The Ozark Spooklight – Joplin, Missouri - Atlas Obscura

Known variously as the Ozark Spook Light, the Hornet Ghost Light, the Joplin Ghost Light, the Devil’s Jack-O’-Lantern, and the Tri-State Spook Light it is, like the many other “will-o-wisps” lights, a mysterious glowing orb that has appeared regularly on this back road since approximately 1881, though some say it has been spotted by natives long before then.

No one knows for sure what it is, but some possible explanations are escaping natural gas, and a luminescence created by rotting organic matter. The most likely explanation, one that fits with many of the mysterious lights seen around the world, is also the most straightforward: reflected car lights which can only be seen at a certain angle and area, the moving car making it seem as if the light is moving. Though in this case “the first “official” report appeared in 1881 in a publication called the Ozark Spook Light, long before cars were driving down the road.

There are as many rumors surrounding the Ozark spooklight as it has names. It is variously the torch of a beheaded Quapaw or Osage Indian, searching for his head, the spirits of a young Quapaw couple who were in love but forbidden to marry because the man did not have a large enough dowry and leapt into Spring River to their deaths, the spirit of a miner decapitated in a mining accident and carrying a lantern searching for his head, the spirit of a Confederate sergeant killed by cannon fire who is searching for HIS head, or the spirit of a miner searching for his children kidnapped by Indians.

Though there used to be a Spooklight Musuem, it has since been shut down, though the building with the sign still remains on the road.

Know Before You Go

Spooklight Road is eleven miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri, just past the village of Hornet, in the area where Missouri borders Oklahoma and Kansas. The light is most commonly described as being visible from inside the Oklahoma border looking to the west


- Take Interstate 44 west of Joplin, Missouri and then take the Route 43 Exit and go south
- Turn onto Coyote Road (Right) off Route 43 and pass through Hornet
- Take another right onto Gum Road
- Take Left onto State Line Road
- Take the first Right to what is called "Spook Light Road"
- You'll likely see markings on the road where people park and watch for the light

This is only a four-mile stretch of road that extends into Oklahoma. At a dip in the road, park your vehicle. There will be a field on your right side, facing left. This is the best location and you should see a slight rise ahead of you to the west and a much steeper hill behind you. Be sure to park your vehicle as far to the side of the road as you can (we suggest turning around with your car facing back toward Missouri) and watch out for any oncoming cars. Be careful and stay on the road so that you are not trespassing.

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