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The Hornet Spooklight

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Hornet Spooklight

Probably the least-known and most enigmatic of Missouri’s natural phenomena is the Hornet Spooklight, which makes its eerie presence visible somewhere in the distance at the end of a heavily wooded, gravel road known as Devil’s Promenade in northwestern Newton County, three miles from the Oklahoma state line.

The light – a bright orange-to-white colored ball – changes in size, position and personality. It can appear as a steady beacon. It may appear to bounce and move around. It has been known to chase buses full of terrified passengers. In the late 1940s, a group of young men decided to douse the light with their rifles. The light moved with every shot fired.

The Spooklight is rarely seen from Oklahoma, viewing eastward. Its first mentions came from the Cherokee, while traveling the infamous Trail of Tears in 1836. During World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers spent two weeks conducting scientific experiments in an effort to explain the source of the light, and perhaps gain some technological advantage from the knowledge. The US Army left Missouri, completely baffled.

Carloads of people, mostly adolescents, have parked along the narrow gravel roadway of Devil’s Promenade for decades, trying to stare-down the mysterious orb, which can bound up and down the road at high speeds, rise high above the trees, or bounce like a basketball.

Devil’s Promenade (or Spooklight Road) is accessed by going three miles west of Joplin on Interstate 44, then four miles south on Route 43 past the settlement of Hornet. About three more miles of Missouri P-gravel puts one in view of the Spooklight, which is best seen in clear weather between the hours of 10:00 PM and midnight.
– Paul E. Jackson, Sr.

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