The Hornet "Spook Light"

by Bob Soetebier

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Bob Soetebier
St. Louis County, Missouri

The Hornet "Spook Light" (HSL) is an intriguing enigma that appears in s.w. Missouri and n.e. Oklahoma. I have visited the HSL site. But, I was not able to stay until dark -- which is supposed to be the best time to view the HSL.

One HSL-vicinity local-area area resident told me that he had seen the light and "saw it move all over the road, out into the nearby fields, and all over the place." When he "tried to drive toward it, it just disappeared."

Another of the area's residents told me about her encounter with the HSL: "It came all the way down the road, hopping along like it was a swinging lantern light being carried by an invisible ghost. It hopped right over our parked car! It was real neat!"

Beverly Trout, Iowa MUFON State Director, told me of her recent experience: "It stayed way down the road." "It was very distinctive and very active." She described the distant HSL "Like tubes of light; moving all around; up and down; right to left, and back again." Sometimes "two or three other lights split off from it [the main light]; later to return to it." Trout said that she and her two companions watched the HSL almost constantly for a full 3-hour period, with only short breaks of HSL(s) inactivity. She noted that the light(s) were all different colors.

Lastly, I spoke with a man who lives right at the HSL site: "The Spook Light has come right down that gravel road [the "stem" of the "T"-intersection where he lives] and right up to me here at the house. The light varies in size from softball-size, to the size of a basketball. It also change colors, from blue, to red, to yellow, to green and to white. If you try to move toward it, or make any sudden moves, it just immediately disappears."

The above descriptions of encounters are similar to the following quote concerning the HSL from page 79 of the 1968 Dell paperback book, Mysterious Fires and Lights, (MFAL), by Vincent H. Gaddis:

. . . . [The lights] change in size from that of an apple to a bushel basket, expanding and contracting, moving from left to right and back again, and from ground to tree-top height. In color, they range from a golden-amber or yellow to a reddish hue. Their intensity of light is sometimes so brilliant that the glow is reflected from the surface of the road.

Movements of the lights appear to be at random . . . . They appear and disappear, usually suddenly. When approached, they seemingly recede, only to reappear behind the observer. . . . .

No one can say for sure exactly what is the HSL. Some have tried to explain away spook-light sightings and encounters with more "down-to-earth" causation. Debunking explanations include such things as swamp gas, ball lightning, mineral deposits, headlights, etc. But, they all seem to have holes in them.

As mentioned on page 330 in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' 1990 book, Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, the HSL has been around many years before autos and planes existed:

. . . . summarized theories regarding its origin, stating that, some people think that the light at the Devils Promenade is the ghost of an Osage Chief who was murdered near this spot; others say that it is the spirit of a Quapaw maiden who drowned herself in the river when her warrior was killed in battle." Other theories . . . . are those of marsh gas, automobile lights driving east on Highway 66, and Quapaw, Oklahoma airport beacon lights. . . . .

But the old-timers laugh at all such explanations, claiming that the Indian lights were seen at the same spot in the deep wood, fifty years before the 'Devils Promenade' road was built. Fred C. Reynolds of Kansas City says that his grandfather, a pioneer doctor at Baxter, Kansas, observed these lights long before there was any such thing as a motor car, adding that he himself saw the jack-o-lantern as a boy. Bob Hill of Joplin, Missouri, observes that the phantom was seen by many persons in this vicinity before there was a Highway 66, and certainly long before the airport was established at Quapaw, Oklahoma.

This issue is further addressed on page 80 of Gaddis' MFAL:

Several investigators have proved that on clear nights light is refracted into the area from automobile headlights on U.S. 66, five miles to the west. . . . . The refracted light, however, does not have the characteristics of the Ozark light.

Moreover, [from] old Indian legends about the light . . . . [the "Spook Light"] was known as the "Indian light" to the grandfathers of the pioneer families in the vicinity, and was attracting tourists long before the construction of U.S. 66.

Some, but, by no means all, sightings of the HSL -- particularly during the time of the year when the leaves are off the trees -- might be attributable to the distant-road, auto-headlights hypothesis. The auto-headlight explanation certainly flies in the face of credible close-encounter HSL reports, such as this credible example regarding the HSL, taken from page 80 of Gaddis' MFAL:

Dr. George W. Ward, formerly with the Bureau of Standards, Washington, DC, and later associated with the Midwest Research Institute, made an investigation in 1945. He wrote that he observed a glow over the hills, followed by the appearance of a greenish-yellow sphere of light about five feet in diameter. This sphere advanced toward the doctor and his companions.

One of the men, a publicity director for the institute, said he had seen all he cared to see. As the light approached and enveloped the witnesses, he quickly locked himself in their automobile.

The HSL is currently under active investigation by UFO field-investigator, Ted Phillips. Phillips is famous for his many years of investigating innumerable "physical-trace" UFO cases. He presented a HSL update at the April 11-13, 1997, Ninth Annual Ozark UFO Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. [See Special Note attached below.]

Distant sightings of, and close encounters with, the HSL continue to be reported. For further information and recountings of some of these numerous incidents, refer to these recent articles about the Hornet "Spook light" in the following publications.:

"Spooklight" -- by Suzanne J. Wilson; p.p.: 8-11, January, 1997, issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine; Freely available from the Missouri Department of Conservation Internet Web site URL address:

"Old Faithful of the Ozarks" -- by Wann Smith and William Equals; p.p.: 33-36, October, 1996, [Vol. 49, No. 10; issue 559 of] FATE magazine; Web site:

"The Hornet-Joplin 'Spook light'" -- by Bob Soetebier; p.p.: 10-12, July/August, 1996, [Vol. 11, No. 4] issue of UFO magazine (P.O. Box 1053, Sunland, CA 91041).

Book references:

Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri, by Thomas R. Beveridge; p.p.: 329-330. Revised and published in 1990 by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Land Survey, P.O. Box 250, Rolla, MO 65401. Telephone number: 314-364-1752.

Mysterious Fires and Lights, by Vincent H. Gaddis; p.p.: 79-80. 1968 paperback. Dell Publishing.

Special Note:

"Ted Phillips is an internationally known and respected UFO researcher. He refers to himself as a "nuts-and-bolts" UFO researcher. Ted's business, Astronomical Systems: Astronomical Telescopes and Astrophotography Equipment, gives him "license" to indulge his other passion: Scanning the skies for UFOs.

His main field of expertise and interest is "physical-trace" evidence left as a result of UFO sightings and/or encounters. He has documented and reported upon literally thousands of UFO-related physical-trace cases over the years.

Ted currently serves as an Assistant State Director for Missouri MUFON. He and his wife now reside in southwest Missouri, where he is actively investigating and documenting the Hornet "Spook Light." (Back)

© 1997 Bob Soetebier

(Previously hosted on, but sadly removed some time in Autumn 2006, and so reprinted here with the permission given at the beginning of the article.)

Sean B. Palmer