The Spook Light: This Creepy, Glowing Orb Might Give You Nightmares

This mysterious flickering light that appears in the back woods of Missouri might just have you spooked! What exactly is the Spook Light? Find out . . . if you dare!

One of the oddest and weirdest stories in the Heartland of America is that of the Spook Light, a glowing orb that appears near the border of Missouri and Oklahoma in an area known as the “Devil’s Promenade.” The bouncing, colorful light has been a mystery for hundreds of years. So what’s behind this eerie phenomenon?

What Is The Spook Light?

The light is also known as the Devil’s Jack-O-Lantern, Hornet Spook Light, Hollis Light, and the Joplin Spook Light. But each of these names gives you the rough idea: it’s spooky.

The Spook Light has been witnessed by Native Americans and others since the early 1830s, during the days of the Trail of Tears. No one knows for sure what the Spook Light actually is, but it is commonly described as a single ball of light (or a tight grouping of lights)—varying in size from the size of a baseball to the size of a basketball—that appears in the area frequently, usually at night, no matter the time of year.

Sometimes the ball of light remains still. Other times it moves with active vibration. Folklore and legend says it’s either the Devil with a lantern wandering the Earth, or the soul of a confederate soldier. Another tale involves the ghosts of two young Native American lovers searching for each other in the nightscape.

People have been coming to this area witness the Spook Light firsthand.
Photo by Atlas Obscura.

One of the earliest written reports of the Spook Light was in 1936, from the Kansas City Star, though the legend has been around for almost 100 years before its official documentation.

What Causes The Spook Light?

Some speculate that it could be anything from natural gas leaking out of the earth, to car lights in the distance reflecting off a river a few miles away. However, these strange lights have been reported since the 1880s (before cars) in the woods, over the land, and even in backyards.

In 1946, a team of investigators from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studied the Spook Light, but there were no concrete findings that seemed a logical source for the orb.

The Spook Light: A Haunting Attraction

Image courtesy of Atlas Obscura

The Spook Light is very popular, especially around Halloween. Automobile transportation made it possible for even more people to visit to these rumored haunted country roads—curiosity-seekers have been coming from far and wide for years trying to spook themselves and witness the Spook Light, firsthand. And today, if you pull into Southwest Missouri, the odds of someone being able to give you the proper direction to the mysterious light are pretty high.

What do you think the Spook Light could be? Is it something logical that hasn’t been considered, or could one of the old legends hold true?

Is it time for a road trip to see for yourself? The Spook Light is 11 miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri. Get directions to the best viewing spot here!

Join The Discussion!

Have you ever seen The Spook Light before?

Do you believe it really exists?

Let us know in the comments below!

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Larry Fleury

Larry Fleury is a writer and outdoor photographer who has a background in atmospheric science, marketing, astrophotography, creative writing, and all things outdoors. His photography has been featured by The Weather Channel, Midwest Living Magazine, and National Geographic Your Shot. Larry lives on the edge of the Ozark Mountain Range in Southeast Kansas, where he spends his free time fishing, camping, hunting, hiking, storm chasing, and playing guitar on the porch.

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Nelson Hawkins

In the late 60’s I was playing in a nightclub in Joplin and after closing several of us decided to see if we could find the “Spooklight” that we had heard so much about. It was a cool clear night and we found
the little store called Spookys which was closed at this early hour but we knew we were on the right road.
We parked on a hill that gave a nice view of the road and waited… and waited. It was close to 4 AM and just as we were about ready to leave my friend said “ Look, is that it? A small glowing ball appeared far down the road and seemed to be coming our way
it grew in size as it came nearer and then disappeared behind a dip in the road then suddenly reappeared, by time it was about the size of a basketball and the glow alternated between white and yellow.
We were all transfixed and holding our breath as it loomed larger. Suddenly one of
friends freaked out and started yelling “No No No”! and it vanished. We didn’t know whether to be mad or relieved but the be thing for sure we had definitely seen something quite mysterious.


I live in Archie and saw the light with my husband in our back yard last year. He saw it first and called me outside. It was maybe about the size of a basketball and was in the grass. I ran inside to get my phone to take a picture but when I came back out it was already gone.


We have the Gurdon Light in South Central AR. My husband and and I took our kids and a couple of others out to see it once. It’s hovers near and over the railroad track and isn’t all that large. It will appear somewhat close at times then be be at a distance. Didn’t scare me. I was more afraid of someone jumping out of the woods at us?

Terri Spettell

My mother grew up in the woods and spoke of these lights often. She said they were playful. You could chase them and they would bob higher, and then they would come back down. At sunset they would bob through the woods, never hitting a tree. Country people called them jack o lantern.

Sandi Duncan

Wow! Thanks for sharing Terri!

Bobby Clemente

I went to NEO A&M in nearby Miami, OK for three semesters and went out twice with friends to see if we could see it. No such luck. The B&W photo above of the two ladies looking at it actually looks like a train headlight more than anything but I don’t think there are train tracks close around those parts.

paula brown

My grandmother was an honest, christian lady, and there is no doubt in my mind the incident she told us as children was true. Her mother told her she could go blackberry picking by herself if only she would be home before dark. She lost track of time and the sun was setting and she became a little frightened. She turned around to see a ball of light slowly bouncing behind her as if God sent it to safeguard her home. It disappeared as her home was in sight. I believe this was her guardian angel that was assigned to her at birth, as we all have. The Bible says one day we will actually meet our angel and know they’re name.


Have you ever considered that it Could perhaps be Spiritual, and that it ISN’T meant to be evil but good?! Angels have been known to be called UFO’s! They APPEAR as light, or a male or female, ANYTHING that someone might NEED to see in order to Help them.
I KNOW… A lot of people think that those of us who believe in THAT sort of thing is crazy, but think about it, there are a Lot of people who have Actually SEEN Angel’s too! Besides, if it is where people have died, the Angels are there to escort them to the next realm!

Bobby Clemente

Fallen angels may man UFOs but not angels of God. All UFOs do is take people away from God, think about it!

Martha Johnson

I hope it’s supernatural. We need some mysteries in life. However, it’s probably moonlight bouncing off outcroppings of quartz rock or something boring like that.


I don’t know what it is. But I know the people that do know don’t want us to know!!

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