James Bunnell. Hunting Marfa Lights. Lacey Publishing Company, 2009

Marfa is a small community in the west of Texas noted for the appearance of strange lights. For some these lights are a paranormal visitation, for others merely the misperception of the lights of distant vehicles. Retired NASA engineer James Bunnell has spent 8 years studying these lights, and concludes that while many can be explained in terms of well understood causes, others are much more puzzling. He has managed to obtain films and/or spectrographical analysis of some of these lights, which seem to rule out some of the more obvious explanations.

What makes this study interesting is that Bunnell has eschewed interpretations in terms of UFOs, paranormal phenomena or even speculative natural phenomena such as earthlights. Instead he has taken the scientific line of trying to discover exactly what the lights are. There are no grand conclusions, some of the spectrographic analysis points to plasma phenomena, others to forms of chemical combustion. Whether these are two aspects of the same phenomenon, or two separate phenomena remains to be determined. Another group of lights seem to be produced by nocturnal mirages.

By establishing remote monitoring stations in various locales in the general area, well removed from much light pollution he has been able to observe and photograph a wide range of rare atmospheric phenomena, including a very rare photograph of a blue jet lightning event, as well as several examples of 'sprites', meteorites and some other events which seem to relate to uncatalogued phenomena including a couple of more classically ufological nocturnal lights (again Bunnell does not claim these represent alien spaceships) as well as observations on the local nocturnal wildlife.

This study perhaps gives us an idea of what a scientific ufology might actually look like. It would be great to see this expanded on a proper professional basis, "the atmospheric rare events survey" or some such, with large numbers of sophisticated web cams in remote places away from light pollution, and to document these before light pollution becomes universal.


  1. Very informative post. I don't believe that marfa lights can be seen but in my next vacation surely visit this place. Texas is a good place. Don't miss the sun-soaked sands of the Bombay beach. for more details refer Marfa Lights

  2. Anonymous18.4.10

    I have read Bunnell's book, "Hunting Marfa Lights." He has done some marvelous work over the years of his investigation. What still puzzles him and many others, however, are those Marfa Lights that seem to dance in strange interactive behaviors. A new hypothesis explains this.

    One dance-like movement of two Marfa Lights involves a separation, when the two lights move away from each other and then change direction and come back together. The explanation is simple but revolutionary, for the new hypothesis is that bioluminescent predators are attracting bats indirectly.

    See the full story:


    The species of predator may be related to the "ropen" of Papua New Guinea, although this animal is still only a cryptid, not yet officially classified in Western science.

    The nocturnal predators may use their bioluminescent glow to attract insects which attract the Big Brown Bat that is common in this part of Texas, if I undersand correctly. The predators eat the bats (not the insects).

    Why are these unclassified bioluminescent flying creatures not revealed in video footage? The brilliance of their glow washing out ordinary video. Unfortunately, the equipment needed (high-quality thermal imagining) costs about $100,000, if I have been informed correctly.

    Jonathan Whitcomb, cryptozoologist

  3. Anonymous23.6.10

    I just returned from a Texas trip and Marfa was a stop for me and my family. I find it hard to believe that it is farce, because no one is there making money on it. They do NOT look like car lights. I witnessed them in many colors, sizes and patterns. In conclusion I have no idea what they are other than another great mystery.
    There is a lot of beauty and history in west Texas and I would encourage anyone to go.
    Tom From Peru Indiana.

  4. The Marfa lights have had many sightings and can be seen on home movie videos at Youtube as well. The first sighitng was recorded in the 50's but the sightings belive to go back to the 1800's. Also a trip to Marfa Texas inlcuding a stay over at Big Bend makes for a great Texas trip.