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.
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
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!
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.