Marfa's Mysterious Lights
There’s a line in Miranda Lambert’s song, In His Arms, that references the Marfa lights:
Is he praying for rain out in West Texas?
Is he lost in the Marfa lights?
Is he out there looking for me?
Wishing I was in his arms tonight.
The song is on her new CD, The Marfa Tapes, which, by the way, I'd say is the best thing she’s ever done. It’s an all-acoustic set, recorded to feel like you’re sitting around a campfire in Marfa, Texas.
Marfa is a small town in the southwest part of the state, roughly an hour’s drive north of Mexico. However, the Marfa lights Miranda refers to in her song are not those casting forth from the storefronts and streetlights of the town. Rather, they are the mysterious desert lights outside of Marfa that no one has ever been able to explain.
The lights appear as glowing balls in the sky. This is not make believe, something the tin foil hat brigade is into, the lights truly do appear and have done so for well over a century. Reports date back to at least the late 1800s.
The town has a festival around the first of September every year to celebrate the lights and there’s a viewing station nine miles east of town where you can get a great view of the phenomena.
I stumbled upon the viewing station purely by chance and that’s how I learned about the lights. As I was driving to Marfa enroute to a music festival I noticed a structure coming up on the highway that looked like a modern rest stop.
In Iowa we have rest stops all along the interstate highways where travelers take a quick break, take care of “business” and buy something out of the vending machines. You don’t see them often in Texas so I was more than a little surprised when I saw this building on the horizon and curiosity required I stop to check it out.
There’s a plaque near the entrance welcoming visitors and explaining the lights may appear in various colors, move about, split apart, melt together, disappear and reappear.
There’s a whole host of theories as to what’s causing the lights including Native American spirits, ghosts, swamp gases and, all too predictably, UFOs. Scientists have studied the lights utilizing high tech equipment to try to figure out their cause, and still, no answer.
You can check out this news report to learn more:
The viewing area is worth a stop even during the daylight hours. Walking paths stretch out about 50 yards or so in either direction from the facility with plaques in different locations providing historical and other information about the surrounding area. One tells the story of the nearby Army Air Field built in the 1940s, others provide a background about the town of Marfa, and still others detail the geological features to the north, south, east and west.
Bathrooms are available as well as mounted telescopes for viewing the area and the lights if you’re lucky enough to be there when they are shining.
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