The Hornet or Joplin Spook Light appears on a dirt road south of Joplin, Missouri. (Photo Courtesy: Lisa Livingston-Martin)

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. (KSNF/KODE) — Since it was first mentioned in a publication more than a century ago, many names have been given to the mysterious, dancing, or flickering light, that to this day, people continually claim to have witnessed. The light is known as The Joplin Spook Light, Tri-State Spook Light, and the Hornet Spook Light; all of them are named in connection to the area where it was discovered.

According to paranormal investigator and author, Lisa Livingston-Martin, the Spook Light is usually seen during the evening or nighttime hours and is most often described as an orange ball of light. People who’ve seen it say the orb usually travels from east to west along a four-mile road between Missouri and Oklahoma, called “Spook Light Road” or “The Devil’s Promenade near Quapaw, Oklahoma.”

| Want To Know Where to Find “Spook Light Road?” Keep Reading To Find Out!

“The ball of fire,” as it’s sometimes described, varies from the size of a baseball to a basketball. While doing research on the local Spook Light, Livingston-Martin conducted many interviews with those claiming to have seen the mysterious orb. Some say the light dances and spins down the center of the road (sometimes at high speeds), rising and hovering above the trees before disappearing in the blink of an eye. Others reported it swaying from side to side, like a lantern being carried by an invisible being. According to most witnesses, the Spook Light strays from large groups and loud sounds.

LEGEND AND FOLKLORE

The apparent nighttime sighting of a mysterious, glowing orb known as the Joplin or Tri-State Spook Light.

There are many legends, stories, and science-based theories that attempt to explain what this spooky, dancing ball of light could be. It’s believed that Native Americans of the Cherokee Tribe were the first to see the Spook Light while traveling along the Trail of Tears. One of the oldest legends says it’s the ghost of an Osage chief who was murdered somewhere in that area.

The Ghost Miner

One legend is about a local miner: “A miner comes home one night, only to discover that his family was missing and his cabin burned to the ground, perhaps by Native Americans. Now, the ghost of the miner roams the road (Spooklight Road) at night with a lantern in his hand, searching for his family,” Livingston-Martin explained.

Native American Spirits

According to Livingston-Martin, the most common folklore tale says the light’s glow comes from the spirits of two young lovers within the Quapaw Native American Tribe — a woman and a man who married against her father’s wishes. At her father’s request, the couple was chased through the forest by warriors of their tribe, until the two came to a large cliff above Spring River. With nowhere to run, the couple held hands as they jumped into the river below, plunging to their deaths.

“SCIENTIFIC” THEORIES

What appears to be a ball of light is captured on film, hovering above a dirt road near the Missouri-Oklahoma state line.

Car Headlights

In 1965, an investigation was conducted by the magazine, Popular Mechanics. Using binoculars in daylight, a team of investigators was able to see cars near where the Spook Light supposedly originates. This explanation was summarized by a quote from one of the investigators: “I think what’s happening is cars… are coming down the long highway (Route 66), and we’re seeing headlights or tail lights five miles away.”

Advocates of the “car headlight” theory said it’s accurate and they could recreate it with a man-made light that corresponded to the appearance of the Spook Light. “This particular theory doesn’t account for the 99% of reported sightings. The first reports of the Spook Light come from a time when cars weren’t in existence yet, so lights from a vehicle is not what everyone reports seeing,” said Livingston-Martin.

Swamp Gas

“Swamp gas just doesn’t make any sense,” claimed Livingston-Martin. “As to the theory of escaping natural gas, which is common in marshy areas, the Joplin/Hornet Light is seemingly not affected by wind or by rain, and how would it self-ignite?”

PLAUSIBLE THEORY

Lisa Livingston-Martin said there’s one possible explanation that’s not as easily discounted. It’s also not yet proven to be conclusive. “To be honest, I think it has something to do with geology. The best theory we have, in my opinion, is the Spook Light is the product of electrical atmospheric charges,” said Livingston-Martin.

