Seneca residents struggle to explain 'spook light' phenomenon

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | 12:54 p.m. CDT; updated 2:43 p.m. CST, Monday, November 4, 2013

SENECA, Mo. — At Mommy's Diner in the small southwest Missouri town of Seneca, the usual conversations about football and weather abound. What sets this diner and others in this region apart is the chance these conversations might turn to the "spook light."

Locals describe "spook light" as a mysterious visual phenomenon — "a light that just changes shapes and colors and floats around," Seneca resident Gus Starr said.

Reports of the phenomenon date back to the mid-19th century. They originated among residents of a small area around the E50 road on the border between southwest Missouri and Oklahoma.

Today, stories about "spook light" are common in the area. Seneca police officer Sam Charles remembers driving along E50 when the light began following his car, bouncing from tree to tree.

"To see it, you have to be still and quiet; it will come," Seneca resident Roy Lee Hoover suggested. "The quieter you are, the closer it will get."

Locals and scientists have struggled to explain the phenomenon. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studied the phenomenon in 1946, locals say, but couldn't determine a cause.

Some believe the light represents the ghosts of two young lovers from the Quapaw tribe looking for each other.

Others offer a more mundane explanation: that the lights are headlights of cars on Interstate 44. Many disagree with that explanation, though, because descriptions of the lights date from before the highway’s construction.

"They try to say it is swamp gas, but there are no swamps around there, just woods," Charles said. "And I don’t see how it can follow you around, come to you. How do you explain that? It can’t be gas."

Locals claim the lights can still be seen around E50 hiding between trees. If you want to see it, they say, you just have to be patient and quiet.

Appearances of mysterious lights close to the Missouri-Oklahoma border have been reported since the 1800s. The glowing orbs, collectively known as the Spook Light, are commonly reported on East 50 Road in northeast Oklahoma. The video takes place along this stretch of road.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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