When I first heard of the MarfaLights, I thought that we might is having high soaring creatures flying in andout of sunlight in the high atmosphere long after sunset. This makes it something else.
The atmosphere is perfect herefor the generation of optical anomalies over great distances. It is also perfect for supporting nano sizedsilica powder through electrostatic pressure. This could easily produce an atmosphere well charged with silica dust.
After that any electrical stimuluswill produce bubbles that could glow and the apparent effects observedincluding the drive through case. Updrafts could then draw such object high into the atmosphere. It really is a form of rainbow type illusionand it plausibly is also able to lens sunlight from below the horizon.
One immediately wonders if aportion of UFO sightings could be similarly produced although the need for dryair likely cuts that option except around here.
The brightness reported in someinstances remains a mystery but could also be the effect of lensing. And dust devils could well lend their energyto forming bubbles into the still dry cold air..
Marfa's Mysterious Lights Viewing Area
It has been said that storytelling in
is really nothing more than one talltale after another with each participant trying to out-best the other. Whilethis may be true for the majority of the State, it is not true for the citizensof the tiny town of Texas .They know their tall tale cannot be outdone. Their mysterious night orbs havebeen investigated by so many reputable authorities and written into so manyscientific journals that they are guaranteed their own place in history Marfa
Along the Rio Bravo del Norte, which Americans call the
Rio Grande, near the Big Bend in the river, lies the crownjewels of the Southern Rockies. The majesticChisos, or "Ghost Spirit" Mountains, are famous as the backdrop ofthe . To the northwest aboutone hundred miles, in another part of the mountain chain at the gateway of thePark, is the quiet little town of Marfa...home of the infamous "MarfaLights," lights which have become the longest running, hardest to explainmystery in the history of the Lone Star State. Big Bend National Park
No one knows the exact sequence of events for the lights. That part of
has such a uniquehistory that the lights could have been there since the beginning of Time, andprobably were. But it is also just as possible that they winked into existencein the past couple of centuries or so. There is really no way of knowing, asMarfa lies on the high desert, or caprock escarpment, of the Trans-Pecos areaof the Tex-Mex border, a situation which contributes to spectacular viewing ofthe night time sky all by itself. The Southern Rocky Mountains form thebackbone of this area, and the tiny town is the second highest in thestate---the highest is Texas ---with an elevationof 4,688 feet. Like all high deserts, Marfa’s air is crystal clear andincredibly clean. It is also unbearably hot in the summer and freezing cold inthe winter, a weather phenomena which helps build legends. Folks around Marfaclaim that on moonless nights, the stars are so close that one can pluck themfrom the heavens and use them as torchlights. Fort Davis
Each cluster of peaks in this area bears its own name. Within the
Big Bend National Park,there are the Chisos and ,also called the Sierra Del Carmen. Outside the Park to the north, the rangebecomes the Christmas and Dead Horse Mountains . To the westthey are the Chinatis. They are all part of the same system, a system known asthe Rosillos Mountains , which teems with distinctiveplant and animal wildlife unique only to itself. Yet for all its majesty,mystery, and haunting beauty, it is the most remote and sparsely populatedregion in Chihuahuan Desert .More legends are associated with this country than anywhere else in the State. Texas
Marfa is the county seat of sprawling Presidio County, but it was notalways that way. Back in 1850, when the County was first created by combining aLand District with a chunk of land from
,Marfa did not exist. In fact, only one or two small pockets of adobe buildingsscattered along the Bexar County constituted the only real towns for miles in any direction. Since the newlycreated county became the largest in Rio Grande Texas, ithad to contend with government from neighboring ,which had all the population. El Paso County
All that changed in 1854 with the
United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, which established theInternational Boundary at the . That year, the Rio Grande U. S. Army built Fort Davis to protect the supply trainsfreighting between San Antonio and from the maraudingComanche and Apache Indians. It soon grew into the first real town in the wholeCounty, and in 1875, because of its military and commercial connections, itbecame El Paso ’s official county seat. Presidio County
Six years later, Marfa sprang into existence as a water stop on the oldSouthern Pacific Railroad line between
