Growing up in Alpine, Texas—a tiny town in the part of Texas where the sky is wide and the wild antelopes roam free—Chad’s parents always told him about “his” light. Late one night, his parents were driving home down Route 67, passing field after field, when suddenly, they spotted a light brighter than any star above them. This light seemed to hover at the top of a hill, immobile, but grew in intensity as they drove closer. The next thing they knew, it vanished just as quickly as it had appeared. The following day, the couple found out they were expecting a child, and took the bright light as an omen of the good news to come.
Twenty-seven years later, Chad found himself driving down the same stretch of road on his way to Marfa from California, where he had just picked up his best friend Dean. Dean was about to return to South America where he had been living all year, and this road trip to Marfa was an opportunity for them to catch up and hang like old times. The two friends were listening to the radio, when they noticed a strange light to their right, just next to Dean’s passenger window.
If you’ve ever visited Marfa, then you’re no stranger to unexplained light phenomena. For years now, one of the main attractions in town has been the Marfa lights, lights that appear every night, a few miles east of Marfa, usually around 9 p.m. A lot of people believe these phenomena to be paranormal—either the lights of souls leaving the earth or extraterrestrial beings making themselves known in the middle of the Texas desert. Some more lucid observers have hypothesized that the lights are just reflections of cars’ headlights, or lights formed by gases. Indeed, two separate studies—one in 2004, and one in 2008—concluded that the viewing area of the Marfa lights points toward U.S. 67 and, judging from the pattern and frequency of the lights, the “ghost lights” are simply headlights in the distance.
But the light that was trailing Chad and Dean was something different. Brighter, and in a completely different direction. As they kept on driving, terrified to look directly into the light, they realized that it was keeping pace with them. When Chad accelerated, it accelerated, when he put on the brakes, it too slowed down. After what seemed like an eternity, but was only actually a few minutes, the light started rotating in a perfectly circular motion. Desperate to outrun the trailing light, Chad slammed on the gas, zooming past the ghost town of Valentine and slowing down only when another set of lights came into view—a police car. And just as they came to a stop, excited to happen upon a third witness to the story of the strange light, they realized it had disappeared without a trace.
By this time it was almost morning, and the cop was surely wondering what two panicked dudes were doing racing down the deserted highway at this time. As the cop approached the car, Chad rolled down the window, ready to answer the standard, “Do you know why I stopped you, son?” question. “I’m sorry officer, we were trying to outrun that light that was following us. Did you see it? It’s been following us for miles!” The officer cocked his head to the side and paused for a second and said, “Nevermind, I’ll let you guys go, just be careful the rest of the way.”
In the years since the incident, Chad has asked many farmers, whose homes neighbor that stretch of road, about the light and without fail, all have denied knowledge of it. Maybe it was just their exhaustion, or a reflection of a car in the distance. Or maybe it was that same light Chad’s parents had seen, returning almost three decades later to welcome him home.
—Alix / @alixmcalpine
Artwork by Richard Colman