Recently, I revisited my research on the spook light phenomenon in southwestern Missouri because I wanted to share a scary story based on some truth and folklore at a book signing. My mother told a story about seeing a headless miner in the area with a lantern walking down the road toward her and Erma, her BFF, when they were teenagers. According to other legends, people have contributed the headless man to a confederate soldier, or an Osage chief who were away at war and decapitated. When their spirit returned home, they found their wife and children murdered and lost to them. Therefore, the headless man continued to search for his head and/or his loved ones.
Another story recounted young First Nation lovers who were forbidden to marry and to avoid capture and separation, they jumped off a cliff into Spring River to their deaths. In oral tradition the bouncing lights appeared in 1836 after the lovers killed themselves. In 1881 the story was documented in a publication, The Ozark Spook Light. Scientists have studied the orbs as they bounced and changed colors and size, and disappeared and reappeared on the road known by locals as the devil’s promenade, a four-mile gravel road between Quapaw, Oklahoma and the hamlet of Hornet, Missouri, or the nearby and better know town of Joplin, Missouri.
After many years of investigation, scientists and the Army Corp. of Engineers still can’t explain the lights that fluctuate in size from a baseball to a basketball. Especially, as Halloween approaches, I prefer to believe the truths woven within the local lore. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio