(from Blue Moon News)… In 1883, Texas homesteader Robert Ellison felt a dark streak of fear run down his spine as he looked out and saw dozens of fires on the hills outside his Texas ranch. This was, after all, Apache territory and the new settlers weren’t exactly welcomed.
But after a few minutes of watching them, he realized something. They were awfully active for campfires. Normally, in one’s experience, if you have a campfire it will, with any luck, stay in the pit you dug for it. They usually don’t dance all over the hillside, as these were doing now.
He realized there were no Apaches out there, but he couldn’t even begin to fathom what the dancing lights were all about. These lights floated, bounced, and flew up only to dive down again. While he no longer was worried about where his scalp was going to be hanging the next day, he wasn’t too comfortable with the display. As you can well imagine, he stayed up watching the lights dance their dance all night until they finally disappeared. Robert Ellison had just discovered the ‘Marfa Lights’, named after a town that sprung up close by.
Appearing out of nowhere, a glowing mass darts, dances, floats, wiggles, and bobs, rarely going higher than the nearby trees. The shapes of these mysterious lights are more often than not, spherical or oval and can get up to three feet in diameter. The most common colors are a pale blue or white glowing color, but they have also been known to change colors to green or red.
Most of the mysterious ghost lights that have been recorded are usually very intermittent, coming and going as they very well please. But not so the Marfa lights. They put in a regular appearance. Seasons and weather conditions don’t have anything to do with them. You can usually go out to see them almost any night, joining any number of people there for the show. Thousands of witnesses have watched them doing their dance in the dark over the past century, so they are verified as being all too real.
What gets really interesting are the unlimited supply of explanations that people so desperately try to tack onto them. Marfa mythologists and yarn tellers have said that the lights are the spirits of buffaloes, angry Indian warriors, the ghostly body of a dismembered woodsman, a blind Indian princess seeking for her long lost love, or a vengeful sheriff forever chasing down his wife’s murderers.
And while they may not be the reasons the skies dance in the night with the lights, science hasn’t done a whole lot better. Most ghost lights are usually attributed to will-o’-the-wisps, (methane gas from decayed material in a swamp that torches on.) But that is not the case in West Texas. Most of the area is fairly arid, and Marfa is no different. They have also been called St. Elmo’s Fire, but the conditions needed to create that phenomenon doesn’t exist there, either.
Geologists haven’t come up with any reason this is happening. No phosphorescent materials are present in the surrounding area that could account for the mysterious lights.
According to some scientists, the most decided upon theory is a phenomenon called “atmospheric tunneling,” a mirage of sorts in which the light is refracted so that it follows the contours of the Earth over long distances.
In 1973, Pat Kenney and Elwood Wright, two geologists set out to prove the theory of atmospheric tunneling. They first took bearings that would allow them to plot the light’s movements and relate them to the movements of automobile headlights from a distant highway. Let alone the fact that they were seen way before there were automobiles tearing up the countryside.
Their theory went blowing in the wind one night as they watched one ghost light trace a loop and another moved back and forth “like a rocker on a rocking chair.” Not a good bet for the headlight theory.