San Antonioand .Legend says that it was named after an exotic Russian heroine in the dime novela railroad magnate’s wife was reading as they passed through the area. Withintwo years, it had a population of about two hundred people---and six times asmany cattle, horses, and sheep. El Paso
By the mid-1880’s, the Indian Wars were winding down, and folks becamesuspicious that the military would abandon
,which eventually did happen in 1891. They held an election in 1885 to move thecounty seat from Fort Davis Fort Davis, tucked away in the Davis Mountains, to the new town of Marfa,out on the prairie, some twenty-five miles south, only many of the residents of cried fraud. They believedAlpine, forty miles east of Marfa, had just as much right to be the new countyseat. The civilian population of Presidio County was not verypleased with the election decision, either. Fort Davis
Back then, when most Texans were still wild and untamed, land feudsusually culminated in some kind of war. The county seat argument flared for twoyears---until the Alpine hierarchy snatched a huge chunk out of
for themselves. They called theirnew County, Brewster. A year later, Presidio County Fort Davis mimicked Alpine and became thecounty seat of .The once giant, sparsely populated Jeff Davis County thus became thefourth largest county by area---and possibly the smallest by population. Eventoday, it has just a little more than 6,500 residents. Marfa, the largest cityin the County, boasts a whopping population of 2,500. Presidio County
No one knows for sure just when the legendary lights were first seenflickering in the area. As early as 1840, wagon trains on the Chihuahua Trailreported seeing unexplained lights along the flats. But no one ever dared toinvestigate. The Trail ran eight hundred miles over the roughest country inNorth America, beginning at
Ojinaga, Mexico, and culminating at Indianola on the . Apache Indianswere everywhere, and to stray off the Trail meant flirting with death. Theremay be even older accounts still hidden in Mexican archives. Texas Gulf Coast
The first recorded Texan history occurred in 1883, when Robert Ellisonoff-loaded his cattle in Alpine and drove them west through the
toward his ranch forty miles awaynear Marfa. Camped at the base of the Pass, at a place now known as MitchellFlats, he saw strange lights in the distance. He was looking southwest towardthe Paisano Pass , and he and his fellowcowhands thought they were looking at the flickering flames of Apachecampfires. The lights appeared to be a few miles away and hovered just abovethe ground. Chinati Mountains
The unexpected lights alarmed the cowboys, who thought the Apaches wereon the move, and they quickly doused their own campfires. But they determinedto investigate the area in the daylight. After spending an uncomfortable nighthuddled under blankets for warmth on the cold desert floor, dawn found them onhorseback, combing the area for any signs of an Indian encampment. They foundnone.
All day, the men searched along the base of the
and the mesa between their camp and where the lights had been. They found noevidence that Indians had been anywhere in the area. No tracks, no dousedcampfires, no nothing. But the next night and the next after that, they againsaw the strange lights. Cowboys kept seeing the lights night after night, weekafter week, and year after year. All attempts at identifying them wentfruitless. Full of superstition, the cowboys finally decided the lights werenot man-made and began calling them "ghost lights." Chinati Mountains
The lights really do defy all attempts at explanation. Attempts tolocate their source always fail because they usually vanish when anyone triesto approach them. People hike, ride horseback, drive jeeps, and even flyhelicopters and airplanes to follow the lights. Some have followed them as faras thirty-five miles. The lights always win. Searchers have never foundcampfires, buildings, tire tracks, footprints, or any other evidence that couldexplain the lights’ sources. Some people even claim that the lights wouldreappear, after they had abandoned the search and were miles away looking backover their shoulders.
The lights can be seen in the southwest, across the Mitchell Flats nearChinati Mountain, from an official viewing point on Highway 90 between Alpineand Marfa. This viewing point was erected at the request of area ranchers, whobecame tired of curiosity seekers disturbing their cattle, and they had a rightto complain. Just about every night, right before dusk, the parking lot fillsup with spectators equipped with everything from binoculars, cameras, andcamcorders to high-powered telescopes. And they are seldom disappointed. As thesun sets, the lights appear, coming in all sorts of sizes, which climb in thesky, then merge, split, or float back down. They change color, appearing green,yellow, blue, and sometimes orange. One minute they will be bright, then fadeand disappear. They have even been reported between Paso Lajitas and SanCarlos, Mexico, and the Federales, who patrol the road for smugglers, have beenfooled into spotting what they thought were approaching headlights, only tohave no vehicle ever appear.
