Booger Lights: The Dover Lights
Pope County, Arkansas
Also Known as the Booger Hollow Lights and the Ozark Ghost Lights
Strange multicolored, moving orbs of light haunt Big Piney Creek Valley twelve miles north of Dover, Arkansas. The lights appear frequently, sometimes nightly, and have done so since homesteaders first noticed the phenomena in the late 1800’s above the canyon that empties into nearby Booger Hollow. Skeptics scoff at the lights, but fail to explain them. This leaves locals to wonder whether the lights are a natural occurrence or the ghosts of massacred Spaniards guarding their lost wealth.
From the time of conquistador Hernando De Soto to the Louisiana Purchase the mountains of Arkansas lured Spanish prospectors. Sometimes their explorations ended profitably with the King’s Fifth shipped back to Spain via Mexico. Other times the operations ended at the wrath of Caddo or Osage war parties. Numerous abandoned Spanish prospects litter the Ozarks and the area north of Dover is no different. In the 1800’s one homesteader found and then lost a rich silver seam. Thinking it to be lead, he cast hunting bullets of pure silver and later abandoned the area because he believed it too poor to support his family.
We do know that around the turn of the century, the family that then owned the valley where the lights appear, found evidence of one ill-fated Spanish expedition, as well as the gold that lured the dead men to the valley. Knowing well what news of a gold discovery would cause them, the family kept it secret until the placer played out. Still, the news eventually leaked and the legend grew about the murdered Spanish miners and their jealousy toward the hidden hoard of wealth they left behind.
|The Long Pool Valley, (c)2010 Thornton Austen
Indeed, the first sightings of the Dover Lights were most likely made in the late 1800’s by homesteaders in the area. Records are few in the Ozarks and even with its characteristic embellishments, folklore is often more reliable than written accounts. However, locals say the lights were first reported in print in the 1930’s when the Works Projects Administration scoured the hill country for stories. About this same time, the Civilian Conservation Corps built the rock wall at the overlook where the lights are most often viewed.
Once, the lure of riches brought men to the valley. Today, Big Piney Creek is a popular float stream. The surrounding country is much as wild as it always was and with the exception of a National Forest Service Campground, electricity is nonexistent. Besides hunters and canoeists, paranormal researchers are finding they enjoy the valley too.
The Dover Lights occasionally warrant mention in the media. In the 1990’s MysteriousReality.Com posted the first film footage of the Dover Lights moving around the forested bluffs above the creek. Around 2000, a camper called in emergency crews because he thought a vehicle had driven off one of the bluffs that rim the valley. Instead of a motorist in trouble, the camper learned that he had instead seen the Dover Lights. In March 2004, Ted Phillips of the Branson, Missouri-based Center for Physical Trace Evidence photographed what he described as intense and odd-colored lights. In April 2009, the paranormal group, On The Fringe filmed the lights for their European television show. At the time of this filming high water levels separated the valley from any possible human contamination. Later the same year, an Associated Press article “outed” the Dover Lights as a hoax on the word of an amateur myth-buster. However, later examination of the footage taken by the man revealed his discovery of “the hoax” was itself most likely an even larger hoax. The man’s assertion that the lights’ movement was attributed to alcohol consumption was equally insulting to a church youth group that had observed the moving lights many times over the years. As yet, AP has filed no known retraction.
The Dover Lights are best viewed from the east at the rock-walled CCC overlook on Treat Road atop the cliffs above the valley. When one looks out over the canyon at night, the only visible artificial light is at the Long Pool Recreation Area campground to the viewer’s extreme left. At times, up to six or more Dover Lights appear 1000 feet below the viewing area to the viewer’s front and right across Big Piney Creek and on the forested slopes to its west.
Observers report flickering orbs of light that sway to and fro, rise and fall, or sometimes dart across great distances with surprising speed. Sometimes the lights remain stationary. Colors described range from white to intense red and violet to blue and yellow. Occasionally, lights are bright enough to illuminate the entire valley. Many viewers report that the lights are extremely interactive to outside stimuli with headlights, spotlights, flashlights, laser pointers, and even car horns causing the lights to brighten and move about. Local tradition has it that if an observer yells, “I’ve got your gold,” down into the valley the lights will move toward the overlook.
|The CCC overlook, (c)2010 Thornton Austen
Skeptics have proposed several explanations for the Dover Lights over the years. Most theories are proposed by people who have never even seen the lights. However, most theories fall short upon scrutiny. The terrain itself rules out the misidentification of headlights, ATVs, flashlights, and campfires. Equally unlikely is the a mirage-type refractive effect because of the height of the surrounding mountains. Reflections of the moon and stars are ruled out by the simple fact that the lights appear in all weather and cloud cover and that a bright moon sometimes hampers viewing. Some claim that the valley is the scene of a residual haunting of the tragic massacre of the Spanish miners or because of the death of a spectral woman sometimes seen walking Treat Road. The area surrounding the overlook will indeed give you the creeps at night, but a more likely explanation lies with tectonic strain on the same quartz intrusions along geological faulting that bore the gold and silver that original drew the Spanish to Valley. However, even that theory does not totally explain all the occurrences here.
Local reactions to the Dover Lights are mixed, but few in the area seriously fear the phenomena. To most residents they are a quaint and fun local curiosity that doesn’t need explanation. However, as with most Fortean occurrences, there are always those disturbed individuals who will stoop to any measure to get their fifteen minutes of pseudo-fame and potential profit. This was poignantly illustrated by 2009’s hoaxed hoax. There are always those kind of people out there to interfere with legitimate inquiry and scientific discovery
|The view toward the campground, (c)2010 Thornton Austen
A trip to Dover is well worth the time. Even if the lights do not appear you still get a pleasant outdoor experience with breathtaking Ozark scenery. The easiest way to the viewing area is to take Scenic Arkansas Highway 7 north from the town of Dover for 12 miles. On the left watch for a side road marked Old Highway 7. Take that road to the intersection of Treat Road. Take a right on that gravel road and continue to the CCC overlook. It will be on the left.
Do not litter, be considerate of others, and above all enjoy the Dover Lights.
Thornton Austen is the author of Blood Knowing
from Arkansas Traveller Publishing
© 2011, Thornton Austen