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Field Report: The Hornet Spooklight

Dan Kelley


August 24, 2005 9:00 PM

Armed with a mapquest printout and half a bottle of Fake Frog wine, we set off from the Super 8 Motel in a white minivan covered with magnetic letters that formed nonsense phrases in Spanish. The directions were specific and detailed, but they could not shed light where there was only darkness, and we nearly drove past each turn they told us to make. Our headlights were the only source of illumination on the dark country road as we gained distance from the metropolis of Joplin Missouri and headed deeper into the famed Oklahoma woods.

My partner and I were on the hunt for the Hornet Spooklight, also known as the Joplin Spooklight, or the Devil's Promenade. The story was that if you waited and watched in a certain spot near the now defunct town of Hornet Oklahoma, you'd see strange lights bobbing around in the darkness. Lights that had no logical explanation or natural cause. We only half believed it, and that went down to less than half when he pulled onto a gravel road and saw the line of vehicles parked there. This was no haunted forest. It was a lover's lane! Creeping past the assembled personages who milled around in the road or sat on car hoods drinking warm beer, we almost decided to head back to the motel and forget the whole thing.

We soldiered on, however, and got past the throngs and into an area that was free of people. We pulled the van off the road some, parked and turned off the lights. We were in a gentle valley with the woods behind us and a field of prairie grasses on either side of the road. Up ahead a little, another dense thicket of trees began. The moon was almost full and it lit up this scene with a strange monochrome light. In the distance to our right we could see a farmhouse silhouetted against the deepening blue of the late summer sky.

It got darker. We sat in the minivan and passed the wine bottle between us, fiddling with our cameras and feeling silly. There was nothing to see in the darkening gloom beyond the windshield but a few stars above the trees. We had been duped by a sham phenomenon dreamed up by the denizens of a dying town to boost tourism revenue.

We waited and talked about other things, mostly forgetting why we were there in the first place. When my partner said, "Hey, do you see that?" I thought she was pulling my leg out of sheer boredom. I didn't see anything. "Look at the road up ahead," she said. "Keep watching. There!" "I see it!" I said, sitting up and winding my camera. It was a dim blinking, like the reflection of the moon on a piece of metal.

We sat frozen in the van with our eyes wide, waiting for the next appearance of the light. It came again and again, blinking on and off in the middle of the road. Every time it came on, we said, "There it is," or "I see it again," or just "Yep." It seemed to be approaching us, but it was hard to tell the location of one flash compared to another. Only after several slow minutes of watching could we be certain that it was in fact getting closer to our van.

We were babbling at each other as we watched it getting closer and closer. "Oh, shit." "We should get out of here." "Wait." "Oh, man." It changed direction slightly from its straight path down the middle of the road and seemed to aim right at us, as if it knew we were there. I started to panic and almost forgot to use my camera. I got one shot off before I threw the camera in the backseat and grabbed the ignition key.

The thing was almost at our front bumper when I told my partner I was turning on the lights. "No, wait!" she said. But it was too late. I turned the switch and the headlights came on, lighting up the dusty road and the tall grasses beside it. There was nothing else there.

I have no idea what we saw that night, but I know for certain that we saw something. Its behavior was different than that of the classic spooklight that I've read about in other accounts. It was not bobbing around at a distance but making steady progress towards our van. I can only think that we inadventently found one thing while looking for something else.

posted: 1/7/2006

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