One long-time resident of the area, Hallie Stillwell, reported shefirst saw the phenomenon when she was eighteen-years-old in 1916. Her home wasin Alpine, but she taught school in Presidio. That small town of sun-bakedadobe buildings squats in the shade of giant cottonwood trees lying along the
about twentymiles south of Marfa. What was current events to Hallie turned out to be oldstuff to the residents of Presidio. The town is more than three hundred yearsold, having been founded along with Ojinaga across the river in Rio Grande by the Spanish in the 1600’s. Everyone knew of the lights. They had seen themin the winter, as well as the other seasons of the year, and nearly everynight. The lights always appeared to be moving erratically around the Flats,winking and twinkling like fireflies in the night. This is one reason why mostbelievers rule out car headlights as the cause. For one thing, there were notmany cars in 1916 and none in the 1880’s, when the first official recording wasmade. Mexico
Describing Marfa’s mysterious lights is all but impossible. They appearas distant bright lights on the Mitchell Flats and are distinguishable fromranch lights and automobile headlights on nearby Highway 67, between Marfa andPresidio, by their aberrant movements and behavior. They appear and disappear,veering and cavorting suddenly in odd directions. One moment there might beone, and just as suddenly, it might split into two or three or more, dividingand merging at whim. They hover in mid-air and sometimes flicker like balls offire. They might shoot straight up into the sky, or race madly to the left andright. The color is predominately greenish-yellow, but they also are white andshades of pastel. "I do not know how anyone could mistake them for carlights," reported Sandy Sturdivant, an eyewitness in 1984.
The only thing certain about the Marfa Lights is that nothing iscertain. As the town grew, the locals became accustomed to seeing the strangelights flickering in the distance and ignored them, but newcomers to the arearemained intrigued. During the period of Pancho Villa, and also later in WorldWar I, Army observers saw the lights and immediately jumped to the conclusionthat they were some sort of spotlights set up to guide an invasion forceinto the United States from the south. The Army’s recorded observations broughtthe lights to the attention of people outside the immediate area, but notenough to garner any real public interest. The legend just continued as"ghost lights."
It was 1943 when the mysterious lights were given a real boost inpublicity. That year, the Army established a pilot training base in Marfa.Fritz Kahl, an airman at the base, who later stayed to run the Marfa airport,reported that when the airmen saw the lights for the first time, there wasabsolutely no vehicular traffic at night. In fact, fuel was rationed, andlights themselves were a phenomenon because there were no lights of any kind,not even on the local ranches. Kahl described seeing something that was totallyforeign to anything in and around the air base. He said finding the lights’origins was like trying to catch a rainbow. When officials inquired of thephenomenon with the area residents, the locals simply said, "Yeah, we gotghost lights. So what?"
Over the years, explanations for the mysterious lights have ranged fromball lightning to St. Elmo’s fire to dead Indians, ghosts, tricks, staticelectricity, combustible dust, bat guano, solar activity, electromagneticenergy, volcanic activity, biological luminescence, and UFO’s. There’s even theglowing jackrabbit explanation. Under that theory, the jackrabbits race acrossthe desert with a coating of phosphorescent dust or glow worms clinging totheir hides. In the absence of a more definitive explanation, legend andfolklore have been known to sprout like tumbleweeds.
Fortunately, several of these theories can be discounted because theydon’t apply to the
West Texas region. Forinstance, while jackrabbits are abundant, phosphorous is not, and volcanicactivity in the area ceased about 30 million years ago. Also, althoughjackrabbits are known for their speed, they are not known to fly or outruncars, and both pilots and motorists have reported being chased by the lights.
