Let There Be Lights

Senior editor Michael Hall on seeing (and not seeing) the mysterious Marfa lights.

texasmonthly.com: When did you first hear about the Marfa lights?

Michael Hall: I had heard about them before I actually went seeking them out—if you live in Texas long enough, you’ll hear about the Marfa lights—but I wasn’t really interested in them until I went to the area in 1996 with a bunch of friends for Thanksgiving on a ranch.

texasmonthly.com: What drew you to the topic for this story?

MH: I like mysteries, and I love that part of the state. Every time I’d go out there, I’d stop at the viewing center and watch these weird little lights and think about how they’re so magical. I’ve wanted to write about them for a while, and when this UT-Dallas study came out saying the lights were from cars, I jumped at the chance.

texasmonthly.com: How long have you been working on this story?

MH: I worked on it for about six weeks. It took longer than I thought it would, just because I kept finding more people to interview. Everyone out there, it seems, has a Marfa lights story.

texasmonthly.com: How many times have you been to see the Marfa lights?

MH: Probably ten.

texasmonthly.com: Which viewpoint do you subscribe to: that there is a natural explanation for the lights or that we’ll never know exactly what they are?

MH: They aren’t mutually exclusive—I think they are a natural phenomenon and that someone will probably eventually figure it out. But maybe someone won’t. I kind of hope they don’t.

texasmonthly.com: How difficult was it to sort through all the lore surrounding the Marfa lights to come up with a readable story?

MH: It wasn’t that hard, though I did get tired of reading the same damn newspaper or magazine article that repeated the same damn stories about the lights. The most helpful research came from people who live in the area.

texasmonthly.com: Were people forthcoming with their own Marfa lights experience?

MH: Yes, almost everyone out there has a story, and most are pretty happy to tell it. I had read about reluctant witnesses,

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