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The lights have been included in at least three TV documentaries, and some studies have been conducted under the auspices of local universities. James Dean viewed the spectacle while filming the movie Giant (filmed in Marfa). When the Lights first appeared remains somewhat clouded. Local lore claims that they have existed at least from the late 19th Century, but there appears to be little documentation of this. Marfa was established in 1881.
They have been attributed at various times to ball lightening, burning swamp gas, radiant gasses released along fault lines, pranksters running around with flashlights and lanterns, and car headlights. To date no one has been observed with flashlights and/or lanterns.
Others have scoffed at the idea that the lights are anything more than headlights, and claim proof using high-powered binoculars. This latter group is at a loss, however, to explain why there are often more Lights than there are cars, or why the lights merge, divide and disappear.
"Looks like campfires."
That was the description back in the 1800s when cowboys and pioneers first noticed the lights. According to numerous accounts, they speculated they were camp fires or signal fires from Apaches who roamed the wilderness area around Texas' Big Bend. But, as the legend has it, when folks went over for a closer inspection, they found no sign of fires.
And still haven't.
The lights on a recent pair of June evenings appeared to float above the horizon, dip and occasionally flare. At times, there were two or three simultaneously. They generally moved left to right, up and down. Then there were periods of no lights.
...the lights were here before cars and even before electricity reached the region.
There are numerous theories on what causes the phenomenon. Moonlight on mica veins sparkling off the mountains. Swamp gas. Static electricity. Atmospheric conditions created by warm and cold layers of air bending light rays that only can be seen from afar.