Still, the locals are convinced that there is more to the Marfa Lightsthan first meets the eye. Native superstition seems to confirm it. The Indianssaw the lights long before any white man did. Their legends tell of the GreatSpirit, who made the mountains in the area by throwing all the jumbled rocksleft over from the creation of the stars, the birds and fishes, and the earthitself, into a huge pile in the middle of the leftover wasteland. The Devilthen promptly claimed the rock pile and wasteland and turned it into hell,adding things that bite, sting, or prick. When anyone died in that hell, thelights became the spirits of the dead ones, who were thwarted in real life andforced to wander the desolate world in search of kith and kin. The locals wholike this explanation also say that ‘it is a hell of a place that the Devil hasfor hell.’
Other Native stories tell of the phosphorescent souls of bravewarriors, betrayed by treachery or killed in battle, and doomed to roam thelunar-like landscape in search of justice or revenge. This has the classicaladvantage of perpetuating myth into legend. Still another ancient Indian talecame from the journal of O.W. Williams, grandfather of former
governor Clayton Williams. Accordingto the elder Williams, the lights are the ghosts of the Apache war chief,Alsate. Texas
Williams, who was a surveyor in Terlingua and other parts of the BigBend in the 1880’s, worked with a mostly Mexican crew from San Carlos, Mexico,located across the Rio Grande from the ghost town of Lajitas, Texas. One memberof the surveying crew, Natividad Lujan, always told stories around thecampfires, and Williams patiently recorded them in his journal. One morning,Williams called attention to the beautiful sunrise. Lujan promptly called it"the great spirit of Alsate" and regaled his rapt listeners with thestory of the last Apache leader in the
Big Bend.It seems that in the 1850’s and 1860’s, the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apachesmaintained friendly relations with the townsfolk of San Carlos and Presidio,while at the same time raiding back and forth across the border into Mexico.Alsate, like most Apaches, grew up believing this way of life to be normal. Hewas of the Mescalero Apaches, also known in the Big Bend area as the Chinati or Apaches. Rio Grande
As Alsate grew into manhood, he became a great warrior and leader ofhis people. But, his depredations into
made him hotly sought afterby the Mexican Rurales. He and his tribe were finally caught and taken to Mexico to standtrial. Throughout the trial, and no doubt also through the help of the earnestplea-bargaining from a close relative, he managed to talk himself free. He thenled his tribe back to the Mexico City Big Bend country,where he once again took up his thieving ways. He was caught again, only thistime, he was taken to Presidio and executed. His tribe was taken into and scattered into slavery, by one’s and two’s, and the whole tribe was thusdestroyed. Mexico
After a time, a sinister rumor began to creep across the old frontierof the
and the Chinatis. Ranchers andcowboys talked of seeing the ghost of Alsate. It came in the form of flickeringlights, and was seen in the old haunts of the Chinati Apaches. One man saw itrolling up a rocky slope, another saw it stationary on a promontory of the Chisos Mountains . It appearedoften in the Rio Grande and could beseen as far south as the Chisos. The rumor finally became part of the folkloreof the area---that the "lights that some people see" is the spirit ofthe dead Alsate. Chinati Mountains
Although mysterious lights can be seen all along the mountain rangefrom the Chinatis to the Chisos, they are most constantly seen on the highdesert plateau of Marfa. This has prompted many serious searches for thelights’ source. The first such attempt appears to have been made by Walter T.Harris just before the turn of the century. He was an employee of the railroad,and with the help of several other employees, he used surveyor’s methods oftriangulation to plot the exact location of the night beacons. By hiscalculations, the lights were behind the Chinatis, "deep in
,and impossible to be seen from the spot where we had taken our readings!" Mexico
An unscientific method was tried in the 1980’s by
journalist, Kirby Warnock. Warnock’sfamily had settled in the Trans-Pecos region just north of Big Bend countrymore than one hundred years ago, and he first saw the lights in 1963, when hewas eleven-years-old and his brother was eight. He and his brother decided thatthe reason no one ever got close to the lights was because they used motorvehicles, such as airplanes, jeeps, and cars. The two men thought that if theyheaded out on foot across the desert, they just might be able to sneak up onthe lights. Dallas
One summer, they assembled their gear and a camera, and at dusk,started walking. They tried for four hours to get close to the lights, but itwas like walking up to a mirage. The more they walked, the further the lightsmoved away. Warnock reported that he thought the lights were "trying tofrustrate and thwart us. It was like they knew what we were doing and wereteasing us by staying just a little ahead of us." It is a fact thatdistances are deceiving in the desert. The Warnocks could not tell if they werelooking at a light as big as a tire or one as big as a cantaloupe. They justcould not get close enough to get a good idea of how big the lights actuallywere.
