The Marfa Lights: Enlightening in Many Ways

The Marfa Lights: Enlightening in Many Ways

Marfa Texas Lights

Have you seen the Marfa Lights?

Imagine Robert Ellison’s thoughts.

Pushing cows through the Paisano Pass; dusty and tired. Near Marfa the lowing cattle settled down for the night upon the Chihuahuan Desert floor as darkness fell.

In 1883, West Texas nights were inky black, punctured occasionally by starry skies and slivers of moon rays.

Suddenly, off in the distance Ellison saw hovering lights near the Chinati Mountains. Close to the horizon the reddish orbs glowed. Perhaps, he thought they were campfires of local Native Americans. It seemed a plausible explanation – until the lights moved.

Heralded as giving the first recorded account of Marfa’s Lights, Ellison’s observations have spurred many to either support or deny them.

During World War II pilots, at the now long abandoned, Marfa Army Airfield also reported unusual sightings related to the lights.

What the Marfa Lights Look Like

As the Marfa lights twist and turn they disappear only to suddenly reappear. The lights seemingly dance in radiant colors including orange, blue and white. The source points have ranged from the mystical to the outrageous, depending on the Marfa Lights theory you subscribe to. Some claim the lights are the spirits of long departed Apache warriors or glimmers of the mineral mica while others outrageously suggest glow worms attached to the tails of fast moving jackrabbits.

The Marfa Lights are mysterious lights that hover and play about in West Texas. They are a part of our culture and defy a simple explanation. Here is a supposed video of the Marfa lights, but I think these are clearly headlights from Presdio distorted by distance.

An astronomy site looks at some of the potential theories behind the Marfa Lights. What do you think? Comment below.

An Official Search for What’s Causing the Marfa Lights

Scientists, armed with tracking devices and state of the art deciphering equipment, have long swarmed across Mitchell Field and other private lands in search of answers.

In 2004, University of Texas at Dallas’ Society of Physics Students proclaimed the headlights of vehicles traveling Highway 67 as being the cause for the Marfa Lights, and thus solved the mystery – or did they?

It was not the first time the headlight explanation had been a top contender. As part of an episode of Unsolved Mysteries in 1991, researchers from nearby Sul Ross State University attempted to arrive at the same conclusion. However, the lights were seen to move beyond the highway’s location. In addition several local witnesses, including Hallie Stillwell, questioned the headlight theory.

Stillwell had seen the lights in 1916 before cars were commonplace on West Texas roads and WWII veterans pointed out during the early 1940s’ sightings cars were not tooling around Highway 67 due to gas rationing.

The Marfa Lights as a Tourist Attraction

Whatever the explanation the fact remains that the Marfa Lights continue to attract both locals and tourists alike. Spring and summer are the suggested seasons for optimal viewing, although some devotees diligently sit out on a cold winter’s night.

Clear skies are required. Experts, such as Jim Bunnell author of Hunting Marfa Lights, suggest prime viewing occurs the week following the start of the new moon.

Marfa Lights Festival

The Annual Marfa Lights Festival in Marfa, Texas

Nine miles east of Marfa on Highway 90/67 the Texas Department of Highways built a special viewing area. Facing the mountains the adobe-styled viewing area features two telescopes along with a picnic area for those who prefer a bit of al fresco dining with their paranormal activities.

Over Labor Day weekend, Marfa hosts the Marfa Lights Festival. It is a time for numerous family and school reunions as street dances, band concerts and a parade celebrating the best of small town Americana occur around the courthouse square.

A trip to Marfa enlightens in many ways.

What’s your take on the Marfa lights? Leave your theories in the comment section below…

About the Author: This piece was submitted by experienced freelance writer, Linda J. Bottjer. Linda’s work can be found at a variety of online outlets including,, as well as,

Photos by: jdeeringdavis and CosmoPolitician

2 thoughts on “The Marfa Lights: Enlightening in Many Ways

  1. Harald Deckert

    Interesting article about the Marfa Lights .
    I grew up in Namibia in a small town of Grootfontein and there we also have such lights.
    It has never been investigated and will be a pity if it is not documented and all us olttimers are gone .
    Anyway – wish you all the best
    Harald Deckert