Since 1966, a mysterious light has appeared at night in a valley outside of Paulding, Michigan. The strobe-like beam, known as the Paulding Light, shines in the distance along the highway stretch of US 45 like a lighthouse signaling ships to shore. While students and investigators have explained the occurrence as something natural, many residents of the community are convinced it is paranormal.
The Paulding Light, also known as “Ghost Light,” can be seen every night, just above the vast line of trees and power lines in the rural area called Robbins Pond road. It slowly flickers on like a candle, burning brighter and hovering like a fire ball among the stars for several seconds. It has been reported to be a range of colors like a bright white, to a reddish-orange, and even green.
It first appeared in 1966, when a group of teens reported seeing it in the woods. The phenomenon has occurred so frequently over the course of 50 years, it has become a tourist attraction and hot spot for paranormal investigators.
To see the mysterious orb, one must follow a gravel road about a half mile, where they will run into a barricaded dead end. At the foot of the forest road lies a sign that begins, “This is the location from which the famous Paulding Light can be observed…” And then goes on to explain the common legends surrounding the light’s origin. Casper the Friendly Ghost is at the bottom of the sign holding a lantern, like the ghost from the light’s popular legends.
Among the urban legends surrounding the Paulding Light is the theory that it is from the lantern of a railroad worker’s ghost. Tragically killed trying to cross the railroad tracks, he reportedly swings the lantern and flashes the light to warn visitors of the impending train.
Another variation of the legend is that a man was killed on the train tracks as he searched for his lost son in the night. His light appears as his ghost continues searching for his forever lost child. An even more sinister explanation is that someone was brutally murdered along the railroad.
The town has fun with the supernatural stories surrounding the light, capitalizing on people’s curiosities and encouraging them to visit the area. Paranormal investigators from around the world have taken note of the spectacle, including the Syfy series FACT OR FAKED: PARANORMAL FILES, which investigated the light in 2010.
The episode, titled “Blazing Horizon/Rollover,” followed hosts Jael Pardo, Bill Murphy and Austin Porter as they investigated and attempted to debunk the light. They conducted three different experiments in one night, including recreating the light with a laser pointer, and flying an airplane above the highway. When they couldn’t perfectly recreate the light, they surveyed the area trying to capture EVPS. They concluded the Paulding Light was something that couldn’t be explained.
However, the light can be explained. In that same year, Michigan Technological University students took on the Paulding Light as a class project. The students, who were members of the Society of Photo Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) set out to the famous area with a telescope. What they saw through the lens is a lot less exciting than a sorrowful ghost roaming endlessly among non-existing train tracks.
Upon glaring at the light through a large telescope, the students were able to see car headlights shining down the US 45. Due to the position of the road, the car headlights are being refracted from a partially blocked lane of sight.
Professor Mike Roggeman explained the group’s findings, “I can’t say there is no ghost there for sure, but I can say everything we saw was perfectly explainable.”
Although the students were able to provide a scientific explanation, the news didn’t impress avid fans of the light’s supernatural history. Some have even gone as far as to dismiss SPIE of not seeing the Paulding Light.
SPIE’s leader, PhD student Jeremy Bos responded to their claims by saying “We’ve been told we haven’t seen the real Paulding Light. I’ve been out there 15 times, hours at a time, in the heat, the cold, and the rain. It’s always the same.”
But people will always want to believe in the alluring mystery surrounding the Paulding Light. Bos commented about a believer, “We were there Monday with a man who saw the headlights on our computer, and he refused to believe it.”
According to the research group, sometimes heat rises off of the pavement and causes a distortion in the light, making it appear larger or smaller from a distance. The movement of the light is due to an optical illusion caused when the car moves up and down a hill. The students also offer that the variety of colored lights seen is probably due to cop cars pulling people over.
Despite the findings, people still visit the Paulding, Michigan area hoping to get a glimpse of history—or even a ghost. It’s fun for the whole family to park on the side of the road, and anticipate the light’s arrival. And whether the light is from a car, or from an unrestful spirit, the light still brings people together in a positive way and sparks the imagination of dreamers everywhere.