Local lore also has a way of turning into local legend. Supposedly,during World War II, pilots training at the old air base dropped sacks of flourto mark the lights’ location. It is a story that has been told so many timesand in so many variations, that it long ago achieved the semblance of fact.But, Fritz Kahl disclaims it. He has been either instructing at or running theairport for the past forty years. If someone had flown out and dropped floursacks, he would have known about it.
It was in March 1973 that the legendary lights got a big boost ofpublicity. Two visiting geologists appeared in the area to assess thelikelihood of uranium deposits for a big corporation. While parked in their caron the Flats, they were startled by the sudden appearance of two similar ballsof light. The lights were about one-half the size of a basketball, and theydarted behind some bushes and in front of others, always hovering a few hundredfeet away before they blinked out. Coming from the scientific community as itdid, all sorts of people sat up and took notice. Theories begin to multiplytenfold.
It is a known fact that triboluminescence is light resulting fromfriction at the surface of certain crystalline materials, such as quartz, andquartz is abundant in the area. Under pressure, it creates an electric currentcalled piezoelectricity. The current is capable of ionizing the air intovisible luminosities. Piezoelectricity also might ignite gases escaping fromsedimentary rock along fractures lines. The gas explanation is reinforced bythe history of the
. Cienaga isSpanish for "marsh" or "swamp." In the past, the area waswetter and may have produced natural gas. Gas has been found in the Casa Piedraarea, south of Marfa, near the Cienaga Mountains . One pilot evenreported a patch of phosphorescence the size of a football field, as he flewover the Mitchell Flats at night, and phosphorescent gases can produceluminescence without ignition. So, scientists argue, with the severe heatingand cooling of the Earth’s surface in the area, as well as seismic activity,might not there be all sorts of friction along the fault lines? Cienaga Mountains
Locals really do laugh about all the scientific theories that crop up,especially since the lights appear to have minds of their own and do all sortsof crazy things which defy explanation. For instance, believers argue, sciencecan be described in terms of either black or white…either it is or it isn’t.How then does science explain all the shades of gray that the localsexperience? There is absolutely nothing cut and dried about the lights. Some ofthe bizarre stories involve lights chasing or scorching cars, jeeps, andtrucks. Some claim cars melt and their occupants disappear, go into shock, orturn into babbling idiots who are put away in sanitariums. There is even thetale that the lights are a government laser weapon project that went awry.Several years ago, the operator of a Marfa gas station had to make a deliveryto Presidio late at night. It was close to midnight, as he drove through theChinatis. "Suddenly there was this big blue ball of light a few feet offthe road right in front of me," Hector Escobedo said. "I slammed onmy brakes, but it did not move. I decided to keep driving, but it was sobright, I had to shade my eyes to see the road." The light stayed right infront of him for several miles, miles where the highway never once formed astraight line, as it twisted and turned around the rocks and peaks of themountain pass. As suddenly as it came, it disappeared. "I was never soscared in my life. I do not drive through there at night anymore."
The case file contains thousands of reports from ordinary citizens justlike Hector, who have seen the legendary lights. Even celebrities have gotteninto the spirit. In 1955, when film crews were in Marfa making the movie Giant,which starred Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson, James Dean mounteda small telescope on a fence post to better spy on the lights, should theysuddenly pop up.
