A short description of the "Marfa Lights"

(Image above - animated JPEG of Car Lights in the distance - 20 miles across Colorado Springs, CO!)

The "Marfa Lights" are well known "mystery" lights visible in the distance from a viewing location a few miles outside Marfa, Texas.   They've been known for just over a hundred years and have "defied" explanation.   Till now.  

Welcome to "DeMystifying the Marfa Lights".

It is called "demystifying" because, for lack of a better description, this site seeks to show that the Marfa Lights are likely, since the beginning, nothing more than man-made lights observed at great distance across a broiling airmass over the desert floor, thereby laying to rest any and all theories that the lights are alien or of unnatural causes. One could say: "The mystery has been solved!"

Ready for my $0.02? Here goes!

One thing I've learned over the 18+ years these pages have been posted is that no one really cares! The Marfa Lights are nothing but a curiosity drawing only "meh" from most people, being nothing more than a small tourist attraction for the Marfa, Texas Chamber of Commerce, deserving an annual "Marfa Lights Festival". Even Marfa Lights researcher, James Bunnell, who has dutifully and carefully studied the phenomenon for many years, only ceasing operation of his 3 observation sites in the Mitchell Flats in 2011 after something like 10 years of data gathering, has found ... nothing substantial. Sure, he has seen lights which have an indeterminate origin or cause, but in total, from what he has published, nothing he's recorded defies explanation as simply man-made sources. So, on with the discussion!

Google "Marfa Lights" or "Earth Lights" and you will get a plethora of links to web sites about them.   Most of these sites declare the Marfa Lights can't be explained.   Some consider them to be ghosts, swamp gas, radioactive bursts, ball lightning, or even space aliens.   But, despite the thousands of web sites mentioning the Marfa Lights, some of which make completely unsubstantiated claims that they've been visible for "hundreds" or "thousands of years", you'll find precious little detail about them. In fact, you will grow tired seeing the same, lame descriptions over and over again.   Dismissing the multitude of sites which simply mention the Marfa Lights in passing as a "stop on a summer vacation" or "we saw the spook lights" or by the Texas bureau of tourism, you will find very few serious sites attempting to provide detailed analysis and explanation of the lights. It seems that despite the claims about "serious" attempts to explain the lights, there simply is little valuable evidence of this on the Web! The best of the scientific attempts is that of Astronomer Dr. Sten Odenwald and his "Astronomy Cafe", astronomycafe.net. Dr. Odenwald's site is a bit hard to navigate, but the specific page about the Marfa Lights begins at astronomycafe.net/.../marfa.htm.   Through a series of detailed pages, Dr. Odenwald leads you through an enjoyable look at the lights, their history (as best he could determine), and the many attempts to explain or sensationalize them all compiled in a number of pages grouped to make some reasonable sense of the issue. Even though the site is dated and many of the links are broken (through no fault of his own), his site is worth spending time reviewing if you are interested at all in the Marfa Lights.

Dr. Odenwald provides much space for eye-witness accounts of all sorts most of which obviously lack credibility.   (Human beings, it turns out, are poor eye-witnesses.)  It is interesting that Dr. Odenwald devotes a large part of a page to the legal implications of eye-witnesses, highlighting the unreliability of the typical observer! Good reading! (See astronomycafe.net/.../marfa24.htm.) Dr. Odenwald himself apparently does not pursue any particular explanation of the Marfa Lights, but makes it clear he does not think automobile headlights would be visible from very far (odd conclusion for an astronomer - a person who looks at light from objects thousands of light-years away!) Reproduced below, is a screen capture of his page (astronomycafe.net/.../marfa28.htm), in case it disappears, where he says he can't understand seeing headlights for more than about 5 miles:

Thus, Dr. Odenwald's site is the "jumping off" point for this site on the Marfa Lights.

Another site which was worth looking at is nightorbs.net, (nightorbs.net site has been replaced by the less informative "marfatxlights.com"), by James Bunnell, a retired aerospace engineer, as mentioned above, who spent a great deal of time - a number of years - investigating the lights.   Mr. Bunnell has made probably the best observations of the Marfa Lights, but provides little information on his site and displays only sample images with no details or explanation.   I discuss Mr Bunnell's Web evidence on my "Observations" page (link below.)

In my estimation, there is no question the vast majority of the the "Marfa Lights" sightings are simply man-made lights from the 1800's and today simply automobile headlights.  I suspect, all the remaining observations are of other man-made lights and I have seen no evidence that any of the eyewitness observations were of anything but man-made lights. To put it another way, there are in no cases, actual evidence that the Marfa Lights are of unnatural origin. In the few pages on this site you will find details of my discovery of a very similar site where headlights are visible from great distances, where there is no controversy, nothing "spooky" about them and, there is no state provided, tourist "observation site" and, apparently, no one else on earth has made this rather trivial observation!  I have adopted the title "Springs Lights" to this discovery and have already given it away at the top of this page! The location is Colorado Springs, Colorado.   Thus, with the Colorado Springs site to prove that headlights are visible, brightly, from great distances, 90+ percent (estimate) of all the "Marfa Lights" sightings vanish.   So we need only address the sightings in the group containing the other 10%.   These can be whittled away, one by one.

Interestingly, these pages have been "up" now since 2004 and only a few have contacted me regarding the Marfa Lights. Mr. Bunnell contacted me, understandably disturbed at my challenge about the lights and chiding me for my scepticism. Truth be had, Mr. Bunnell did quite a lot to capture what he claims are the "real" Marfa Lights, while at the same time, producing photos of lights most of which, well, still look astonishingly like automobile headlights shot from a great distance across a thick, turbulent atmosphere close to or at ground level. Mr. Bunnell likes to use colorful descriptions of his images, perhaps to lend an additional atmosphere of "mystery" to them. I take credit for Mr. Bunnell altering his original Marfa Lights site after he discovered this site a few years ago. Prior to my "Demystifying" site, he would only show highly cropped images which lost all evidence they were actually taken from a great distance. Now he's completely removed his original "nightorbs.net" site and on his new site, actually says even LESS about his published photographs, favoring instead to put sample photos into a "slide show" with no descriptions whatsoever. Unfortunately, he also beefed up his rhetoric that the lights can't be man-made! You find my comments on Mr. Bunnell's photos on the "Observations" page.

2017 footnote: In the 13 years since this set of pages were originally posted, the Marfa Lights remain only a curiosity. Though Mr. Bunnell has shut down his automated camera observation sites, he continues to publish his (non) findings of any evidence that the Marfa Lights are anything but man-made lights observed from a great distance over a generally hot terrain. Mr. Bunnell has gone so far as to state (completely without proof or even evidence): "It is speculated that MLs [Marfa Lights] may be hot plasma bubbles generated deep underground by stress induced electromagnetic anomalies or hot magma." In answer to his own question "Why are MLs nocturnal?" he writes: "Because elongation of the magnetosphere on the night side aids release of ionized bubbles." Really? Aren't lights visible, usually, because it's dark? More speculation can be found here: What is the source of Marfa Lights? Enjoy!

Well, that's it.   Thanks for visiting! Please e-mail if you have questions or suggestions.

Page copyright, 2004-2015 William J.  Welker, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Page last updated Mar 13, 2020
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