The Marfa Lights
Highway 67 east of Marfa is a desolate piece of highway - especially at night. After a dinner at the Reata Restaurant in Alpine, I head west out of town towards the Presidio County seat of Marfa.
Marfa proper is an interesting place. After clearing the mountains that flank Alpine, I am soon on a giant desert grassland and can see the lights of Marfa glowing in the midsection of the flat plain. In the town, art galleries abound and I see pieces from funky to functional hanging on the walls of the numerous art houses.
At the center of town is the immense and ornate Presidio County Courthouse whose influences look, to me, like a cross between western practicality and Victorian opulence. In the courthouseís shadow lies the fabled Paisano Hotel. Back in the 1950ís the hotel served as the headquarters for the film Giant and provided hospitality for Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean.
The town is fun and eclectic and adding to itís oddity is a viewing platform ten miles east of the town. While I reflect on what Marfa proper offers, I am drawn to stop at the dimly lit platform. I was at this spot about thirty years ago and again about ten years ago but this time I get to share the phenomenon with my wife and kids.
On the platform, thereís an electric energy in the air. Throngs of visitors have stopped and like us, peer across the desert waiting to see small orbs of light appear in the distance. In less than five minutes, the desert doesnít disappoint.
To the southwest, over the Chianti Mountains, an orb appears about one degree above the horizon. At first itís white and pulsates at an unpredictable frequency. Soon, however, the colors morph from white to red and then orange and fades in and out unpredictably as it wanes and waxes in intensity yet stays stationary in its position.
Soon the single light shares the desert stage with about a half dozen other orbs that appear and disappear at random. While most share the same three hues as the first light a couple of times I see green orbs glowing faintly in the distance.
Everyone on the platform sees the lights and are amazed by them but no one here can explain why they occur. It seems that thatís a conundrum that fifty years in the making.
The first published accounts of the lights were in 1957 and anecdotally claim that reports of the lights date back to the 1800ís. Research suggests that the lights are mirage-like apparitions that reflect distant light sources but one researcher claims that while many of the lights have a plausible explanation, the origin of a percentage of them remains unclear.
The lights rose to public consciousness when the television series Unsolved Mysteries featured a segment on the phenomena. Thirty years after I first saw them, they are again rising to my collective conscious. Explanation or not, I am in awe to see the lights seemingly appear out of thin air and my wife and kids feel the same.
The mystery lights just made some new fans.
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