Because the phenomena is so well-recorded and remains yet unsolved,there have been many serious investigations by individuals and small groupsattempting to explain the lights. One of the best known and recorded came inMarch 1975. Don Witt, then a physics professor at
in Alpine, coordinated amonumental effort to locate the lights’ source. Using the Sul Ross Society ofPhysics Students, the Sul Ross University Big Bend Outdoor Clubcomprised of community members, and local pilots, short-wave radio amateurs,and a few outside professionals, Witt’s group was positively unable to form anysort of solid conclusion. They did say, however, that sometimes the lights thatpeople claimed were "Marfa Lights," were really artificial lightsfrom area ranches or automobile headlights merely passing behind unseenobstructions along distant Highway 67, which winds through the between Marfa and Presidio. Chinati Mountains
The findings created an uproar in the otherwise sleepy little town of
. Highway 67 wastwenty-four miles away and well below the horizon, eyewitnesses pointed out.And even if the lights were headlights, it had to be traffic from Presidio toMarfa, or traffic moving left to right, since anyone going from Marfa toPresidio would show only taillights. Furthermore, they maintained, the lightsalso move from right to left which, if the scientists’ theory were to beaccepted, indicated a crazy person backing up on Highway 67 at a high rate ofspeed on a dark night on a treacherous mountain road in order to make theright-to-left kind of movements that the mystery orbs have been known to make.It was preposterous. Marfa
The eyewitnesses also ruled out the scientists’ artificial "ranchlights" theory. With only one ranch in the area with only onespotlight---a spotlight easily recognizable to the naked eye and, therefore,discounted as a legitimate sighting---there was no way ranches played any rolein the matter.
Then, a sighting occurred in 1985 which appeared to succeed in wipingout the car headlight theory...at least, that’s the claim. Robert Black, agraduate student in geology at Sul Ross University, decided to climb
south of Alpine for rock samples. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he and afriend drove out a county road east of Marfa, parked their truck, and hiked in.It was early in the morning on an exceptionally warm day for the mountains atthat time of year, and both men were dressed in light-weight clothing. Goat Mountain
After collecting rock samples, Black’s friend, who loved sunsets,commented, "This is going to be a beautiful sunset, isn’t it. Look, thesun’s going down." At that moment, Black realized that they had stayed longeron the climb than he had intended. They would have to really hurry to make itout before dark.
Breaking into a run, they spied the truck way off on the Flats, butdistances are deceiving in the desert, and before they could reach the truck,the sun was down. They were on the west side of
,in the middle of the Mitchell Flats. Black says it best, "Anyone who knowsthe Marfa flats, knows that it is flat, featureless, and boring---no geologicalmarker out in the sea of desert and really no way to find your way around,especially in the dark." The men wisely decided to spend the night wherethey were. To keep warm, they gathered creosote bushes for fires. Goat Mountain
A little before midnight, as they huddled around the fires lookingtoward the north and northwest in the direction of Highway 90, their talkturned to the Marfa Lights. The men were right in the Flats, where the lightswere normally seen, and they began to hope the lights would make an appearance.They didn’t have long to wait. Shortly after midnight, they saw a"horizontal length of light that had a sort of dancing vibrationmovement." As the men watched in fascination, the "little beams oflight danced up and down in a kind of wave formation, moved across, jumpedstraight up vertically, came back down, danced horizontally, thendisappeared." They saw the lights four or five times that night.
Black’s account was unusual because it was the first reported sightingof the lights from a location several miles south of Highway 90 and looking northtoward Highway 90. The
were to theirbacks. It ruled out any supposition of car headlights in the mountains as beingthe cause of the mystery lights. Since Black and his companion were between the Chinati Mountains and Highway 90, and the lightsappeared between the men and the highway, skeptics were forced to rethink theirprevious positions. Chinati Mountains
There is even another recorded incident of the brilliant orbscommunicating with one of the local ranchers. Mrs. W.T. Giddens of Sundown,Texas, reported that her father actually lived the adventure. According to herstory, her father was up in the
, looking forstray cattle, when a sudden blizzard struck. Darkness, accompanied by howlingwind and blowing snow, reduced visibility to near zero. He was unable to seehis way home and had to feel his way along what he hoped was the right trail,fearing he would soon freeze to death if he did not find shelter. Chinati Mountains
Rounding an outcropping of rocks, the panicked rancher stopped dead inhis tracks when some of the mystery lights suddenly appeared. Although he neverexplained how they did it, the rancher claimed the lights "spoke" tohim, telling him he was three miles south of Chinati Peak, off course, headedin the wrong direction, and dangerously close to a steep precipice. He wasadvised to follow the lights---or die.
