Baffling Phenomenon of Flying Orbs

Most ufologists are keenly aware of the frequent reports of what people often refer to as “orbs” which lacks much clarity. The term is frequently used to describe objects that turn out to be anything from Chinese lanterns to ball plasma and even aircraft navigation lights.

The term is also used to describe lens flares created from pointing cameras towards a bright light source, an out of focus light, and is also a dust particle that floats in front of a camera with a bright light seen in ghost investigations.

According to, there exists another class of objects that science has yet to fully explain which seem to be a naturally recurring phenomena that are seen in certain geographic areas with increased frequencies (almost nightly) than the objects previously mentioned.

In 1973, Piedmont, Missouri experienced a rash of sightings of luminous phenomena and documented by Dr. Harley Rutledge in his book, Project Identification. Dr. Rutledge had a team conduct a field study over a period of years, capturing scientific data, video and photographic evidence in the hopes of learning more about its nature. His summary report of these lights are consistent with other observations in other areas.

Missouri was not the only location that experienced this phenomena in 1973. In Cloverdale, Alabama, a small town located in the northwestern part of Alabama, similar lights were being seen almost nightly and appeared to be balls of luminous lights of varying colors.

One of many time-lapsed photos of an Earthlight. Credit:

Residents saw these objects so frequently that they just ignore them – “it’s those dang lights again”. The Cloverdale phenomena continues to appear even today. Wyatt Cox, a former native of the area, now residing in South Carolina has documented and classified many hundreds of sightings that him a friend observed in his book, Spooklights, The Amazing Cloverdale, Alabama Spooklight Mystery.

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Wyatt has done an excellent job in creating a classification system for the variations seen (e.g., colors tend to be blue, yellow/orange, white). The lights vary in size, speed and duration based on the colors noted.

White lights are generally seen during warmer months, where yellow/orange lights tend to be seen during cooler months (October through April). The Spooklights, now referred to as “Earthlights” by Wyatt, tend to be 8 foot in diameter (the blue and white ones are 2-4 feet in diameter), travel in straight line paths (east to west or reversed), and can be at ground level and rise to altitudes of several thousand feet. They move at 20 mph, but can also stop and then proceed in their path.

The lights can go out and then come back on as they proceed on their path and they generally disappear by fading out.

William Corliss has done an excellent job of categorizing, referencing and even illustrating the myriads of types of luminous phenomena observed on the earth. Both Corliss as well as Cox see these objects as naturally occurring phenomena, not alien spacecraft.

They are very similar to the lights in Hessdalen, Norway, the Marfa Lights, the Paulding Lights, Crossett Lights, Gurdon Lights and dozens of other areas around the globe and it this author’s opinion that it can explain a vast number of UFO sightings even outside of these geographic areas reported by witnesses as “orbs”.

So, what are these “Spooklights?” And where are they observed?

According to, spooklights are generally described as very bright pulsating balls or orbs of light that suddenly appear and disappear and while in view, they sometimes hover or float across grassy fields or above the trees.

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They are completely silent, they are unaffected by the wind, and are usually observed between sunset and sunrise. They can be in plain view for just a few seconds or up to eight minutes. Some are perhaps two-to-three feet in diameter and some are much larger.

While Spooklights seem to be a rare natural phenomenon, researchers and scientists have yet to reach a consensus as to what they actually are and how they are produced. Yet, it is truly an amazing experience to actually observe one of these bright orbs float across fields or above the trees.

There are several theories suggested to explain what produces these large and bright orbs. One theory that has gained considerable acceptance is there are unique subterranean geological conditions which produce substantial underground electrical currents flowing beneath the surface.

While not fully understood, this electrical energy and the other unique geological features of the area produce these strange orbs directly above the current flow.

A mysterious light of unknown origin on the backroads of Missouri.

What we do know and have reasons to suspect is,

1) there is a geological fault line (seems stable yet “active”),

2) there is a large amount of underground “sulfur water,”

3) considerable quantity of low-grade iron ore and quartz in the soil/clay near the surface and

4) appears there are quantities methane gas (sometimes called swamp gas) in the Cloverdale area.

These minerals with the subterranean water containing sulfur inside an active geological fault zone are believed to be capable of producing electrical energy that flows inside the geological fault line.

This phenomenon is believed to produce enough voltage and current to electrically charge pockets of air or possibly methene gas that has chemically reacted to the sulfur.

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These pockets of electrically charged air or gas, pulsate based on the frequency of the electrical currents and their movements are dictated by the electrical fields produced by the flowing currents.

There are several locations in the United States where “Spooklights” (aka Earthlights) have been observed. These locations include, Marfa, Texas, Brown Mountain, North Carolina, Gurdon, Arkansas, and Joplin, Missouri.

It seems to me one of the better locations to observe one of these large pulsating orbs is right here in Lauderdale county near Cloverdale, Waterloo, and St. Florian. One of the locations Spooklights have been observed on several occasions is on State Road 272 which is a short distance from Cloverdale.

Of course these are just theories. It is entirely possible that this phenomenon has a much more interesting explanation.

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