Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Southwest Missouri's Spook Light Road

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

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it at jasonoffutt@hotmail.com. Include your name, address and telephone number for verification only. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

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.


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Anonymous said...

I've seen the spooklight! Several times in fact. I went to college in Joplin at Missouri Southern from 1990 to 1994. My friends and I would go down there from time to time and always see it. Lots of colors (white, red and orange) It was too cool. I think the last time I went was 2001.

Anonymous said...

My father who is now the in his 80's, speaks about the infamous light. He and some friends went looking for the light back in late 1930's. They followed it for nearly a mile before they lost it. He states that it would be at ground level then bounce up toward the tree line. I always thought he was just pulling our leg but now after seeing all the posts maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I live in Seneca and just thought i'd update your blog a bit, its actually a paved road now and year by year the light is seen less reports of the light coming within 30 yds of a person or vehicle is even less. Ive seen it many times at a distance but havent ever been able to get close to it. it is amazing and anyone who wants to see an amazing sight should go seee it. Winter nights are best when theres no clouds... Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in SW Missouri and always heard of the Spook Light. It was about a 30 minute drive from the town I lived in. We would often take dates there to park on the old dirt road. I grew to think that it was just a bunch of bull until one night the little museum there was open and we got to talk to the owner who was nicknamed Spooky. He told us where to park and to be very quiet, no music, no load noises, no motor running. We set for about 15 minutes and low and behold here it comes down the road towards our car. It moved very rapidly and seems to travel the full visible length of the road in a few seconds. It came right up to the front of our car and one of the persons I was with opened a car door. At that second it disapeared. The Spook Light is real!

Elbee said...

My husband & I have been hearing about this spook light. We decided it would just be a fun excuse to get out of town. We got there around 8:00 pm, just before dusk. It was overcast but otherwise a beautiful evening. We brought some snacks, drinks & some good tunes and prepared to sit and wait. To be honest I felt rather silly. Around 8:45pm a county officer stopped and told us we would probably catch a better look at it further up the road. Nice guy! We did just that. We had a map from the Internet, but it was still difficult to know exactly where we needed to be. I forgot to bring the hand held GPS, Duh. At that time there were a few cars but not too bad. At about 9:45 pm we saw a small light up the road. We watched it thinking it might be a car, reflection anything but what we were looking for. It got brighter and then seemed to sway a little and all of a sudden we realized it was coming towards us. We were in the car and I wanted to get out and get closer, but didn’t want to turn on the cars’ dome light. It really did look like some have described. It was similar to a lantern or flashlight being carried by someone, but there was no one holding it. It was about waist high. I noticed that within what seemed like miles every dog in the area was barking and howling. Then a car came up the road and the light was gone. Evidently, there is nothing else for the youth of Joplin to do on a Saturday night. Dozens of kids started showing up. They were there for a good time. Here I was there in interest of idle curiosity of the unknown and they wanted to party. “Dang them blasted kids” J We stayed for hours and saw nothing except car after car, around 12 AM things started getting quieter, fewer cars & the kids were either sufficiently drunk or stoned that they had stopped squealing or had left. A couple cars pulled off the road by us.
They were locals who had been out there a lot and had some interesting stories about their sightings. It was a father and a boatload of kids. He had stories from his grandparents and parents and it had become a family tradition to come out to watch the ghost lights. At about 1:30 AM some one spotted it at the opposite end of the road from where we first saw it. It was lower; it would get brighter and illuminate the road then get small and dim. It moved crossed the road back and forth slow, sometimes fast. It would change colors to red, orange & white. It would split into two lights and then back to one. We watched this for an hour. When a car would come it would be gone and then when things were quiet again there it would come into focus. Steve & I decided to go closer to where it was and investigate possible explanations but we found nothing, no animals, no reflective material and it was no more to be seen. We were tired and it was late. We decided it would be silly to get a motel and decided to drive the approximately two hours home so we could sleep in our own bed. We plan on going back, but it will be on a weeknight and hopefully not party central. It was interesting. It was not frightening, but of course maybe if it had gotten closer like some of the reports, it might have been different. What was it? I have no idea. Do I think it is a ghost? No. I have sense about these things and I felt nothing paranormal, but it definitely spiked my interest.

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