The lights led him to a cave that provided shelter from the ragingstorm. The smaller lights left, but the larger light remained with him untilmorning. According to the rancher, the light claimed they were "spiritsfrom elsewhere and long ago."
When the rancher awoke the next morning, both the light and the stormwere gone. As he headed toward home, he passed the outcropping of rocks anddiscovered that when the lights had intercepted him, he had been on the edge ofa sheer cliff several hundred feet high. He had no doubts---the lights hadsaved his life.
In July 1989, scientists from McDonald Observatory on
Mount Lockeoutside Fort Davis,and from ,decided to conduct another investigation into the lights. Included in the groupwere a professor of chemistry, Dr. Avinash Rangra, and an astronomer, Dr. EdwinBarker. With them were eleven other technicians and observers. Since the lightsare most frequently seen near the Chinati Mountains from Highway 90, which runseast and west between Marfa and Alpine, the scientists decided they had bestrule out any misidentification of headlights on Highway 67, which winds throughthe Chinati Mountains north and south between Marfa and Presidio. Sul Ross University
A radio beacon resembling a red spotlight, visible in front of thepeaks, was used as a guide. In order to prevent the misidentification ofheadlights, two marker lights were placed at the borders of Highway 67, whereit enters and leaves the mountain range. These marker locations were manned bytwo technicians with radio equipment. Any lights spotted outside the markers,which the scientists could not explain, would be identified as the ghostlyphenomena.
The investigators used special cameras and night-viewing equipment. Atmidnight, an unknown light appeared past the right marker light in the middleof the empty Mitchell Flats. Contacting the technician at the marker by radioindicated there was no traffic on Highway 67. The ghostly globe was recorded ona video camera. Observers were certain the light did not come from a man-madesource. It disappeared and came back and faded again.
Doctor Rangra confirmed that something of natural origin was occurringover Mitchell Flats outside Marfa, but he did not know what. All he could sayfor certain was that it was not man-made. Doctor Edwin Barker agreed. Peoplewere seeing real activity in the atmosphere, but how to explain it? Onescientist thought the lights might be refracted starlight. Another believedthem to be illuminous gases produced by small earthquakes. But the fact is,every one of the scientists in the investigation were not sure and could onlysay for certain that it is a natural phenomena as yet unexplained by science. "Ha,"the locals snorted, "we already knew that."
So, what are the mysterious Marfa Lights? Who knows? Theories are asprolific as the skeptics are to the theories. There are some who think thelights are caused by swamp gas escaping from underground pockets and igniting.Well...maybe. Only there has not been a swamp in that part of
for thousands, perhaps millions ofyears. What about St. Elmo’s Fire? Possibly, but not very likely. Saint Elmo’sFire only occurs when conditions are absolutely perfect. The Marfa Lights, onthe other hand, are seen year-round in all kinds of weather and under all sortsof different atmospheric conditions. This seems to also rule out balllightning. Texas
According to another theory, the lights might be a by-product of whatis referred to as the
Novaya Zemlya effect,which was first noted by the explorer Willem Barrents in 1597. Unlike thenormal temperature inversion layer, which forms a distinct reflective boundarybetween warm and cold layers of air, the Novaya Zemlyaeffect may involve several different layers or slices of atmosphere. This meansthat a locomotive headlight between Ojinaga and Chihuahua, Mexico, could bounceback and forth between varying layers of air and be seen as far away as Texas’official "Marfa Lights" viewing site, located ten miles east of Marfaon Highway 90. In a strange sort of way, this seems to corroborate the WalterT. Harris surveying party’s conclusion conducted at the turn of the century, aswell as adding credence to the refracted starlight theory. The only realproblem with the Novaya Zemlya effect is thatthe lights appear even on cloudy nights, which cannot possibly be consideredatmospheric reflections.
