Alt country artist Paul Cauthen takes on the west Texas supernatural phenomenon of Marfa Lights as Southwest Week continues on SOTD.
"The 'Marfa Lights' of west Texas have been called many names over the years, such as ghost lights, weird lights, mystery lights, or Chinati lights. The favorite place from which to view the lights is a widened shoulder on Highway 90 about nine miles east of Marfa. The lights are most often reported as distant spots of brightness, distinguishable from ranch lights and automobile headlights on Highway 67 (between Marfa and Presidio, to the south) primarily by their aberrant movements."
Robert and Judy Wagers define "Classic Marfa Lights" as being seen south-southwest of the Marfa Lights Viewing Center (MLVC). They define the left margin of the viewing area as being aligned along the Big Bend Telephone Company tower as viewed from the MLVC, and the right margin as Chinati Peak as viewed from the MLVC.
Referring to the Marfa Lights View Park east of Marfa, James Bunnell states, "you might just see mysterious orbs of light suddenly appear above desert foliage. These balls of light may remain stationary as they pulse on and off with intensity varying from dim to almost blinding brilliance. Then again, these ghostly lights may dart across the desert...or perform splits and mergers. Light colors are usually yellow-orange but other hues, including green, blue and red are also seen. Marfa Mystery Lights (MLs) usually fly above desert vegetation but below background mesas."
The first historical record of the Marfa lights is that in 1883 a young cowhand, Robert Reed Ellison, saw a flickering light while he was driving cattle through Paisano Pass and wondered if it was the campfire of Apache Indians. Other settlers told him they often saw the lights, but that when they investigated they found no ashes or other evidence of a campsite.Joe and Anne Humphreys next reported seeing the lights in 1885. Both stories appear in Cecilia Thompson's bookHistory of Marfa and Presidio County, Texas 1535-1946, which was published in 1985.
The first published account of the lights appeared in the July 1957 issue of Coronet magazine. In 1976 Elton Miles'sTales of the Big Bend included stories dating to the 19th century and a photograph of the Marfa lights by a local rancher.
Bunnell lists 34 Marfa lights sightings from 1945 through 2008. Monitoring stations were put in place starting in 2003. He has identified "an average of 9.5 MLs on 5.25 nights per year", but thinks the monitoring stations may only be finding half of the Marfa lights in Mitchell Flat.