The Marfa Lights are a type of spooklight that have been sighted near to US Route 67 on Mitchell Flat to the east of the city of Marfa, Texas.  The lights have been reported for decades and there have been a number of claims for explanations for the phenomena.  So has the mystery of the lights been conclusively solved?

Background

Map of the location

Map of the location

The first written account of the lights came in the San Angelo Times in 1945 then again in the Coronet Magazine in July 1957 but anecdotal stories date back to the 19th century.  The reports all described brightly glowing sphere the size of a basketball that float above the ground, sometimes much higher in the air.  They even come in different colours – sometimes while, yellow, orange or red but also even green and blue.  The most common height for them is around shoulder level where they move laterally at low speeds then shoot upwards at a rapid rate.  Sometimes they are seen in pairs or even in clusters that merge together and separate, almost in a regular pattern.

The pattern of sightings is random, with anywhere from 10 to 20 reports received every year and with no discernible pattern to them apart from them always being at night.

The most common spot to see the lights is travelling south on Route 90 or east on Route 67, around 5-15 miles south east of the city.  The duration of the sightings can be anywhere from a few seconds to a period of hours and there are no other associated phenomena.  Nor is there a particular time of year that they appear or in any certain weather conditions.  While always at night, they can appear at early dawn and late dusk when there is poor natural illumination.

There has even been a viewing platform erected by the city council to make the most of visitors wanting to see the phenomena.  This can be seen on Route 90 and is well used at night!

Explanations

The most common explanation for the lights, particularly when seen on the viewing platform, is that they are the headlights of vehicles travelling along Highway 67.  People who accept this explanation say that the bobbing and moving of the lights is created by sharp temperature gradients causing nighttime mirages and a 2004 study by the Society of Physics Students at the University of Texas found evidence to back up this theory.

But that isn’t case closed because that is one explanation for a single viewing point – what about when the lights are seen from a range of other spots?  And what about the date factor – there weren’t many car headlights around in the 19th century.

According to an interview on the Mother Nature Network, most of the locals say that the real Marfa lights are not these commonly seen lights and are most often seen in an area where there is no highway in the distance to create a mirage

Studies

Nor does the headlight explanation cover the times when someone sees the lights when there are no cars on the road.  The website offers the account of retired aerospace engineer James Bunnell who saw the lights from the viewing station in 2000.  He was so intrigued by the phenomena he spent eight years conducting investigations, interviewing locals and collecting photos then showing them on his website.

The conclusion he came to was that while most of the lights could be explained by car headlights and similar mirages, there were around 3% of sightings that defied explanation.  He has several theories about what is causing the lights and also believes that there could be a connection to other mysterious lights around the world.

So in answer to my original question, it seems that the mystery of the Marfa lights is far from being solved but with the minds at work on the problem, perhaps a full answer is coming soon – paranormal or not!