The Spooklight

Called by many different names, including Joplin Spook Light, Hornet Spook Light, Tri-State Spook Light, and Ozarks Spook Light. It can be seen 11 miles southwest of Joplin, MO just past the village of Hornet, near where Missouri borders Kansas and Oklahoma. The road has been known as The Devil’s Promenade and was once the home to the Spook Light Museum. It is most often seen from just inside the Oklahoma border, looking west.

The stories go back so far that claims vary widely. There are a few that stay consistent through the decades. The light is described as ranging in size from a tennis ball to a basketball. Some see it from a distance while others claim to have been nearly in direct contact of it. Ozark Spook Light, from 1881 was the first official publication reporting the Spook Light. Although it is said that reports date back to Native Americans from the Trail of Tears in 1836. Over the years, the location has been a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. People take their out of town guests to see the mysterious light and couples drive up for a thrilling date night experience. The light is not always seen, in fact, it is quite inconsistent with when it appears. Some claim the light floats just feet from the ground, while others see it high in the sky. Some even say it starts at the ground and then moves up into the sky and even dips back down. It is said to bob and move back and forth across the road. There are several claims of the light floating up to cars right over their hood or trunk. I even found some claims of the light entering cars and floating across dashes. People who have been close to the light say there is a heat that emanates from the light. Most people claim the light will react to people. I mean, they say that the light will not show up for large crowds or will go away. I saw a couple claims where people were told to whisper. One said the first time they went, they got too excited an called out and it quickly went away.

There are many theories as to what the light could be. Of course, there are ghost stories and folk tales meant to explain the light. One story is of a young Native American couple that were very much in love. The maiden’s father would not allow them to marry, because the young brave did not have a large enough dowry. The two ran away together, and as the tribal warriors closed in on them, they leapt into the Spring River to their death. Another story is of an Osage chief that was beheaded and is searching for his head with a lantern held high above… Yet another story is of a miner that returned to his home, finding that his wife and children had been kidnapped. He never found them and still searches the hills with his lantern. I don’t believe any of these stories have proven to be true, and they really are just folk tales that have been passed down for generations.

Many people have tried to discover scientific explanations for the phenomenon. Of the theories, there is swamp gas, passing headlights, and even a kind of static electric charge from the fault line shifting. The Army Corps of Engineers, Popular Mechanics, and college professors are among those who have tried to offer explanations. I found a video on YouTube, posted by an English professor. With a team of six students, he conducted an experiment and claims to have finally solved the mystery of the Spook Light: headlights. He shared the video of the Spook Light that he had created by having a car of sit at the other end of the road and flash their lights. The road ends and then picks back up on the other side of the valley. He says that on top of the hill where the lights are commonly seen, you can clearly see the headlights that appear the same as the Spook Light. People lost their minds. The comments on this video were quite interesting. People, of course, became defensive. The professor admitted in the video that he might not be the most popular person for offering his explanation, but he felt he had solved the mystery. Like I said, I watched the video and I also read through the comments which were quite passionate. People didn’t like what he had to say at all. Lights brighter, darker. Condescending, mocking. Only showed his own experiment. Did not stay to try to see the Spook Light. Only concentrated on his own creation. What about the claims from the 1800’s? What about the claims of the lights moving about just feet from people, or them being able to feel its heat? Arrogant enough to say he solved it, even while admitting he couldn’t explain for certain how people saw it before cars. He also continues to reply to comments. The video shows that it was uploaded in 2015, and some of the replies from Rice were only a couple months ago. There were some people that would say that this explanation in no way could have been what they saw and then tell their story of how it was closer to them or moved differently. Even those that were kind in their critiques and offered stories that countered it, got him to reply to them. His reply most often was something like how interesting, would you happen to have a video to prove your experience? Maybe all the negative comments got to him and he ended up on the defensive, idk. There was a news crew that filmed the light that had moved from just above the road to a point high in the sky, and then moving across the sky during the broadcast. He mentioned this broadcast but only said they claimed to have caught it on video. It was a neat video. If I’m being honest, the video by the professor did not look at all like the other videos I have seen of the Spook Light. I could clearly tell that it was headlights.

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