Has the Origin of the Mysterious Marfa Lights Been Found at Last?

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The mysterious Marfa Lights have been seen in west Texas since the 1840s. The strange, hovering orbs are most often spotted between the small town of Marfa and the area called Paisano Pass, often witnessed by drivers on Highway 90. The mystery has intrigued and baffled researchers for over 150 years, but did one man discover the lights’ origin point while living in a ghost town?

The lights were first seen by wagon trains from Ojinaga, Mexico, headed to San Antonio in the 1840s. In 1883, cowboy J. E. Ellison witnessed a strange light while on a cattle drive to Marfa. While skeptics regard modern eyewitness reports as cases of misidentifying car headlights, these 19th-century reports are obviously impossible to dismiss with such an explanation.

Has the Origin of the Mysterious Marfa Lights Been Found at Last?

Photo: Three Sisters Mountain by Max McNabb

An official viewing center stands along US-90 where visitors gather nightly for the chance of seeing the lights for themselves. Looking out toward the southwest from the viewing center, you’re staring toward the Chinati mountains and the ghost town of Shafter. This abandoned silver mining community is the only town in the Chinatis. A handful of residents still live in this lonely place, and Sacred Heart Catholic Mission Church, built in 1890, still stands just off US-67. Scenes from the 1971 science fiction movie The Andromeda Strain were filmed at the church in Shafter, and a few movie fans will make an occasional pilgrimage to take photos there. Most of the structures in the town are found at the base of Three Sisters, a tri-peaked mountain looming above Shafter. Located not far from the ghost town is the entrance to Cibola Creek Ranch, where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016.

It was in the ghost town of Shafter that one man believed he discovered the origin of the Marfa Lights. Jack Reed first witnessed the lights in the Chinatis from a distance when he was a young boy, but after moving to Shafter as an adult, he saw them up close and personal on numerous occasions. The lights even caused his car to die several times. He told his story to Judith M. Brueske, Ph.D., whose book The Marfa Lights is invaluable to any researcher. “When I first got to [Shafter],” Reed said, “it was kind of exciting to me, you know, and I started watching them. They walk up the side of the mountain, here and there and I’ve seen them around close to homes, standing around.”

Has the Origin of the Mysterious Marfa Lights Been Found at Last?

Photo: Sacred Heart Catholic Mission Church by Max McNabb

Jack Reed said that when people are watching from the viewing area on US-90, they are “looking at Shafter when they’re looking at [the lights]. That’s where they’re coming from.” A quick consultation of a map shows that this part of Reed’s story is most likely accurate.

Reed believed the ultimate origin point of the Marfa Lights was on Three Sisters Mountain, where the lights rose from a hole and vanished back into it. However, exactly what Reed meant by “hole” is up for debate, because when Brueske asked if he meant an old mining shaft, Reed gave her definite “no.” Reed described the lights as “capsule-shaped” with a height of about six feet, usually emitting a brilliant white light.

Has the Origin of the Mysterious Marfa Lights Been Found at Last?

Photo: Main Street, Marfa by Max McNabb

Some readers may laugh at the final part of Reed’s story, though others may find it chilling. While living in Shafter, Reed formed an explanation for what he believed the lights to be. In the rich history of folklore surrounding the lights, there’s nothing unusual about attributing intelligence to the orbs. Many witnesses have done so over the years, and supernatural elements often play a role in the legends. However, Reed takes this one step further. “The Bible says that Satan made himself a light and that his ministers are also light,” Reed told Brueske. “And in the Bible they’re suppose to form a false Christ and bring him back in the sky, and I think this is what they’re working on…” Reed apparently believed the Marfa Lights were demonic entities, disembodied spirits manifesting in our dimension. Just when you thought the Marfa Lights couldn’t get any spookier!

This writer has personally visited the ghost town of Shafter. The trip was a fascinating experience, although it was made during daylight hours due to the town’s proximity to the Mexican border. Those wanting to visit the origin point of the lights for themselves should be mindful of Shafter’s close location to the border and that Three Sisters Mountain contains dangerous mine shafts, many of which are abandoned, as well as a healthy population of Mojave rattlesnakes. Be respectful of private property at all times. If you choose to look for the Marfa Lights from the viewing center instead, it’s a good idea to bring binoculars for those lights that appear in the far distance on the desert floor. Also, don’t mistake the cars passing in and out of view along US-67 in the southwest for genuine Marfa Lights, as many uninformed tourists tend to do.