By JOHN STOFFLETThere's something in the air near Waterville, Washington – mysterious lights no one can explain, or perhaps now a scientist in Australia can?
"It was so mysterious, and then we found out later that other people were seeing it, mostly the farmers out in the fields," said Mabel Knowles.
"No one could explain this. It wasn't rational, but it was real," said Dick Osborne.
Are eerie lights seen over an Eastern Washington town UFO's, ghostly spirits, or has one professor a world away found a scientific answer to the mystery of the spooklights?
On late summer nights over the years, many people in and around the small farming town of Waterville have seen unusual lights flitting around the sky.
"We knew it wasn't an airplane, because it darted around, it would hover around the house, then it would dart another place and go somewhere else, then pretty soon it would come back," described Mabel. "So then it just acquired the name of spooklight and that's what several people have called it since then because we just were spooked. We didn't know what it was."
"Just a light appearing out of nowhere, with nothing around it, able to travel at high speeds, maneuver in 90-degree angles. It could streak away, reappear, transfer to the next hill," said Dick. "It was like something from a space movie that you'd see on TV."
People all over the world have seen and apparently photographed similar mysterious lights. They've appeared in places like Norway, Texas, Missouri, and Canada.
At North Carolina's Brown Mountain and in Marfa, Texas, the government even erected signs acknowledging the presence of the lights.
Spar Giedeman said he photographed an odd light near Mount Adams.
"It just disappeared and faded out," he said. "I sure would like to know what it was. I've wondered all these years."
There have been a number of eyewitnesses over the years. Clearly, there is something out there. But what? Is it something supernatural? A UFO? The spirit of a dead person? A top secret government aircraft no one' s talking about? Or perhaps it's something completely natural.
One scientific theory is that spooklights are some type of electrical energy or are somehow related to seismic activity below the surface.
A brand-new study by Professor Jack Pettigrew of Australia's University of Queensland might have an answer to the origin of our spooklights, which Downunder are called min-min lights.
They've been known to baffle ranchers in the outback, the way spooklights have baffled farmers near Waterville.
Prof. Pettigrew thinks he's found what causes Australia's version of the lights. On some days when there's a temperature inversion, when warm air traps cooler air below it, light coming from things like car headlights, fires, the moon, or whatever, can bounce around in strange ways. The source of the light can be hundreds of miles away, beyond the horizon, but the observer sees it as an eerie mirage that seems to be close by.
The descriptions Dick Osborne and Mabel Knowles give sound similar to the lights Prof. Pettigrew researched in Australia and seems to have explained. His theory might even explain some of the UFO sightings in the Northwest over the years.
Whether the source of spooklights is supernatural or simply natural, folks around Waterville who've seen them say they'll never forget them.
"This is beyond anything I've ever witnessed or been part of, because there was no explanation and nobody could ever explain to me," said Dick.
Dick says one summer when the spooklights were particularly common, there were a lot more traffic accidents than usual on the highway outside of Waterville. He thinks maybe the drivers saw spooklights, were distracted, and drove off the road.
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See Also: UFO Photographed Over Washington State