© Photo by Wade Treichler
Marfa Lights Viewing Area
Near Highways 90 and 67
North of Big Bend National Park, 10 miles east of Marfa, Texas
The Marfa Mystery Lights are reported as brightly glowing basketball-sized spheres of illumination which appear to hover above the ground on clear nights. Usually shining in colors such as white, yellow, orange, or red (sometimes green and blue), the ball-shaped objects are said to move around at both low and high speeds, split apart and remerge, disappear and reappear.
An official sign posted at the viewing center recounts the history thus far:
"The Marfa Lights, mysterious and unexplained lights that have been reported in the area for over one hundred years, have been the subject of many theories. The first recorded sighting of the lights was by rancher Robert Ellison in 1883. Variously explained as campfires, phosphorescent minerals, swamp gas, static electricity, St. Elmo's Fire, and 'ghost lights,' the lights reportedly change colors, move around, and change in intensity. Scholars have reported over seventy-five local folk tales dealing with the unexplained phenomenon."
When presented with cynical suppositions that the lights are caused by automobile headlights or by campfires, local mystics note that the viewing area is quite remote and that cars and campfires have not been found to be in existence at the location of the lights. A commonly accepted and possibly plausible explanation is that the unique lights are caused by an atmospheric phenomenon resulting from the interaction of warm and cold layers of air.
Marfa residents and curious visitors celebrate this strange mystery at the traditional annual Marfa Lights Festival held each September on Labor Day Weekend. Activities include a parade, contests, street dances, food, crafts, and more.