It’s almost Halloween and time for stories about one of Missouri’s favorite spooks-the mysterious Hornet Spooklight or Devil’s Promenade. This mysterious light has been reported for more than 100 years in a field near the ghost town of Hornet, Missouri. Although hundreds have seen it, no one has been able to explain it.
What does the Spooklight look like?
The light appears most often as a ball of fire, at least as large as a basketball. It can move rapidly before suddenly stopping, floating above the fields, or (more frighteningly) moving inside a parked vehicle. It seems to dart away when approached and often reacts to noise as if frightened, leading some to believe it has a sort of intelligence.
Are there any Spooklight explanations?
One of the most popular explanations is that it is a will-o’-the-wisp or foxfire which is caused by decayed vegetation. Often seen in damp, heavily wooded areas, it is never as bright as this light is reported to be.
Another popular explanation centers on marsh gas, which is another term for methane. Often found in a swamp, the gas has to be ignited to be seen, and is quickly extinguished by wind or rain. However, the Hornet Spooklight has been observed when there are strong winds which don’t appear to bother it.
So what is the Spooklight?
The most widely accepted theory is that the light is caused by automobiles driving on the highway about five miles east of its location. Advocates of this theory say that the headlight beams are refracted and the light appears as spheres of light, grouped together, which move as the cars move. Sounds good-but the Spooklight has been reported since the 1800s, long before automobiles were built.
Legends of the Spooklight
One legend tells of a Quapaw Indian couple who had been forbidden to marry. Chased by warriors, they jumped from a cliff into Spring River and their spirits merged to form the wandering light.
Another legend tells of a Confederate sergeant whose head was blown off by a cannon, who now carries a lantern as he searches for his head. There’s a similar story about a poor miner who is searching for his lost or kidnapped children.
Seeking a scientific explanation for Spooklight
In 1946, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers supposedly studied the “Hornet Light”, but could not find a cause for it. In their words, it was a “mysterious light of unknown origin”.[In 1982-83, members of the Ghost Research Society investigated and took several excellent photographs with infrared cameras. Their video and still photographs show the light splitting into different parts, moving forward and back, growing brighter and dimmer before disappearing.
Over the years, thousands of people have traveled to this out-of-the-way spot, hoping for a glimpse of the Hornet Spooklight. No one can say for sure what it is, but if you’re there at just the right time, such as Halloween, perhaps you’ll be the one to solve its mystery.
(Directions: take I-44 to the Baxter Springs, Kansas, exit, go south to South Outer Road and follow it to State Line Road. Go about four miles south to a T intersection where you can turn right (west) and you’ll be on the Spooklight Road. Or from Quapaw, Oklahoma, follow Oklahoma E50 east.)