Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

September 8, 2013


Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 5:59 am



Sightings of “ghost lights”, luminous, glowing phenomena usually in the shape of an orb, have been reported all over the world.  They appear in various sizes and colors, floating just above the surface of the ground.  Despite research, most “ghost lights” still defy any natural explanation.

The following characteristics are common to “ghost lights”: (1) They appear in rather remote areas; (2) they are very elusive; (3) when approached they usually retreat or disappear; (4) they are sometimes accompanied with a humming or buzzing sound; and (5) they are often associated with a particular physical location where a tragic, untimely death has taken place.

Two of the best known “ghost lights” have long haunted the Lone Star State.  Far out west in the Davis Mountains, the “Marfa Light” has been observed since the 1880s.  In the Big Thicket area of Southeast Texas, the notorious “Ghost Light of Saratoga” has been scaring the wits out of people since the turn of the last century.

The Marfa Lights are visible every clear night between Marfa and Paisano Pass in northeastern Presidio County as one faces the Chianti Mountains.  At times they appear colored as they twinkle in the distance.  They move about, split apart, melt together, disappear, and reappear.  Presidio County residents have watched the lights for over a hundred years.

The first historical record of them is in 1883 when a young cowhand, Robert Reed Ellison, saw a flickering light while he was driving cattle through Paisano Pass.  Puzzled, he was told by other settlers that they often saw the lights, but when they investigated they found no ashes or other evidence. Cowboys herding cattle on the prairies noticed the lights and in the summer of 1919 rode over the mountains looking for the source, but found nothing.  During WW11 pilots training at the nearby Midland Army Air Field outside Marfa looked for the source of the elusive lights from the air, again without success.

Those who have viewed the lights over a long time personify them and insist that they are not only harmless, but friendly.  Mrs. W. T. Giddings, who grew up watching the lights and whose father claimed he was saved from a blizzard when the lights led him to the shelter of a cave, considers the lights to be curious observers, investigating things around them.

Over the years many explanations for the lights have been offered, ranging from an electrostatic discharge, swamp gas, or moonlight shining on veins of mica, to ghosts of conquistadors looking for gold.  The Texas Highway Department has constructed a roadside parking area nine miles east of Marfa on U.S. Highway 90 for motorists to view the curious phenomenon.

In the Big Thicket near Bragg, Texas, we find other paranormal phenomena called the Saratoga Light, or the Bragg Road Ghost Lights.  This mysterious light can be found along Black Creek near the old ghost town of Bragg in eastern Texas.  Viewed on a dirt road that leads into swamp land, this spook light carries the well-known legend of the railway brakeman who was accidentally beheaded by a passing train, and who now searches the area for his head with a gas lantern.

The Big Thicket Ghost Light has been described as starting as a pinpoint of light among the swamp trees that grows to the brightness of a flashlight, then dims and fades away.  Its color has been likened to that of a pumpkin.  Skeptics say that the lights are those of automobiles in the distance, although no real research has ever offered a logical explanation of the light.

Perhaps the most interesting of all the “ghost light” accounts appeared in the Houston Daily Post in 1881.  Near a small farming town south of San Antonio, eyewitnesses reported a “lurid light ascending in a circular shape and in various shades of color for several nights”.  A brave fellow decided to try to catch the light.  He was almost successful in his quest, but the close encounter nearly cost him his life.  Approaching the spot where the “light” was hovering, he foolishly attempted to grab the light with his hands and arms.  His contact left him badly burned, his face and arms scorched by the luminous ball.  And for a time after the incident the newspaper stated that he was “senseless”.


If and when research provides answers to our questions, perhaps science can finally solve the riddle of “ghost lights”.  Until that day, those haunting, bright-burning, spherical visitors that light up the night, causing wonder, fear, and superstition, will surely remain a time-worn mystery.






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