A dusty gravel road connects Newton County, Mo., with Oklahoma south of Joplin. Thick patches of trees on the Missouri end hug the road’s shallow ditches where believers, and unbelievers, park at night and wait for something otherworldly to happen.
This is Spook Light Road.
The Spook Light is a glowing ball that floats over the road from rural Oklahoma and onto the hood of your car before suddenly winking out, only to reappear behind the car like it had gone right through you. The locals say this happens a lot.
Roberta Williams, Carthage, has seen the light.
“It was before midnight,” she said. “It was like a big, huge ball with a yellow glow and it went right straight through our car. I just screamed.”
According to legend, two Quapaw Indian lovers – chased by warriors and an angry father – jumped to their death into the Spring River from a cliff. The Spook Light is supposedly one of the young Indians walking this quiet road searching for their lost love.
The light began appearing when settlers moved to the Joplin area in 1886, but the local Indians reported seeing the light in the early 1800s, said historian Virginia Hoare. Others have ever since.
But Spook Light Road isn’t easy to find. It’s only marked by the county road sign “E50.”
“You never know quite where to stop on the road,” Virginia said. “But people say ‘where do you find the most beer cans? That’s where you can stop and see the Spook Light.’”
I trusted Virginia – she’s seen the Light.
“When I was in high school, and I graduated in 1934, I saw it,” she said. “It came right through the car. We saw it coming toward us and I looked out the back window and I saw it had passed through the car.”
Gary Roark, mayor of nearby Seneca has never seen the Spook Light, but knows many people who have.
“It’s a little bit like people with stories about UFOs,” Gary said. “There’s no doubt they’ve seen something, but what it is is anybody’s guess.”
In 1946, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investigated the Spook Light, trying to pass it off as the refraction of headlights from a nearby road.
“They couldn’t prove this so they called it ‘lights of unknown origin,’” Virginia said.
A building sits at the head of Spook Light Road. Although it’s a private residence now, it used to be the Spook Light museum. The museum was originally owned by Arthur “Spooky” Meadows who later sold it to Garland “Spooky” Middleton. Middleton sold soda to people who stopped to see the light.
Bill Caldwell, librarian for the nearby Joplin Globe, hasn’t seen the Spook Light either, but he knows why people are interested in it.
“It’s such a community happening. It’s just part of the landscape,” he said. “It is unexplained and intangible, there’s just no way to know what it is.”
To get to Spook Light Road from Joplin, take Interstate 44 to Exit 4; Missouri 43 south 4 miles to Gum Road; turn west on Gum Road to a T; turn south; then turn west onto E50 and look for piles of beer cans.
Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt
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Jason Offutt is a syndicated columnist, author and fan of all things Fortean. His book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri,” will soon be available at www.jasonoffutt.com and all major bookstores.