Well, They’re Not Aliens….

It was 40-degrees-cold; but I went anyway. I’d had two martinis hours earlier and they’d made me happily snoozy; but I went anyway. I was squatting in the lobby of a fancy hotel next to the fire, on a smushy sofa; but I went anyway.

What could compel me to leave such a cocoon? Mystery Lights. They’re in Marfa TX, a town already distinctively quirky. I saw more hipsters there than I have in my entire trip–nay, life. We’ll explore Marfa in tomorrow’s post. Today we’re talking about lights–that I saw with my own eyes–that have no confirmed reason for existence.

The Marfa Mystery Lights

Marfa Mystery Lights

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Marfa Mystery Lights

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Official statements report the lights as all colors: red, blue, yellow, orange, white. I saw mostly white lights (and no…they weren’t stars: it was cloudy, which makes it better in my opinion), and one constant blinking red light that I thought was a small tower, but returning in the daytime, there was no tower to be found. (insert creepy music)

The lights were fainter than a car headlight, but stronger than a star. They appeared and disappeared. Some stayed on for 30 minutes. Looking through binoculars they appeared to be like orbs, not stars (because I know these things). One played peekaboo, showing up to the right, left, above and below the red light, which was the point of reference. Three came on at once. That’s when I heard the music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (but only in my head).

Are They Aliens?

I prefer to think not. I was already spooked as it was, the thought of aliens would send me over the edge. I mean, I don’t even like to get my fortune told at carnivals.

Besides, they can’t be aliens, because the first historical record dates back to 1883, and everyone knows that aliens didn’t exist back then. A cowhand saw flickering lights across the plateau and thought it was Indian campfires. Other settlers saw the lights, too, and since Indians were (considered) savage rascals, they couldn’t be allowed to be so close to town, so folks went looking for signs of camp…but found none. The military base not 10 miles away took aerial views during WWII–no craft flying other than those from the US of A.

So aliens, swamp gas (in a desert?), and other theories aside, the most likely explanation is that it’s an interaction of cold and warm air that meets and bends light from distance. Why only here? To boost tourism.

How Do You KNOW It’s Not City Lights?

There is n.o.t.h.i.n.g. out there. Just expansive beauty and mountains many miles off in the distance. There are no roads, no houses, no town, no cell tower, no nothing.

Landscape where the Marfa Lights appear

And it’s not stars. At first I was upset to miss out on the infinity of stars in a desert; but then realized that clouds made the lights more plausible and discernible.

It’s a Social Thing

Used to be that folks would line up along the 75mph, pitch black highway and park their cars to the side of the road. Not the safest thing. So someone found the money to build a viewing station. Of course they did.

Sign for Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing

Marfa Mystery Light Viewing Station

I was the first to arrive around 8:00 pm. I was none too happy to be alone and debated leaving, but quickly a young couple arrived and I announced myself–since it’s damn dark and all. Then an old-timer came. He’d seen the lights many times and told us how they have different colors by the seasons. He once saw a dozen appear simultaneously. We saw a total of 6ish, spread across the horizon.

His date was not believing or really couldn’t see, because he spent the night pointing out the glaringly obvious non-alien lights to her. It’s a hard task when there’s no landmark for context–look to the right, no more to the right. Stay on the horizon, not into the sky. There, did you see it before it blinked off?

Folks from Norway were there, ya. They’re from Norway, and they came to Texas, and specifically to a non-alien light extravaganza.  They have the Aurora Borealis and they chose to witness tiny spots that float, well, like floaters in your eye except that they’re outside of your eye. Actually, I don’t blame them one bit, and this makes them the coolest Norwegians I’ve ever met (we’ll ignore that they’re actually the first Norwegians I’ve ever met).


It was freaky and awesome and there’s definitely something there. It’s an effort to get to Marfa, but it’s worth it.


Have you ever seen anything that’s unexplained or other worldly? (and politeness in traffic doesn’t count)

7 Responses


Fascinating. Are the lights always from one direction or can you view them in all horizons?

Jef. Only to the southwest!


Unexplained? Unworldly? Yes, I have experienced that. Not certain if it was a remarkably vivid and specific dream or if, as I believe to this day, I was awake. Intensely real and clearly memorable.

Good for you for leaving the cozy comfort for the bigger adventure!


Too cool! I love the Trading Places nod. I am thinking a Fifth Element quote would be right a home too. Adding amother stop to my american tourist list. Thank you Paula!


i believe that i have seen—i also believe that we have a limited awareness of our surroundings & a limited ability to see & understand—that we should question our assumptions about this universe.
fun post paula.
stanislawa recently posted..we need mysteryMy Profile

Stanis – you;re a groovy and wonderful woman!


Very cool. And Pat says he and his family pulled off to the side of the road on that shoulder, pre-viewing platform. 🙂

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