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Of the many areas of paranormal research, orbs are one that cause many arguments and debate.  Whether these tiny spots are signs of something paranormal or merely dust in the air, their very existence divides people and rightly so, in my opinion.  However, orbs have a bigger cousin that warrants further examination – spooklights.  So what are spooklights?

Great Balls of Fire

There is a long and confusing history of people encountering floating balls or orbs of light that are spread across the globe.  Their diversity is one of the aspects that make them hard to qualify and has led to a huge range of beliefs.  For some, they are paranormal, connected with angels or spirits while for others they are a natural phenomenon associated with unusual energy materialisations such as ball lightning.  In fact, spooklights isn’t even a universal name for the phenomena, but I’ll use it here to avoid confusion.

Hornet Spooklights

One of the oldest, well-documented cases of spooklights came from a small unincorporated community called Hornet on the Missouri border with Oklahoma.  The area itself is called the Devil’s Promenade and sightings of the strange phenomena have been recorded as far back as the late 19th century, perhaps even earlier.  The earliest published account of the spooklights was in the Kansas City Star from 1936.

Devil's_Promenade_SpooklightThe US Army Corps of Engineers even studied the case in 1946 and were unable to find an explanation, terming it a ‘mysterious light of unknown origin’.  By the 1960s, there was even a Spooklights museum in the area and many people travelled to the area specifically to see it.

According to locals, the best chance to see the light is parked on Oklahoma East 50 road, around four miles to the south of the junction of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.  The light has appeared over backyards in the area and seems to come from the west.  It appears to be different colours to different people from a greenish shade to orange, red and even blue.  It is always ball shaped and seems to travel just a few feet off the ground.

There are various explanations for the phenomena, none of which have been conclusively proven.  These include headlights from cars on the nearby Interstate 44 or even from Route 66, some ten miles away.  However, the records of the sightings pre-date the construction of both of these roads.  Atmospheric gases are always used as an explanation in these cases and there is also a ghost story, saying the light is the lantern of a lost miner who died in the area.

Brown Mountain Lights

Perhaps the most famous on-going spooklight sightings come from the Brown Mountains of North Carolina.  They are seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooking the mile posts 310 and 301 as well as from Table Rock, near Morganton, NC.  However, the best view is said to be from Wiseman’s View, 4 miles from Linville Falls.  The best time of year to see the lights are from September through to early November.

There are claims that sightings of the lights date back 800 years but one of the definite early accounts comes from 24th September 1913 in the Charlotte Daily Observer.  A fisherman said he had seen mysterious lights just above the horizon that were red in colour and round in shape.  He had seen them a number of times so an employee from the US Geological Survey, DB Stewart was sent to look into the matter.  He decided that the witness had actually seen train lights but reports of sightings continued.

Further USGS surveys concluded witnesses had mistakenly identified train and car lights, fires and even simple stationary lights.  one example where trains were used as an explanation fell through when it was discovered that a massive flood had taken place just before the sightings resulting in all electric power being lost and trains being stopped, even leading to bridges being washed out.  Despite all of this, the lights had appeared.

Ghostly phenomena

Many times the explanation of a train or car light has been used to explain spooklight sightings but this does nothing to explain when the sightings pre-date the invention of both of these.  The St Louis Light is another good example of this, a light that moves up and down along an abandoned train line.  Some have said that the light is from a ghost train or the ghost of a brakeman who died when the line was in service.  Despite the tracks having been removed, the light continues to appear.  The problem with the train theory is that the sightings also occurred before the train tracks were in place.

The Hessdalen light is seen in the Hessdalen valley near the village of Holtalen in Norway.  The light is usually bright white or yellow in colour and floats just above ground level, sometimes for as long as an hour at a time, sometimes in conjunction with other unexplained lights.  Reports date back to the 1940s with a height in activity taking place from 1981-84 when they appeared between 15-20 times a week.  Again, various scientific theories have been put forward to explain the lights, but none has completely solved the mystery.


Whether spooklights are a form of ball lightning, a sign of the presence of a spirit or something else, there is little doubting they are a worldwide phenomenon that have defied the scientists explanations.

Further reading