The Mystery Of The Marfa Lights (10 Things You Didn't Know)
The Marfa Mystery Lights are a unique and unexplained phenomenon in far west Texas. Between the town of Marfa and the Paisano Pass, travelers can expect to look out into the night and, if lucky, spot the famous mystery lights. We were fortunate enough to see them for ourselves on a recent trip to West Texas and can confirm, they’re as otherworldly and unexplainable as they’re made out to be.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the Marfa Lights that will make you want to book your trip to West Texas ASAP to see them for yourself.
They Were First Sighted More Than 130 Years Ago
The first recorded sighting of the Marfa Lights was back in the 1880s, over 130 years ago. While this might not have been the first time they ever occurred, it’s the earliest documented sighting of the phenomenon. The first person to report seeing the lights was allegedly a ranch hand which was moving cattle and spotted the lights in the distance.
They Were Originally Thought To Be Campfires
Marfa’s location situated the town on a migration path for Native Americans. So, originally, the lights were thought to be campfires by these individuals. However, further investigation provided no evidence of a campsite or ashes in the areas where the lights were seen.
No One Knows What They Are
To say that no one knows what the Marfa Lights are or why they exist is a serious understatement. These glowing orbs in the desert have stumped everyone who investigates them for over a century. Theories of what these lights could be range from car headlights to UFOs, aliens to military base activity, and even lost souls who are not ready to crossover. Despite the rampant speculation of the cause of the mystery lights, they remain just that - a mystery.
They Look Like Glowing Orbs
The lights themselves appear as a pair of glowing orbs in the distance between Marfa and the Paisano Pass. Sometimes only one is visible, and other times, both appear. They move, almost as if dancing, changing position while you watch. Their appearance as glowing orbs makes it apparent why they were once mistaken for headlights coming over the Paisano Pass, but the movement we witnessed of these lights makes it clear that they are not coming from the headlight of a vehicle.
There’s An Official Viewing Center In Marfa
The Marfa Lights Viewing Area is the official spot on the US-90 to stop and take in the wonder of the Marfa Lights. The viewing area is just off the side of the road and features a parking lot, restrooms, and seating. Travelers can sit and watch for the lights after dark, or road trippers can use the ample parking space for their motor homes at this comfortable rest stop. A unique stop on the way to Big Bend National Park or the Ghost Town of Terlingua. Even if you don't see the Marfa Lights, it's a beautiful spot for star gazing.
They Have Approached People On The Road
The reality of spotting the Marfa Lights is that there is no rhyme or reason for their appearance or behavior. In fact, while most people sit at the viewing area and witness them dancing in the distance out by Paisano Pass, others have seen them from their vehicles while driving on the road. Stephen A. Chavez, who is familiar with the area, recounted for us his experience with the Marfa Lights in the mid-1980s when he and three others were driving in their vehicle on highway 90 between Marfa and Alpine around 3:30 AM, attempting to spot the glowing orbs.
Upon finally spotting them, the supernatural experience became even more unusual. "We were all just watching the lights getting closer when about 50 yards away, or so, they split up and shot straight up and disappeared," Chavez says. "The driver stopped at that point. Then I noticed in the front of the vehicle, about 30 to 40 yards away, they started bouncing off the road, turning [different] colors. Everyone was laughing at me because I was reaching over everyone locking the doors [of the car]. I was panicking watching the lights and had no idea what they were, and the lights split again and shot up, bouncing in the rear of the vehicle."
After that, Stephen describes the group driving urgently away from the lights towards the town of Alpine. "That was the first time I had ever seen them and was the last time I had ever seen them until I moved back to Fort Davis in 2015," he tells us, adding, "Now it seems the lights stay off in the horizon towards the southern end, in the direction of Presidio."
They Have Multiple Names
The Marfa Lights or Marfa Mystery Lights go by several names, so travelers may hear other references to the phenomenon when traveling to this part of Texas. The Ghost Lights and the Chinati Lights are also popular names for these glowing orbs in the Chihuahuan Desert. The reason for the name “Chinati Lights” is because of the nearby Chinati Foundation, which houses the artwork of Donald Judd.
You Can See Them Year-Round
Unlike the natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which are typically only visible in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, the Marfa Lights have no designated viewing season. This seemingly supernatural phenomenon can be seen year-round, but there is no guarantee of a sighting on a trip to Marfa. Travelers must hope they get lucky and that the timing of their visit coincides with the lights’ appearance.
They Appeared On An Episode Of Unsolved Mysteries
The Marfa Mystery Lights have made multiple television appearances, including being featured in an episode of the popular series Unsolved Mysteries in 1989. While the episode looked at the potential causes and legends behind the lights, it did not lead to a resolution or conclusion about the phenomenon. Of course, the lights continue to be seen today, over 30 years later.
Opinions On The Lights “Intentions” Differ
Some people view the lights as a wonderful, unique occurrence that is something akin to magic. However, others perceive the lights as a sinister force and become fearful upon witnessing them. The mystery of the Marfa Lights has fueled the varying reactions from locals and tourists for decades, but travelers will have to see the lights for themselves to form their opinion on the matter.