Restless Oklahoma: Spook Light Road

Tri-State Spook Light publication.

Way up in the corner of Northeastern Oklahoma, not far from the Missouri border, lies a stretch of dirt road that is pretty unremarkable except for one thing: it’s the site of an eerie, unexplained phenomenon described by locals as the “spook light.” This mysterious ball of bright light can be seen on just about any given clear night. It appears to float above the trees, moving slowly, changing directions at random, and also changing in size and intensity. You can see it in action in the following news report:

Sightings of the light go all the way back to the early 1800s, and in that time nobody has been able to come up with a solid explanation, although everyone from locals to paranormal experts to scientists to the Army Corp of Engineers have tried. Theories that it’s merely reflected vehicle lights have been thoroughly debunked (especially given that sightings of the light pre-date both vehicles and electric lights), as has the theory that it’s some sort of natural gas ignition, a la a will-o-the-wisp.

Other, more paranormal explanations have also been put forward, the foremost of which is legend involving a young Quapaw Indian couple who eloped after the maiden’s father refused to allow the marriage. Her father sent a hunting party to track them down, but when they were close to being captured, they jumped into the Spring River, hand-in-hand, and were swept away to their deaths. According to the legend, the light appeared in the night sky soon afterwards.

Another legend involves a miner whose wife and child disappeared after Indians attacked his cabin while he was away from home. The light is said to be his wandering spirit hunting for his lost family. And a slightly more grisly story says that an Osage chief was decapitated nearby and wanders to and fro with a lantern seeking his lost head.

So far, the most likely–or at least the most plausible scientific–explanation put forth is that the light is the result of electrical charges in the atmosphere relating to the New Madrid fault line that runs through the area, although this theory is by no means conclusive.

Whatever the light is, and whatever is causing it, one thing is for sure–it’s definitely spooky. So much so that the four-mile stretch of road it hovers over, officially designated East 50 Road, is affectionately known by locals as “The Devil’s Promenade,” which is also the title of my short story about two young women who set out to witness the light for themselves–to disastrous results. That story can be found in the Midnight Snacks collection.

What do you think the light is? What’s your favorite explanation? And have you witnessed the Spook Light for yourself? If so, share your story in the comments!

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