ST. Elmo's Fire as seen occasionally at the Ben Nevis Observatory takes the form of jets of light on the tops of all objects that stand any height above the general level of the roof of the Observatory, such as the chimneys, anemometers, lightning-rod, &c. In a very fine display the tops of the objects are quite ablaze with the phenomenon, which then glows and hisses in brilliant tongues of white and blue, from four to six, or even more, inches in length. Nor is the phenomenon confined to these objects alone in the finer displays, but if the observer stands on the roof his hair, hat, pencil, &c., glow with it as well, and when he raises a stick above his head the stick has also a long flame at the top. Further, however, than having a slight tingling in his head and hands he suffers no inconvenience. The hissing is a very marked characteristic of the phenomenon, being always heard during ordinary displays, though in the feebler displays, when the light can barely be seen, it cannot be distinguished from the hissing of the wind and the snow drift. On one occasion the sound was a very highly pitched note. In the finer and even in ordinary displays St. Elmo's Fire is an object of great beauty, and the stormy character of the weather—namely, squally winds with heavy showers of snow and hail, and with clouds of snowdrift flying all around—heightens rather than diminishes the effect, although at the same time it detracts from the convenience of observing with advantage.
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R., A. St. Elmo's Fire on Ben Nevis. Nature 40, 439–440 (1889). https://doi.org/10.1038/040439a0