Cars, Trucks, SUVs, and Even Motorcycles Explain This Wild West Texas Phenomenon

There have always been tails of unexplained events. Mysteries, legends, and myths that are deeply rooted in region and culture. But it turns out that cars, trucks, SUVs, and even motorcycles could explain this wild West Texas phenomenon––the Marfa lights.

A couple standing under the Marfa Lights festival banner during the yearly marf lights festival.
Elena Hernandez And Ben Campos Enjoy The Marfa Lights Festival In Downtown Marfa, Texas | Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A Texas town steeped in history 

the desert landscape surrounding Marfa, Texas at sunset
desert landscape in Marfa Texas | Visit Marfa

Marfa, Texas. Some name it among the last frontiers left in the Wild West. People visit Marfa for a number of reasons. It’s home to the minimalist art installations by the artist, Donald Judd. 

It’s also the place where the famous film, Giant, was created. This sprawling little Texas town dates back to the railroad days, and lies nestled between the the Davis Mountains in the north, Chisos Mountains in the southeast and then the Chinati Mountains that rise up in the southwest. 

The town of Marfa itself rests on what’s called the Marfa Plateau. This altitude of 4,830 feet above sea level makes the perfect vantage point for viewing the mysterious Marfa lights. But what are they? Are they really cars, trucks, SUVs, and even motorcycles? 

What are the Marfa Lights? 

Some say they are UFOs. Others claim that they are the ghosts of fallen Native American warriors. There are also people who believe the lights are the spirits of Spanish conquistadors, long dead. 

There are many stories and accounts of the mysterious lights from the 1800s. However, according to an article in Texas Monthly, the first known written story of the mysterious Marfa lights is in 1945. Many Marfa lights enthusiasts cite the story of a cowboy named Robert Ellison, who supposedly saw the lights in 1883.  

But when more research was done for the story in Texas Monthly back in 2006, it was discovered that there aren’t actually any written accounts of this in Ellison’s manuscripts. In May 2004, a group of students from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) went out there to run some experiments. After the tests they ran, they scientifically concluded that the mysterious Marfa lights weren’t UFO’s. In fact, they were cars, trucks, SUVs, and even motorcycles

Are the Marfa Lights real? 

a night drive in the desert
A car drives down a desert road | Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There’s a view center for the Marfa lights. It’s out on U.S. 90, around nine miles from the city of Marfa. There’s a sign that reads “Marfa Mystery Lights Viewing Center.” Hopeful onlookers drive up there and park, waiting excitedly to witness the miracle of Marfa’s mystery lights. 

One thing is certain. The lights are real. And they are seemingly inexplicable.

The lights are most often seen appearing in the direction of the Chinati Mountains, between Marfa and Paisano Pass. Coincidentally, this is exactly where U.S. 67 zig-zags up toward the mountains in steady switchbacks. 

Cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles… probably

It’s all but concluded that the lights are motorized vehicles out there on U.S. 67. But there are other explanations, too. And there actually isn’t one widely accepted scientific explanation.

 
In fact, according to Live Science, there are other scientific theories that say the lights are a specific type of mirage. Still, other scientists believe the lights are swamp gases igniting in the semiarid desert landscape. So, while it’s generally understood that the Marfa Mystery lights are cars, trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles, it’s possible that they could really be anything. Because nothing is proven, right?