Copyright 2010 Jonathan Whitcomb (Reproduce no more than the first three paragraphs, unless given permission to reproduce more. And please link to this page. Thank you. The following is no joke, although the findings have yet to be verified scientifically.)
Remember your worst nightmare? Were you glad to wake up? Be grateful. In the early morning hours of February 23, 2010, a few miles or so southwest of Marfa, Texas, the victims were terrified by what awakened them. I am not the eyewitness, but a few days after this event, I interviewed my friend James, who had been driving through Southern Texas; he had stopped at the Marfa Lights viewing platform to see whatever he could.
James did not actually see the carnage. In fact, the attack I am about to describe might be only in my imagination; my critics could surely accuse me of dreaming. Indeed, my friend saw only strange lights, flying above the fields where countless spectators, for many years, have observed the dancing Marfa Lights. But this night was different.
What could be worse than any nightmare? In the dead of night, you are awakened by what you fear most, glaring down at you. To humans, this monster should not even exist except in a dream. This one is real. Race out of your bedroom; it’s after you. Race out the front door; it follows. Search for a place to hide; it’s too late. You are exposed, surrounded by many monsters ready to feast. You have fallen into their trap. Your family is scattered, chased across the freezing countryside. You are alone. You are Eptesicus fuscus, a Big Brown Bat.
Marfa Lights, Strange Predators, and Bats
I dare not now describe to you, in detail, this attacker . . . not yet; it requires an introduction that includes the behavior of Marfa Lights. How they fly gives us no direct clue to the appearance of what causes them (yes, I believe they are physical things that glow). But the apparent dancing of those lights, their complex interactions with each other—that shows us they are more than just lights, and the glow and the motions may serve a purpose.
Why would one of the lights seem to divide in two? After dividing, the two lights separate, flying away from each other. They then turn back and fly towards each other, to the place where they divided. This pattern has repeated itself for years. But why? No explanation that involves inanimate objects seems even close to adequate. (I have spoken with a scientist who has investigated Marfa Lights for years and he is still puzzled by them.)
According to Sherlock Holmes, when the impossible has been eliminated, whatever is left, however improbable, is the answer. Marfa residents instinctively recognize an intelligence behind the dancing behavior. Don’t sing their lyrics of ghosts or demons, even if the human residents are serious about spooks (which is doubtful) and even if they want the mystery solved (most of them don’t). But we who have seen videos and read and heard descriptions of the light-splittings, separations, and reunions—we must recognize, for the sake of reason, what is left: intelligent direction of those dancing lights. Instead of dancing ghosts or demons, let’s try a different song in the same key.
UFO’s fall flat. No intelligent aliens would fly just above the bushes south of Marfa, Texas, every few weeks or so, for years beyond number; the bushes are not that interesting. The lights do suggest something like giant fireflies, but if giant insects existed they would not dance around in mating rituals every few months throughout the year. It seems that this leads us along another dirt road that ends in the same impassable canyon. Intelligent researchers have been swamped by swarms of explanations, but Marfa Lights appear to act intelligently, and one explanation after another has been shot down by lack of reasons for the lights’ behavior. Let’s walk down a different dirt road, one that may lead to a bat cave in a hill south of Marfa.
How do these lights relate to bats? The Big Brown Bat eats insects, including, at times, those that fly around at night. What attracts many flying insects? A street light (rare in a cattle-grazing landscape) or a farmhouse porch light. What about Marfa Lights? They do, at times, stay in one place for a time. I do not imply that bats who can sense insects in the dark would approach a large flying creature that is glowing; Big Brown Bats, far from rare, may be too smart to be pinned onto an endangered-species list. The relationship between lights that dance and bats that hunt insects is a bit more complicated. But these two species do relate.
When two lights separate, over a field south of Marfa, they may leave a concentration of flying insects in that area. Be careful, Mr. Big Brown. Those two large glowing creatures have flown away, I know, and your instincts tell you to go for those bugs there. But notice that those two lights (with you in the middle) are no longer becoming dimmer; they are now becoming brighter. Don’t gorge yourself for too long, little furry fellow; make it a snack to go. In the open air, you have many avenues of escape; I recommend you avoid two particular directions.
This dancing pattern of Marfa Lights (one light appearing to divide and separate and then the two turning back to approach each other) can thus be explained. The strange beginning of the dance is now clear: One not-yet-glowing predator chooses a glowing partner and then turns on his own glow as the two separate. They were always two objects but it appeared to us that one light had divided into two.
But what nocturnal flying predator glows brighter than a thousand fireflies? Let’s consider that night of February 23rd and ask a different question. Why was that night different?
James did not see a light splitting into two and separating, according to dance custom. Can you guess why? I would not expect Marfa Lights to dance on this night, for the temperature had dropped, far below freezing: no insects. So what would you do if you were a hungry flying glowing predator, for the dance is over and the refreshments table is bare? Take your friends out to eat.
Perhaps my friend was fortunate not to have seen the Marfa Lights up close on that night. In the dark, outside the dance hall, it was ugly. On that night, they were not flying around the bushes on the plain just south of the viewing platform; James watched them flying over the hills many miles away.
I suggest that the glowing predators had found a small colony of Big Brown Bats in a cave. It may have taken only one predator to wake them from hibernation, but ten of the predators may have had a feast when the bats flew out the cave entrance. I also suggest there may be more than one reason for the predators to glow: On this night, insects were irrelevant, but perhaps, in their frenzy in the dark, the larger predators needed to avoid colliding with each other. Perhaps this is always part of the purpose for the glowing.
