Marfa Mystery Lights garner attention of locals, tourists

Aug. 13—The Marfa Mystery Lights are often a local legend with strong opinions on whether the phenomena actually exists or not.

Nonetheless, each year, thousands of tourists pass through the region not only to take part in Marfa's burgeoning art scene or visit the majestic Big Bend National Park, but to catch a glimpse of the mysterious orbs that dance above the desert.

First recorded in 1883 by a cowhand named Robert Reed Ellison, the lights were originally thought the be Native American campfires or ranch house lights, but explanations quickly grew to the paranormal after no such evidence for discarded campsites were found.

By popular belief, the lights are often attributed to UFO's, will-o'-the-wisps, moonlight glinting off of mineral deposits or the ghosts of Spanish conquistadors searching for gold. After scientific visits from University of Texas at Dallas in 2004 and Texas State University in 2008, their findings showed the lights to be caused by motorists driving down U.S. Highway 67.

Regardless of the cause, many who know of the mystery lights are still influenced by the phenomena, with references appearing in songs such as The Rolling Stones' "No Spare Parts" and Paul Cauthen's "Marfa Lights" or influencing TV shows like "The Simpsons" and "Unsolved Mysteries."

Thom Dandridge, who travels across the United States with his wife Judy, said of the lights: "It was enough to spark people's interest. Otherwise they (tourists) wouldn't have been there as long as they have." Thom and Judy Dandridge, who live in Baker, Fla., travel around the county and use drums to help provide spiritual healing.