The Marfa Lights | Day Drunk: The Marfa Lights

August 18, 2014

The Marfa Lights

The small town of Marfa, located in the windswept plains of west Texas, remains one of my most "out there" destinations to this day - and that has just as much to do with it's remote location as it does the mysterious, paranormal lore that surrounds it.

Provided by Google Maps.
Winter skies

You see, Marfa isn't just a sleepy rural outpost surrounded by miles and miles (and miles) of high plain desert, it is the home of the mysterious Marfa Lights, a still to this day unexplained phenomenon.

I traveled this seldom trod eastward route one December from Portland, Oregon back to my Atlantic home before Christmas 2008 with my traveling companion, Katie. This was back in the day when we just flexing our intrepid traveler's wings and thought ourselves mighty brave, bold, and adventurous for seeking such wildly remote destinations - destinations that our New England comrades would have a hard time pointing to on a map. So when we found ourselves dipping into West Texas towards the least visited National Park in the contiguous (Big Bend), I had to grasp the opportunity to role play a little Mulder to my inner Scully. We just had to go to Marfa to investigate.

And did we see the lights? You better believe we did. (Although, I was suspiciously unable to capture photos of them)

We got lucky - we arrived around dusk and immediately were able to glean the dancing lights through the stationary binoculars at the convenient viewing platform located, about 9 miles from Marfa. From where we viewed them, we could see the greenish-yellow light balls hang suspiciously in the air, occasionally dashing this way or that and splitting from one light ball into two, then melding back together. What's better is that they hung doggedly about for the duration of our visit.
Courtesy of

A little light research on Wikipedia will flippantly discount the phenomenon as passing car lights possibly reflecting on some sort of atmospheric disturbance caused by nighttime temperature gradations. And while my inner Scully may accept that to be true, the foxier side of me wants to believe differently.

So what are they, Mulder? Swamp gas? Will o' the Wisps? Ghosts? Alien homing beacons? 

Hard to say anything except that the four hour, out of the way journey down dark Texas backroads was TOTALLY WORTH the visit to Marfa and a chance to glimpse the infamous Marfa Lights. To us lonely travelers, they seemed very spooky and decidedly NON-headlight like, indeed.

Later, we drove a sketchy road along the pitch black Rio Grande, nearly stranded ourselves in soft sand at a primitive campsite we hastily vacated, dodged javelinas, and did some offroading through a ranch to find the road again while not seeing a single other vehicle for six hours. In the morning we tried to swim to Mexico - don't tell the government.
The Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend NP.

For those who do head out to West Texas to see the lights, I would also recommend checking out the excellent contemporary art hubs such as The Chinati Foundation and Prada Marfa. And don't forget to stay at the ultra chic El Cosmico nomadic hotel.

Oh, and whatever you do, do not try to approach the lights. You know, in case they are alien homing beacons.

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