The Spook Light is more than just a phenomenon restricted to the Devil’s Promenade. Witnesses describe similar, mysterious lights in several areas across the United States, which leads her to believe it’s likely a geologic phenomenon. “In areas where rocks, deep below the earth’s surface, are shifting and grinding, an electrical charge can be created. This area, lying on a fault line running east from New Madrid, Missouri, westward to Oklahoma, was the site of four earthquakes during the 1700s. These types of electrical fields are most commonly associated with earthquakes,” explained Livingston-Martin.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES – JOPLIN SPOOK LIGHT

A nighttime photo from the mid-1900s, shows two women looking at a distant object that’s thought to be the mysterious Joplin Spook Light.

On KSN’s Living Well with Gary Bandy and Shelby Neely, the following question was asked: “Have you ever seen the Joplin Spook Light? If so, what was your experience?” Here’s what some had to say, by posting their response on the KSN Living Well Facebook Page.

  • Dominic A. — “Use to go to it there all the time when it was open to the public, I believe I’ve seen it on more than one occasion.”
  • Leisha B. — “I saw it on Local News Today behind Hank!” > https://youtu.be/GlXqhDgo-rc
  • Mike R. — “We used to go a lot when I was in high school way back in the 1960s. It was just a dirt road. It was fun to take dates to Spooky’s Museum and then park along the side of the road to watch for it. I guess we saw it. It always seemed so far away it was hard to tell.“
  • Gaye-Alan W. — “1957 with my parents. A light came up the road, stayed at least 15 minutes, split into 2 lights, 1 moved around briefly then joined back together. Eventually returned to its original destination till it faded out of sight. Scary but not. You wanted to keep watching.“
  • Linda S. — “Grew up not far from the Spook Light – I’ve seen it many times.“
  • Carlene J. — “Saw it every time I went, late 70s early 80s.haven’t been in years, and also had to go to SPOOKY’s before and after.”
  • Julie F. — “I went to see it probably 25 years ago but never saw it. Always wanted to see it but never did.“
  • Timothy W. — “Was there back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We did see it. Came up the road then just disappeared. Always wanted to go back and take the kids. Nowadays I don’t remember exactly how to get there.“
  • J.D. S. — “We don’t live very far from Spook Light road. It’s not anything like it was years ago. It’s all paved now.“
  • Monte C. — “It got on the hood of our car. I would call it a ball of energy more than light. We honked the horn and it left. It was about the size of a baseball.“
  • Buster & Joyce Y. — “Couple of times, a light that split, moved around, then disappeared when we tried to get closer.“
  • Charla O. — “Yes, Mom and Dad would take us to see it in the ’60s. Dad made fudge and we made a night of it. One time it came right up to our car and he decided to step out of the car! Our three sisters and brother all screamed! It disappeared and showed up in a field right next to our car but there were two of them. It was amazing watching them dance together in the field next to our car! Now the road is paved and lots of houses. Haven’t seen it since. You can’t stop and park and turn out your lights and wait for the spook light to show up. Sad..“
  • Kevin E. — “My mom lived in a house on the road where the Spook Light was and it would come up the driveway.“
  • Donna D. — “Yes, something I can’t even explain!“
  • Diana M. — “Yep! It followed us over the hills.“
  • Dennis C. — “Never!“
  • Jack F. — “I literally live a mile and a half from Spook Light. I’ve never seen it. Of course, I’m not looking for it either.”
  • Melia E. — “I saw it several times in the early ’90s. Typically reminded me of a motorcycle coming up the road until it was close enough for me to realize there was no motorcycle. Once it bounced around on our car hood.
  • Ron R. — “Never seen it.
  • Rusty F. — “Saw it split in two during the early 70s…won’t say who I was with…
  • Linda V. — “We saw a light, but couldn’t tell if it was just a porch light. It never came close to us.

Author and paranormal investigator, Lisa Livingston-Martin is pictured here, along with her published works.

The primary source for information published in this article comes from author and paranormal investigator, Lisa Livingston-Martin who spent many years researching the Joplin Spook Light. Lisa also runs a company based in Southwest Missouri, called Paranormal Science Lab. PSL offers a variety of services to individuals, businesses, and historic sites, including private research and investigations, educational programs, and public history tours and ghost hunts. PSL’s website can be found, HERE. You can also visit their Facebook Page, HERE.

  • Want to know where to find the location of the Joplin/Hornet Spook Light? The answer can be found here.
  • If you’re looking for more information on the Joplin Spook Light, this article includes several interesting stories from those who claim to have seen it.
  • Published in this article are some personal Spook Light stories that are told in great detail.