top of page


Luminous phenomena, usually in the shape of balls or irregular patches of light that defy natural explanation. Most ghost lights are yellow or white, while others are red, orange, or blue. The lights may change color as they are observed. They appear randomly or regularly at particular sites, varying in size and configuration, and may be active for years.

Some appear and become "inactive" after short periods of time. Ghost lights are widely reported in remote areas around the world. Characteristics of ghost lights are:

- they appear in remote areas;

- they are elusive and can only be seen from certain angles and distances;

- they react to noise and light by receding or disappearing;

- they are accompanied by humming, buzzing or outbreaks of gaseous material; and

- they are associated with local folklore surrounding a haunting due to a terrible accident or tragedy that took place at the site and involving loss of life (e.g., a person loses his head in an accident, and his headless ghost returns to the site to look for it, the ghost light being the ghost's lantern).

Many reports of ghost lights can be explained naturally, such as car headlights or phosphorescence known as ignis fatuus. Ghost lights have a power to fascinate, and some individuals who see them do not want the mystique by an explanation.

Megalith sites, ancient stone circles and monuments once used as burial grounds or for astronomical observations or unknown sacred rituals, have manifestations of mysterious lights, called "earth lights" by some researchers. Various theories propose that these lights are caused by natural earth energies, such as ionized gas escaping from faults (luminous phenomena are associated with earthquakes), or some as-yet unidentified electromagnetic energy; for example. the fault theory explain some of the Brown Mountain lights, in North Carolina, as the Grandfather Mountain fault, old and not very active, runs close to Brown Mountain. Other theories propose that the lights are associated with extraterrestrial vehicles that home in on megalith sites.

Famous Ghost Lights

The Marfa Lights

The most famous ghost lights are the Marfa Lights, named after Marfa, Texas, and first reported in 1883 by a settler, Robert Ellison. The lights are seen often to the southwest of the Chinati Mountains, bouncing up and down or racing across the ground like grass fire. Witnesses say the lights sometimes seem playful, as though directed by an intelligence.

The Brown Mountain Lights

The Brown Mountain Lights have been reported at Brown Mountain near Morganton, North Carolina, since 1913. They are multicolored lights with limited lateral and horizontal movements. The lights were investigated by the U.S. Geological Survey, which attributed them to automotive and locomotive headlights and brushfires. The findings have been disputed by numerous witnesses. In the 1970's, research by the Oak Ridge Isochronous Observation Network (ORION) did show that some, but not all, sightings could be explained by light refractions from points beyond Brown Mountain. Many sightings of the lights remain unexplained.

The Joplin Lights

Near Joplin, Missouri, another active site, yellow and orange ghost lights are reported every night from dusk until dawn. The lights have never been satisfactorily explained and appear to be true anomalies. Dale Kaczmarek, president of the Ghost Research Society, has viewed the Joplin Lights through high-powered binoculars from a distance of 300-400 feet and describes them as diamond-shaped with hollow and transparent centers. As they move, they leave behind luminous pinpoints of light dancing in the air.

Near Silver Cliff, Colorado, located in the Wet Mountain Valley, ghost lights have been appearing since 1880. The clusters of blue lights are seen in an old miner's cemetery outside of town. They vanish if one approaches them, only to reappear in another part of the cemetery.

The Silver Cliff Lights

The Silver Cliff Lights remained local lore until they were featured in the media. An article in the New York Times in 1967 brought investigators from all over the country. Skeptics declared the lights were reflections of streetlights, but old residents of Silver Cliff said they had seen the lights long before streetlights were installed.