Texas Primer: The Marfa Lights

Scotland has its Loch Ness monster. Bermuda has its triangle. We’ve got the Marfa lights.

Old-timers were comfortable with the supernatural and referred to the luminous apparitions that dance in the nighttime sky of far West Texas as ghost lights. Moderns call them simply the Marfa lights, implying that if they exist at all, the march of science and technology will soon explain and dispatch them.

I promise you, something’s out there. I was with a group of writers and poets, skeptics all, who saw them in August 1983. We were parked on U.S. 90 about halfway between Marfa and Alpine, looking south across an abandoned air base toward the Chinati Mountains. When the first point of light appeared where there had been only darkness, there were some nervous giggles and a fluttering of rationalizations, and when a second came dancing above and to the right of the first, I swear something ice-cold moved across my skin. The points of light appeared one or two or sometimes three at a time, about the intensity of second-magnitude stars, moving diagonally and sometimes horizontally for ten to fifteen seconds. They would vanish and then reappear in some new location. They could have been a mile away, or twenty or thirty. True, there were some ranch houses out there in the blackness, and some unmarked roads and a Sante Fe railroad track. There was even a major highway, U.S. 67, which runs from Marfa to Shafter to Presidio, but it was


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