Some people call them earth lights, others spooklights, and ghost lanterns. Whatever they are called, they have baffled people for hundreds of years when wandering the woods or back roads and finding floating lights not attached to any explainable human creation. The history on some of these lights goes back to being incorporated in Native American legends.
In Missouri, on the Oklahoma border, there is a spooklight referred to by a few names, such as Hornet Spooklight, but most popularly by "Devil's Promenade."
Since the 19th century, this light has appeared continually. Reportedly, in the 1940s, the Army Corps of Engineers could not find the cause and deemed it an unexplained light.
Source: Aficionados say the best chances for spotting the light occur after dark when parked on Oklahoma East 50 Road, four miles south of the three state junction of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma in Ottawa County, Oklahoma and looking to the west. You must sit very silently. The light has been seen in backyards of the area and has been spotted both near to and far away from sightseers. Its color is also not consistent: some eyewitnesses report a greenish glow while others describe it as orange, red, yellow, or even blue. It is almost always said to be in the shape of a ball, although some say it more resembles a camping lantern travelling a couple of feet off the ground.
There have been lots of attempts at explaining the lights including that they are the car lights from people driving on Rt 66. One of the biggest problems with this concept is, how the heck were the lights there since the 1800s before cars?
Brown Mountain Lights are found on Brown Mountain in North Carolina. The first officially documented report of seeing them was in 1913. Some tried to explain it as car lights or train lights, but following floods that washed away car bridges, and made the trains cease running, the lights were still seen.
The Marfa Lights are one of the most popularly visited sites in Marfa, Texas. Once again, these lights were longstanding and reported since the 19th Century. In an uninhabited and hard to traverse area outside of town, lights danced above the horizon and were first reported by ranchers in the area.
These mystery lights are sometimes red, sometimes blue, and other times white. They continue to baffle to this day.
Paulding Light is found in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It's been reported since the 1960s. Some studies of it say that it is likely the lights from a car in the distance. The legends include a railroad brakeman who died trying to prevent a collision and for all eternity carries a lantern to protect from other collisions, the ghost of a murdered mail carrier, and the ghost of an Indian dancing on the power lines.
Big Thicket Light is seen in East Texas in Hardin County on Bragg Road and, although some have debunked it as car lights, there is an interesting aside to this. In my years of Bigfoot research, I have repeatedly heard from people about strange lights in the woods. These look like a flashlight or a lantern and when they try to chase them down, they cannot seem to capture the source. The Big Thicket area is one of the most light-active sites I have run across in the research. In fact, I have advised Bigfoot researchers in this region to keep their eyes open for lights in the woods and try some experiments.
Traditionally, these kinds of lights were seen by citizens around the world and called "will-o'-the-wisp." A true will-o'-the-wisp is seen over bogs, marshes, and swamps. Natural odd lights have been seen for centuries, long before car lights and train lights. Some of the local legends include ghosts with lanterns.
(Wikipedia) A peasant traveling home at dusk sees a bright light traveling along ahead of him. Looking closer, he sees that the light is a lantern held by a “dusky little figure”, which he follows for several miles. All of a sudden he finds himself standing on the edge of a vast chasm with a roaring torrent of water rushing below him. At that precise moment the lantern-carrier leaps across the gap, lifts the light high over its head, lets out a malicious laugh and blows out the light, leaving the poor peasant a long way from home, standing in pitch darkness at the edge of a precipice. This is a fairly common cautionary tale concerning the phenomenon; however, the ignis fatuus was not always considered dangerous. There are some tales told about the will-o’-the-wisp being guardians of treasure, much like the Irish leprechaun leading those brave enough to follow them to sure riches. Other stories tell of travelers getting lost in the woodland and coming upon a will-o’-the-wisp, and depending on how they treated the will-o’-the-wisp, the spirit would either get them lost further in the woods or guide them out.
The Maco Light in North Carolina is one of the types of spooklights with legend attached to a haunting. Just west of Wilmington in the Maco Station train tracks area, ghost lights are seen. In fact, President Grover Cleveland saw them in 1889. The legend says that in 1867, a signalman was sleeping in the caboose of a train. He woke up when he felt it jerk. He recognized that the caboose was detaching from the rest of the train. He panicked when he realized that adrift on the track, another train would be arriving and hit it. He needed to signal the oncoming train. He waved a lantern frantically from the back of the caboose, hoping to catch the eye of the oncoming train. Even though the train was able to slow down, it still rear-ended the caboose and decapitated the signalman. His head landed in a swamp, but they buried his body with honors for his bravery. The legend says that the headless signalman walks around with a ghostly lantern looking for his head.
I'll be honest, this doesn't work for me on many levels, but especially that he would need a lantern to find his head which means he would have eyes to spot his head on the ground and would need a light to see his way....
In my home state of Virginia, we have the Cahoke Lights in West Point, VA along the Cahoke train track crossroads. There are two legends and interestingly one of them is a headless railroad worker. The other legend is about a missing train of injured war soldiers.
What are spooklights? It's hard to make a sweeping statement on that because, like all sounds are not ghosts, all lights are not unexplained. Some of the unexplained lights are written off as car lights, train lights, lights caused by ghosts, lights caused by natural earth occurrences include ignition of gases, airborne minerals being lit by ambient light, electrical disturbances along fault lines, and other assorted swamp gas-related concepts.
Major listing of lights
Debunking of Big Thicket Lights
Theories about lights