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Steve Otto Columns

Looking for the Blue Ghost

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 02:25 PM

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We hadn't been out there 30 minutes and already my search team was ready to call it quits. Of course it was dark and there were those bears and coyotes lurking out there in the dark somewhere.

For some reason I was the only one determined to press on and find the Blue Ghost. Not only that, I figured if we were going to find any of the elusive creatures we had to do it with our flashlights off. That didn't sit well with my wife the Frau, who wasn't that thrilled to be out in the woods after dark to begin with. The truth is she's not really big on nature.

She gets nervous when I insist on pulling off the interstate onto some back road where she's afraid we'll break down and never again see civilization. That's probably a result of the time I insisted we take the shortcut from Macon through Athens, Ga., on a road that not only bypasses Atlanta but goes by at least a dozen boiled peanut stands.

After breaking down and spending the night at the Bulldog Inn on the outskirts of Athens, she swore she never would venture off the interstate again, not to mention go into the woods at night.

**

Still I thought she might enjoy looking for the Blue Ghost. For years I was sort of the strange creature editor down here at the Type and Gripe factory. That came after I was on a team that went into the Everglades to search for Florida's answer to the Yeti: the Skunk Ape. We never found the Skunk Ape although there were some strange smelling creatures at the fish camp we hung around for a few days.

Then there was the search for Lizard Man in the swamp near Bishopville, S.C. Again I never actually saw Lizard Man, although the local sheriff showed me a plaster cast of his tracks and I got a discount on a Lizard Man T-shirt, which apparently is how they make money in Bishopville.

**

The Blue Ghost is a little different. For one thing there actually are such critters – so I'm told -- and they are fireflies. Apparently at one time they were up and down the Appalachians but no more. In fact the area where they seem most populous is Transylvania County, N.C., which happened to be where the Frau, our two dogs and I were tromping in the dark through forested hills.

Our other mission was that it was time for the dogs' evening constitutional, which we usually try to get in before dark when those other critters come out.

The thing about the Blue Ghost – again, as I was told -- is they hover near the ground and don't blink like other fireflies.

We turned off the flashlights and stood there in the dark. It seemed as if everything in the woods was making noise, including the bear the Frau was convinced was a few feet away. At a fast walk/gallop we abandoned our search and headed back to electric lights and TV. Our dogs were the first inside.

The next day I mentioned our hunt to a local resident. "Oh you missed them by three or four days,'' he said. "The Blue Ghosts come out for two weeks and then they are gone again.''

I looked at him, remembering those Cub Scout snipe hunts where the new kids were left alone holding bags in the woods calling for the snipe that never came. I'm not saying there aren't Blue Ghost fireflies; but seeing is believing. Maybe I'll try again next year… or maybe not.

(813) 259-7809

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