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Published on: Jan. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

Line Road. "My dad was always on me to get my chores done before it got dark, and I would put it off," says Sterling. In the barn one evening, he suddenly had light to work by and assumed his father had arrived with a flashlight.

"But I turned around, and there it was, big as life, right there in the door. It gave me quite a start. I was probably about 15 feet from it. It illuminated enough that I could see pretty good. It stayed there for 15 or 20 seconds, and then it went out." He thought, "Holy smoke!"

The Barnett farm is in an area where people saw the Spooklight in horse and buggy days, before some of the present roads were cut through. Ralph Bilke says his grandfather, Lloyd "Dutch" Bilke, told him of encountering the Spooklight around 1910. It was so bright, his grandfather told him, "I could count the buttons on your granny's dress."

Oral tradition says the light was seen as early as the mid-1880s. In "Tri-State Spooklight," a booklet published in the mid-1950s, Juanita Kay reported, "Many settlers camped here on our property overnight when they used to travel by wagon. After investigating the place where they had seen campfires the night before, my mother and father became aware of the light because they found no ashes where the fiery lights had appeared. This was back in the 1800s."

The tri-state marker where Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri meet is three miles north of the light's neighborhood. To generations of area families, the Spooklight is a delightful and mystifying part of growing up. Their stories conjure up a hundred years of images-those couples in buggies, families watching from cars, farm kids riding bicycles around in the dark, carloads of teenagers in a Spooklight rite of passage, hayrides, tourists from afar, lost Spooklight-seekers knocking on doors, characters alarming enough to bring the sheriff, skeptics chasing an elusive glow or being chased by it and scientists prowling for the answer.

To wrestle with the Spooklight mystery, you need to know the lay of this land on the northern edge of the Ozarks. From Hornet, West Hymer Road runs west and ends at State Line Road. There, the Spooklight area of horse and buggy days is just to the south on the Missouri side, toward Warren Branch. If you jog north on State Line about .2 mile, you can turn

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