Monday, November 25, 2013

Ghost lights

Although "ghost hunting" is not my thing, however trendy it might be, I have a soft-spot for "ghost lights."  They brought me my first publication in FATE magazine.

More on that in a bit, but first what is one?  Loosely defined, a "ghost light" or "spook light" is an anomalous light seen in a confined area.  These lights have been seen in most every color of the rainbow.  They can hover and appear languid.  They can zip about and do aerial acrobatics.  Other names for ghost lights are "wil-o-the-wisp" and "fool's fire."

They can mostly be explained as swamp gas.  No, really.  I know it sounds like a lame explanation trotted out to explain everything from ghosts to UFOs to maybe even the second shooter on the Grassy Knoll, but it really does work for most cases of ghost lights.  Vegetation dies, rots, and methane gas is released.  This gas can ignite thus one can end up seeing lights where there should be no lights.

Granted, this doesn't explain all incidences of ghost light phenomena.  The Marfa Lights of Texas have defied full explanation for many years now.  In fact the cases I find most interesting tend to have a metaphysical quality to them.  These are sightings where the lights themselves seem to know that they are being observed.  They respond to the witness' thoughts or at least seem to behave as if they are curious about those observing them.  There is an unspoken connection almost between light and witness or at least it seems that way.  Of course this is fertile ground for hoaxing and I'm certain it has happened many times, but I remain somewhat intrigued.

You see, there was a "spook light" near where I grew up.  In college my friends and I would visit it.  In fact I think my first visit to the light was this time of year and thus it is on my mind this month.  With how cold it gets in November that may defy the "swamp gas" hypothesis, but I digress...

The ritual was that you drive out into the hinterlands of Indiana to a gravel road called Moody Road.  There is nothing out there but farmer's fields.  I mean nothing.  Pull off to the side of the road by a dead tree.  Flick your headlights off and on twice (or three times depending upon who you ask.  It also helped us when we had decanted several beverages beforehand, all except for the driver, natch.)  In time, you will see a light appear at the far end of the road.  On each occasion that I have seen it, it has been dark amber in hue.  The light then proceeds to draw nearer and larger and damn it if it doesn't flicker just like a lantern.

Ultimately, it would just disappear.

There are many stories around it of course.  "Moody's Light" is said to be the ghost of a farmer named Moody who carries a lantern while in search of the people who killed his family.  One version goes that Moody accidentally decapitated his son and the man now roams the night in eternal guilt-ridden penance.

Or it could just be the headlights from cars on a nearby state highway.

How exactly does one "accidentally decapitate" someone?  But I digress...  

There are plenty of explanations for these things and many of them are quite mundane and therefore quite likely.  But I hope lights like Marfa and Moody never get solved.

Like I said, a soft-spot.

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