Though it’s usually referred to as the Joplin Spook Light and sometimes as the Hornet Spook Light, this mysterious glowing ball is associated with Oklahoma as well. Its story goes back more than a hundred years.
Apparently this light is only seen on Devil’s Promenade Road located approximately 12 miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri. It is capable of changing colors, though it is usually orange. It is round, varying from baseball to basketball size. It invariably is seen traveling from east to west along the four-mile stretch of Devil’s Promenade Road, and it is said to appear every night, usually between ten o’clock and midnight.
Some witnesses say that it spins at high speeds down the center of the road, then rises and hovers above the treetops before disappearing. Others have said that it sways from side to side. It has even been reported to appear inside cars.
The earliest reports of the spook light date from 1836 when it was supposedly first seen by Native Americans moving along the infamous Trail of Tears. The first published report was in 1881 in a pamphlet called the “Ozark Spook Light.”
There are several legends associated with the Spook Light. One tells of a man who got lost in the woods and never made it home. His wife took a lantern and set out to look for him, but in vain. She set out night after night look for her missing husband. Eventually she died, but each night, according to the story, her ghost sets out with a lantern in a vain search for her man.
The oldest legend seems to be that of a Quapaw Indian maiden and her lover. Her father would now allow the young couple to marry, so they ran away. As pursuing braves closed in on them, the couple leaped to their deaths above the Spring River. The light was supposedly born that night and represents the ill-fated lovers.
The Spook Light has, of course, been the subject of extensive investigations, both by paranormal investigators and scientific organizations, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. No one so far has come up with a satisfactory explanation. Among the theories are natural gas, electrical charges which may be originating from the nearby New Madrid Fault. So far, however, none of the possible explanations can be proven.
Although apparently it defied attempts to photograph it for many years, photos and even video have recently begun to emerge. There’s a great video of the spook light here: