Are they Alien spacecraft, swamp gas, temperature variances, ghosts or just car headlights? The Ghost lights of Marfa, Texas baffle scientists and amaze tourists.
Marfa is a small ranching community on a Chihuahuan Desert plateau in the Trans-Pecos area of west Texas and is Texas’ highest incorporated city. The population consists mainly of ranchers. While there is nothing remarkable about the town itself, it did gain some notoriety as the location used for the James Dean film Classic “Giant.” The strange Marfa Lights have been around for a very long time. So long in fact that the town has built a viewing station and garners a good portion of it’s income from tourists who come to see the phenomenon.
The Lights are reported to be from 1-10 feet in diameter, spherical and reddish-orange in color. They have been observed to vary their size and fly at high speeds, but are generally considered to be harmless. They are even rumored to have helped a lost man during a blizzard by providing warmth and guiding him home.
The ghost lights appear in many different ways to different people. Some swear they have seen them divide to form separate balls of light. Others claim that they have seen them move up and down. Sometimes they glow as softly as a star and then brighten to the intensity of a stoplight, or they pop off and on. There are verifiable accounts of people being pursued by the lights.
So, what are they? Scientists have made numerous attempts to put the mystery to rest. In 1947, Fritz Kahl, a local war veteran and pilot, chased the Lights in an airplane, but came up empty. In 1975, Kahl made another attempt, this time with a team that included observers in Jeeps and planes. The “Marfa Ghost Light Hunt,” as it was called, featured “more than a hundred carloads of observers gathered between the two observation points, one at Paisano Pass and the other at the entrance to the old Presidio County Airport,” according to the Sul Ross “Skyline” newspaper. They were unsuccessful in finding anything.
In May 2004, a group from The Society of Physics Students at the University of Texas at Dallas spent four days investigating and recording lights observed southwest of the view park using traffic volume monitoring equipment, video cameras, binoculars, and chase cars. They came to the conclusion that all of the lights observed over a four night period southwest of the view park could be reliably attributed to automobile headlights traveling along U.S. 67 between Marfa and Presidio. They didn’t take into consideration that the lights have been observed way before there was a highway, or electricity.
Robert Ellison came to Marfa in 1883, and while camped just outside Paisano Pass, he saw strange lights in the distance. At first, he was afraid they were Apache signal fires, but after searching the countryside, he finally realized that the lights were not man-made. Other early settlers assured him that they too had seen the lights and had never been able to identify them.
Such lights aren’t exclusive to Marfa, appearances of similar lights have been reported around the world, most explained as natural phenomenon or “will-o-the-wisps.” Yet despite all our technology and attempts at uncovering the source of the Marfa lights they are still a mystery, and like all mysteries, stir the imagination. So if you would like to investigate the phenomenon for yourself, a Marfa lights viewing site has been provided for the public on Highway 90, by the Texas Highway department. It is located nine miles east of Marfa. Ghost light watchers can park in the area and scan the south-western horizon, looking toward Chinati Peak. Using a distant red tower light as a marker, one can be certain that any light to the right of the marker, which appears and disappears, is a Marfa ghost light. You’ll know them when you see them.
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