Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Tri-state Spooklight

For almost two centuries a mysterious light has haunted an area where Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri converge. This light is described as a very bight shimmering orange ball that remains bright even when seen from a distance. Witnesses state that this ball of light bobs and weaves its way very quickly down the center of a graveled Oklahoma country road and then bounces up among the treetops and simply vanishes. The light always appears on one stretch of road known as “Spooklight Road’ or the “Devil’s Promenade.” This phenomenon occurs on a nightly basis between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and midnight.

Residents of all three states see the light so often they have their own names for it: the Quapaw Spooklight, the Joplin Spooklight, and the Hornet Spooklight. One of the earliest noted sightings of the light was by Native Americans along the infamous “Trail of Tears” in 1836. Another early sighting of the Spooklight was by Anglo settlers in the community of Hornet, Missouri in the late 1800s. These sightings caused such a panic that many of these settlers packed up and moved away. The first published account of this phenomenon was in the Kansas City Star in 1936, which dubbed it the “Ozark Spooklight.”

Over the years both paranormal and scientific investigative teams have tried to solve this mystery. In 1946 the Army Corp of Engineers did an investigation. They studied the phenomenon for three weeks and walked away baffled. Their official report listed the light as “a mysterious light of unknown origin.” In 1965 the magazine Popular Mechanics sent a reporter and photographer to investigate the light. When this article was published it stated that the cause was car lights on U.S. 66 ten miles from the Devil’s Promenade. Soon afterwards, many local residents pointed out that the light was seen for many years before there was a highway or cars.

Another explanation for the light is listed as escaping “natural gases.” But the light doesn’t appear to be affected by wind or rain, which does impact natural gases. It is also pointed out that natural gases rarely appear with the same intensity of light that is seen along the Devil’s Promenade. The light is so bright that residents twelve miles away in Joplin, Missouri can see it. Yet another explanation is that the light is a result of an electrical atmospheric charge, the problem with this explanation is that this type of charge is normally associated with earthquakes.

One interesting part of this light phenomenon is that it shies away from large crowds of people and it reacts to loud noises. Natural gases and electrical charges would do neither of these things. Witnesses have reported that the light has entered their cars or even followed or chased them as they walked along the Devil’s Promenade. When this has occurred these witnesses have stated that this light radiated quite a bit of heat.

After World War II stories about the Spooklight began to spread to other parts of the country. In the 1960s and 1970s this phenomenon became so popular it was not unusual to see the Spooklight Road packed with vehicles and people hoping to catch a glimpse of this mysterious light. Today there is a web site, blog, and a twitter page all devoted to publishing recent eyewitness accounts.

Over the years many legends have been told that provide a more ghostly reason for the presence of the Spooklight. One early legend recounts the story of a Quapaw Indian maiden who fell in love with a young brave but her father would not let her marry the young man because he lacked a suitable dowry. The young maiden defying her father eloped with the brave. Very quickly the two lovers were pursued by a group of warriors. As the couple was close to being caught they joined hands above Spring River, which is the Devil’s Promenade, and leapt to their deaths. It is said that shortly after this the Spooklight began to appear. In this tale the light represents the joined spirits of these two young lovers.

There are many other legends that explain the Spooklight’s existence; one involves a miner who was decapitated in an accident. Another involves a Quapaw Indian whose wife cut off his head, while yet another is about an Osage Indian chief who was decapitated near Spooklight Road. One story told often over the years involves an army sergeant who was captured during a Civil War battle. It is said he was executed by a cannon that blew off his head. All of these legends state that the Spooklight is actually a lantern that these various victims use to look for their lost heads. I find that most unexplained light phenomenon legends have at least one good decapitation/lantern story.

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