

A local variety of a Will o’ the Wisp, nowadays these mysterious lights are explained rationally by marsh gas, which apparently they have by the bucket load in the Fens. I don’t know this area of the country at all, but have been to Lincolnshire salt marshes a few times which I believe it rivals in both its lack of contours and its dampness of underfootness. There’s something fantastically eerie about the apparently endless reclaimed landscape, especially wreathed in the mists of an early morning. Just the idea of reclaimed land is slightly uncanny... it’s not even supposed to be there, and nature does it damnedest to try and haul it back. In the days when superstition and the supernatural were a serious part of the daily lives of most people, it’s easy to understand how these then unexplained lights were put down to evil spirits, especially when combined with such a potentially treacherous landscape. The term lantern men is so evocative too, it conjures the idea of a troop of occupational faerie folk, eerie land miners grafting for souls.

Which is why I’ve given them bowler hats in my picture (not that you can really see them). I wasn’t sure to keep both lantern men in, as I quite liked the version with just the smaller one to the right. But thought it looked a bit empty. But maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. Which is why I’ve posted both. #cheat


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