Over many years, residents and scientists have speculated what causes the mysterious dancing lights around Marfa, Texas. The truly mysterious lights, sometimes called “ghost lights,” only appear a few times a year, but they have been photographed and videotaped, with no apparent simple explanation. It would seem that old common place explanations have run out of steam, stymied by the dances that cannot be explained by reference to tectonic stress or ball lightning. Yes, the lights seem to dance, splitting into two and, after the two separate, coming back together, as in square dancing. But “flying dinosaurs?’ That seems too far fetched, but the idea has at least one merit: It explains why the mysterious lights of Marfa, Texas, appear to dance.
Marfa Lights, at least when they are seen in warmer weather, sometimes display a strange splitting-rejoining behavior, a display that seems to defy scientific explanations. One cryptozoology author, however, Jonathan Whitcomb of California, has come up with the strange idea that those ghost lights are from bioluminescent predators that are hunting a common bat: the Big Brown Bat. Two of the strange flying predators glow brightly in one area, to attract insects. The two then separate for some distance, then turn back and fly back together. During the time those two predators are away, bats may fly into the area where there are more insects. That seems to be about the right time for the two glowing creatures to return and catch the bats, at least according to the cryptozoology author.
The main problem for the cryptozoologist seems to be a lack of eyewitnesses to glowing predators hunting bats in Texas. To his credit, however, his explanation seems to be the only one that explains why the lights separate and come back together.
More strange than that, Whitcomb suggests Marfa Lights are made by the same kind of nocturnal flying creature that is called “ropen” in Papua New Guinea; “strange” comes from what some cryptozoologists believe is the type of animal involved: a long-tailed pterosaur, AKA “flying dinosaur.”
Common barn owls may be responsible for many of the reported “ghost lights” in the United States. According to the nonfiction book author Jonathan Whitcomb, of Long Beach, California, the Gurdon Light of Arkansas, the Ghost Light of Masters Knob (Tennessee), and the Hornet Light of Missouri are all strange flying lights whose behaviors resemble those of Tyto Alba, the barn owl.
The idea that some barn owls have intrinsic bioluminescence is not original with Whitcomb; the Australian Fred Silcock has done extensive research on certain sightings of Min Min lights in Australia. The sightings that especially caught the attention of Silcock were those that suggested hunting barn owls and those in which a glowing barn owl was actually observed.
Whitcomb carried Silcock’s findings over onto the America continent, comparing characteristics of various strange lights. Many of those flying lights were seen over railroad tracks, with the same weaving motions common with barn owls. The conclusion seemed obvious.
But Whitcomb is an author of cryptozoology books about living pterosaurs, not owls. He has explained that a minority of the reports of American ghost lights do not suggest owls but something far stranger. In Marfa, Texas, the mystery lights have fascinated investigators for many years. But the behavior or the lights does not suggest owls but ropens, and that nocturnal flying creature is said to be a living pterosaur of Papua New Guinea. The ropen is not yet classified by Western science but is a cryptid like the Bigfoot and Nessie.
Reports of living pterosaurs in the United States of America are no longer confined to reports from cowboys in ninteenth-century Arizona or a police officer in twentieth-century San Bernito, Texas. According to one cryptozoologist, Jonathan Whitcomb, there may be 1400 eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs seen in the United States, during the past three decades. The problem is this: He does not actually have 1400 reports, but only a tiny fraction of that. He estimates “1400” from the statistics that show that the great majority of eyewitnesses never tell any cryptozoologist about what they have seen.
Where Whitcomb got into trouble was in the possibility of circular reasoning, for other cryptozoologists seem to have taken him into account for his “1400” eyewitnesses. On the other hand, what if he exaggerated, getting ten times too many? Then we would have 140 eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs in the United States. If Whitcomb is correct in his belief that these are nocturnal creatures, then 140 sightings would mean that many pterosaurs could be flying through our skies at night, every night. They would just not be seen every night, at least according to the thinking of that one cryptozoologist.
But regardless of whether there are 140 or 1400 American eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs, why are there so few Americans (or anyone else in the world) who are looking into this?
According to National Geographic, regarding the Marfa Lights (Texas), “Reports often describe brightly glowing basketball sized spheres floating above the ground, or sometimes high in the air.” (Word-for-word National Geographic correlates with Wikipedia here.) Wikipedia adds that skeptics attribute the lights to “mistaken sightings of ordinary nighttime lights, such as distant vehicle lights, ranch lights, or astronomical objects.”
According to Jonathan Whitcomb, author of the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in America, some of the America ghost lights may be from bioluminescent pterosaurs, similar to the ropen of Papua New Guinea. Those flying lights are sometimes seen above mountains, sometimes with a mountain background, and sometimes moving too fast to be from any human source; they are not from vehicle lights (especially where there are neither vehicles nor roads, especially in the sky), astonomical objects (with mountain background), or natives’ flashlights.
The British entomologist Evelyn Cheesman investigated the strange lights she saw deep in the mainland of New Guinea, in the 1930’s. She never was able to come to any conclusion about what caused the lights, although she was sure that they were not from any human origin.
See also “Pterosaur Interpretation of Chessman Sightings.”