The real truth is that no one really knows for sure what causes theMarfa Lights. The legends surrounding them just continue to expand, as more andmore research proves nothing. For the people of Marfa, who have grown up withthe lights, no explanation is necessary. They have them, and they mean to keepthem.
An interesting anecdote was recorded by researcher Dennis Stacy in1989. It seems that Dr. Ray Hauser of Hauser Laboratories in
,wrote The Marfa Independent with an unusual request. He offered one dollar foreach used car air filter (up to ten) used in the area south of Marfa. Thefilters had to have at least a thousand miles of wear and tear. Hauser wantedto analyze the dust in the filters to see if there might be a connectionbetween the lights and the chemical composition and behavior of certaindust-clouds. According to Stacy, "the idea sounds completely cock-eyed,until one remembers that accumulated dust in grain elevators is capable oftremendous explosive ignition." Boulder, Colorado
With that in mind, one frustrated researcher was heard to mutter,"Maybe the legendary Marfa Lights will turn out to be nothing more than
West Texas dust-devils after all."
On December 6, 2010, researcher Jonathan David Whitcomb issued thefollowing press release:
For generations, the mystery lights of
, have entertained residentswith their strange dancing. On some warmer nights, a ball of light seems tosplit into two, which will separate and fly away from each other before turningaround and flying back together. They have recently been linked to flyinglights in the southwest Pacific, lights that natives of Marfa, Texas testify are fromlarge flying creatures. Papua New Guinea
For generations, the mystery lights of
Now a cryptozoologist from
According to Jonathan Whitcomb, a cryptozoology author in Long Beach,California, when one of the bioluminescent predators has been glowing for awhile,not far above the ground, it will be joined by another of its kind, which willthen turn on its own glow. After insects have been attracted to that area, thetwo creatures will separate, which appears to distant human observers to be onelight splitting into two. The predators will fly away from each other for somedistance, then turn back and fly together. During the separation, bats maybegin feeding on the concentration of insects before being caught from twosides by the larger predators.
Whitcomb was a forensic videographer, in 2004, when he traveled to Papua NewGuinea, hoping to videotape the glowing nocturnal "ropen," said to bea large flying predator and scavenger. Although he did not see the creature, heinterviewed many natives, who impressed him with their credibility and amazedhim with what they had seen. Whitcomb became convinced that the ropen is apterosaur, commonly called by Americans "pterodactyl" or "flyingdinosaur."
After returning to the
He analyzed the eyewitness accounts of those flying creatures and wrote anonfiction book: "Live Pterosaurs in
Although Whitcomb admits that Marfa Lights may come from an unknownbioluminescent bird or bat, he says, "It is more likely than not from acreature similar to the ropen of Papua New Guinea, and my associates and I aresure about the ropen: It is a pterosaur." - Jonathan David Whitcomb
NOTE: I have been reporting on Whitcomb's research and expeditions since Istarted 'Phantoms and Monsters'...in fact, he has forwarded several reportsdirectly. This theory involving the Marfa Lights is interesting since much ofthe phenomena associated with the ropen of
A quick history of the Marfa Lights: The Marfa Lights inWestern Texas, nine miles east of Marfa, are arguably the most well-knownspooklights in the
.Within driving distance of the McDonald Observatory, the Marfa lights have beenviewed for over a century. According to a State of US brochure, the first recorded sightingwas made by a rancher named Robert Ellison in 1883. Apache Indians thought themto be stars that had dropped down to earth. Today they can been seen at nightby passersby who park in a pullover spot on Hwy. 90. They are described aschanging in color and intensity, and usually move about. Most skeptics believethe Marfa Lights are nothing more than distant auto headlights on anotherhighway, but that doesn't explain the pre-automobile sightings. The town of Texas even hosts an annualMarfa Lights Festival every September. To read more, go to - Marfa'sLegendary Lights Marfa