Glowing Barn Owls
So what is this predator? I still dare not mention the name, and forgive me for another aside, but consider another large flying predator; it glows rarely and usually dimly, but it also hunts little furry creatures. This predator, however, (brighter than hundreds of fireflies) would not dare glow near the bright lights that were swarming over the hills south of Marfa on February 23rd. Near those hills, on that night, you would not have found a glowing barn owl.
And you’ll not likely find Tyto Alba by looking up “bioluminescent” in the index of a biology textbook. You will find that word in a book by Fred Silcock of Victoria, Australia, and you will find a sketch of a glowing barn owl on the cover. The rare but documented glow of this bird is thoroughly explained in The Min Min Light, The Visitor Who Never Arrives.
Barn owls are common in many parts of the world, even though they rarely glow. Perhaps when in dire need, when furry food is scarce, does instinct kick in and bioluminescence turns on; perhaps oftener. It allows them to attract and catch insects, just enough to survive until the rodents return. Owls that glow in Australia are called “Min Mins.”
In the United States, we call them ghost lights: the Gurdon Light of Arkansas, the Ghost Light of Masters Knob (Tennessee), and the Hornet Light of Missouri, and others. Many fly down railroad tracks, weaving and bobbing as if somebody were searching for something by swinging a lantern from side to side. If the glow does not help an owl catch a rodent crossing the tracks, at least that bird will not collide with another.
Disbelieve in glowing nocturnal birds if you like. It’s not yet been proven, to my knowledge. But why then do barn owls have white feathers on their undersides?
Dancing Flying Predators: Pterosaurs?
In contrast, the bright glowing objects that fly over open fields south of Marfa glow too brightly for owls, it seems, and their complex dances (at least in warmer weather) appear too complex for bird brains. I can imagine two or three barn owls hunting together in a haphazard way, never ten of them with occasional coordinated dances.
To the point, I do know of a nocturnal flying predator that may be hunting bats around Marfa, Texas. Its glow, in Papua New Guinea, is legendary, although it has many names and is seen in other parts of the world. We call it “ropen.” That is why I, rather than Mr. Silcock or a bat expert, am writing this, and why this is published on a blog page of livingpterosaur.com rather than on savingbats.com.
I interview eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs. That’s what I do. I’ve written two books on the subject, including Live Pterosaurs in America; there’s little room for details here. When somebody sees what appears to be a one of these creatures, whether in Sudan, Africa, or Bishopville, South Carolina, I receive an email. (The rarity of emails from Africa I attribute to rarity of computers there, not to rarity of creatures.)
I do not proclaim that a string of evidences prove that Marfa Lights are living pterosaurs; I merely point out that years of research (by experts perhaps more intelligent than me) have failed to explain these dances and other strange behaviors. And when the impossible has been eliminated, whatever is left, however improbable, is . . . well . . . living pterosaurs.
Additional Comments by Jonathan Whitcomb
I just finished reading “Hunting Marfa Lights.” I would give this five stars out of five: an excellent book on a good investigation. The author finds no single interpretation convincing, regarding what causes Mara Lights. He seems to objectively give pros and cons for each hypothesis.
What is not covered is the possibility that ropen-like animals cause the lights through a bioluminescence that may not yet be known to modern science.
James Bunnell (author of “Hunting Marfa Lights”) mentions on page 142 of his book: ” . . . did a quick scan of [the Min Min book by Fred Silcock] . . . [I] did get a chuckle at the originality of his [Silcock’s] idea.” [the idea that some barn owls in Australia glow] If Bunnell had read further in the book by Silcock, he would learn that this idea is hardly original with Silcock; this Australian researcher (and bird expert) has interviewed many eyewitnesses, for many years (probably many more eyewitnesses than Bunnell has). People see barn owls that glow, and they have seen this for a long time.
Nevertheless, I agree with Bunnell regarding many of the mysterious lights near Marfa, Texas: They are not glowing barn owls. But the point is this: Many Marfa Lights show intelligence in their movements, and this is consistent with a living bioluminescent flying creature. This seems to be something Bunnell tries to avoid.
Bunnell makes it clear that owls are common around Marfa. This brings up another possibility: the large bioluminescent predators flying around there may be hunting more than bats: They may also be hunting owls. After all, they only fly around this area a few times each year: just long enough to catch those bats, owls, and other wildlife that are easy pickings. The large predators then fly off to another part of southwest Texas or Mexico; large predators are known to travel.
I’ve not yet made any firm conclusion that Marfa Lights (some of them) are made by ropens, large Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs. But many things appear to add up for that hypothesis.
The cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America has been the number-one best-selling book, on Amazon.com, for nonfictions about living pterosaurs. Purchase your own copy and contribute to this investigation in cryptozoology.
A reader of the first edition said, “I found this book very interesting. . . . The problem with science is that we think we know it all and that is far from reality. This book shows courage to continue the search. If you have an interest in cryptozoology you should read this.” (Dale Reeder, Pennsylvania) Live Pterosaurs in America (now it its third edition) is in the genre of a nonfiction cryptozoology book.
A reader of the third edition said, “Mr. Whitcomb does a thorough job questioning indoctrination and the close-mindedness of the Western world. Reading so many eye-witness reports of people who have seen living pterosaurs in America was mind-opening, to say the least. . . .”
From the Title Page of the book:
How are sightings in the United States related to [sighting of apparent living pterosaurs] in the southwest Pacific? How do some apparent nocturnal pterosaurs pertain to bats, and how are bats irrelevant? . . . These mysteries have slept in the dark, beyond the knowledge of almost all Americans, even beyond our wildest dreams (although the reality of some pterosaurs is a living nightmare to some bats). These mysteries have slept . . . until now.