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What is the Spook Light in Hornet, Missouri?

The Spook Light is a phenomenon that sends chills down the spines of even the bravest individuals. Think you can handle it? 

If you’re crazy enough, a trip down a dirt lane in Northeast Oklahoma might be in order. However, this frightening drive isn’t for the faint of heart.

Today, we’ll try to make sense of the nightmare-inducing Spook Light in Missouri.

Let’s hit the road!

Photo of a lighted pumpkin. We're pretty sure the Spook Light isn't a glowing Jack O'Lantern.
We’re pretty sure the Spook Light isn’t a glowing Jack O’Lantern

About the Spook Light

Many describe the Spook Light as an orange glowing ball. They claim it travels east to west along a road nicknamed by locals as Devi’s Promenade. Some call it the Joplin Spook Light, while others refer to it as the Tri-State Spook Light. Whatever name you prefer, Hornet, Missouri, provides the best view.

Legend states that the first sightings of the oddity were from Indigenous Americans in 1836 during the Trails of Tears. But there were no official reports until 1881, when a publication titled The Ozark Spook Light was released.

It’s often described as a fireball that varies in size. Some believe it’s as big as a baseball, and others say it’s more like a basketball. It’ll dance, spin, and hover along the road and above the treetops. Others even report seeing it move from side to side. Folks as far as Joplin, Missouri, approximately 12 miles away, have reported spotting the mysterious beam.

It makes its nightly appearance between ten o’clock and midnight. However, it can shy away if large groups or loud noises are present. If you make the trip, approach the scene quietly and in small numbers. After all, you don’t want to ruin your chance to witness the Spook Light.

Where Is the Spook Light?

The Spook Light is an enigma that haunts the Missouri-Oklahoma border. While many refer to it as being in Hornet, Missouri, it’s also closely associated with Joplin, Missouri, and Quapaw, Oklahoma. If you want to see it, hop in your vehicle and head to the Devil’s Promenade Road at night.

This stretch of road is in the Ozark Mountains. It’s a remote, desolate route that’s several miles long. It has rugged terrain, dense forests, and few houses. The landscape adds to the chilling atmosphere that brave, hopeful visitors experience.

Accessing the Devil’s Promenade is relatively easy. All you do is take I-44 west out of Joplin. Just before you cross the Oklahoma border, you’ll exit the interstate onto State Route 43. From there, you’ll head south for four or five miles. The street comes to a crossroads, which is the ominous Devil’s Promenade Road. Turn onto it and start looking into the distance.

Get in the mood by sharing some scary stories: Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror.

Can the Spook Light Be Explained?

This phenomenon has no defined explanation, making it even more chilling. Various paranormal and scientific investigators have taken the time to look into it. We even discovered claims that the Army Corps of Engineers has studied it. But there’s still no logical answer to where it comes from.

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, several theories exist. Some state it’s natural gas escaping from the ground, and others believe it comes from cars or billboards. 

That said, none of these hypotheses are enough to convince the masses. Opponents state the Spook Light was visible well before vehicles and billboards littered the horizon.

With no clear source, some folks look to ghostly legends to understand the paranormal activity. One of these spooky tales dates back to a Quapaw Native who fell in love. Sadly, her father forbade the marriage. 

Despite his wishes, the two ran off and eloped. After being chased by warriors, the couple joined hands and jumped into the Spring River. Unfortunately, nobody ever saw them again. Those who tell this tale believe the Spook Light represents the spirits of these young lovers.

Another account claims it’s the spirit of a miner who discovered Indigenous people had ransacked his cabin. His wife and children were missing, and he grabbed his lantern and set off to find them. Many believe the phantom light is this man desperately searching for his lost family.

Unique Places to Explore Near the Spook Light

While we may never know the origins of the Spook Light, it can’t hurt to check it out for yourself. But as you wait for nightfall, here are a few nearby attractions to explore.

George Washington Carver National Monument

George Washington Carver was one of America’s most influential agricultural scientists and educators. The museum portion of the monument features exhibits and artifacts that showcase his incredible life.

You can experience everything from his early life as an enslaved individual to becoming a highly regarded leader. Be sure to interact with the displays and multimedia presentations. Take a self-guided hike along Carver Trail or participate in the ranger-led guided tour. You’ll learn more than you ever imagined about this incredible man.

Wildcat Glades and Grand Falls

Wildcat Glades and Grand Falls are two attractions near the Spook Light. They’re close enough to each other that it’s easy to check out both in a single visit. 

Wildcat Glades is a conservation area and nature center with much to offer. You’ll find miles of walking trails, wildlife viewing sites, and educational exhibits for all ages.

In addition, Grand Falls is a part of Shoal Creek and only a few minutes from the nature center. Its claim to fame is its status as Missouri’s largest continuously flowing natural waterfall. It flows 12 feet down a 163-foot-wide ledge. While there aren’t any facilities, you can swim at the base. Just be careful and stay out of the water after heavy rainfall.

Cunningham Park

Cunningham Park is the perfect place for families to spend time. It features two playgrounds, three shelters, a basketball court, an aquatic center, and a walking trail. Bring a picnic lunch and let the kids burn off some energy exploring this incredible communal space.

Although the greenway is beautiful, the story behind it is heartbreaking. 

It’s been a popular community gathering place since the early 1900s. However, on May 22, 2011, a massive EF-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri. The tornado destroyed the original park, and 158 lives were lost. Today, you can visit the May 2011 Tornado Memorial and pay your respects.

Plan your Missouri travels: 9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Missouri.

A photo of Grand Falls, which is near the Spook Light location
Take some time to visit Grand Falls

Best Places to Stay Near the Spook Light

Since you’ll need to stay up late to see Spook Light, you’ll want a place to stay. Here are a few of the best options to call home during your visit.

Joplin KOA

The Joplin KOA sits conveniently off Exit 4 on I-44. They have about 75 sites that cater to both tent and RV campers. Their spots are a maximum of 80’ long, so there’s room for even the largest rigs.

When you’re not exploring the area, there’s lots to do at the campground. Feel free to swim in the pool, cast a line in their catch-and-release fishing pond, or play horseshoes. You’ll have so much fun that you won’t want to leave.

Would you rather boondock? 6 Best Free Camping Spots In Missouri.

The Old Riverton Post Bed and Breakfast

Jim and Kristi Adams have run The Old Riverton Post Bed and Breakfast since 2018. You’ll have two queen bedrooms, a bathroom, and a small sofa bed. Each morning, guests receive a continental breakfast with wrapped pastries and fruit. Coffee and juice are also available.

The decorations are on point because the room is only a few blocks from historic Route 66. You’ll find vintage signs and whimsical memorabilia throughout the home. That said, the decorations are tasteful and not in your face.

Homewood Suites 

Book a room at the local Homewood Suites for a more hotel-like stay. They offer a complimentary hot breakfast, WiFi, and an indoor pool. 

The hotel sits in the center of Joplin, making it easy to access the Spook Light and other fun attractions. You’ll also have plenty of food, shopping, and other entertainment options nearby.

Is a Spook Light Road Trip Worth It?

While we may not be able to explain it, the Spook Light is worth visiting. Legendary spots like this one are always fun to explore, and they make for entertaining stories to share with others. 

Who knows, maybe you’ll uncover what causes this mysterious phenomenon. But don’t hold your breath. After all, it’s occurred for over a century, and no one knows the truth!

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