Mysterious light continues to intrigue, by Leslie Allen

Mysterious light continues to intrigue
Up ahead, deep in the dark woods, a light appears: a pinprick of white, barely visible. Without warning, it expands, seems to be hurtling toward you, brightly shining, glowing, growing. Just as suddenly it retreats and dims. It subsides to a pinprick and is gone. This is the Paulding Light, Version 1.
We had seen the light as soon as we pulled up to the barricade at the end of the dirt road. Looking straight ahead, down the dark tunnel in front of us, created by the lane cut through the thick woods originally to house the railroad grade, but now to accommodate power lines, the light had appeared, as if on cue. My buddy cut the truck’s motor and turned off the headlights.
“There it is,” he said. “The Paulding Light.”
We got out of the truck, moved in front of the low metal barricade and leaned back against it. It was dusk, and the bright light rushing toward us obscured everything around it. Once the light disappeared, a vague glow hovered in the sky.
The Paulding Light, seen from this spot in the woods a few miles south of Paulding in Ontonagon County, is a nightly phenomenon. It also is a decades-old mystery, a compilation of vague ghost stories, or maybe just car lights passing on a highway. Does it matter? Every night, people come to watch.
“There it is again,” I said.
This time, the light was red, a dim dot at the end of the tunnel. It grew slightly brighter, slightly larger, but, unlike the white light, did not fast-forward toward us. In fact, this light did not seem to move at all. Then it faded. It felt like an eye test of sorts, as if I were at the optometrist’s office and needed to raise my hand or click a clicker to indicate yes, I saw the light, the Paulding Light, Version 2.
A second car pulled up, its headlights cutting through the mist. There was a murmur of voices, car doors slamming, then quiet. Dark.
Many accounts of and explanations for the Paulding Light can be found on the Internet. No, the light is not always the same—though some say it is—and no, it doesn’t appear every night – though some say it does. Some claim it is just the headlights and tail lights of cars traveling on Highway 45, a number of miles to the north. Others say it is the earth, belching luminous gases. There are alien theories, reports of “shadow people” and something about the spirit of a disgruntled Native dancing on the power lines.
And then, of course, there are the ghost stories, most relying on the fact that during logging days there was a rail line in the area. Ghost No. 1 is a railroad switchman who was sandwiched to death between two trains as he signaled in vain with his lantern. Apparently, yet tonight, he’s still signaling. Ghost No. 2 Two is a murdered trainman, and No. 3 is a murdered mail carrier and sled dog musher. These two ghosts are looking for their respective murderers, at night, with lanterns. Ghost No. 4 is a father looking for his lost child, and Ghost No. 5 is a young boy looking for his sister, a poor soul who was decapitated by a train as she played on the tracks. Perhaps he’s looking for her head, at night, with a lantern.
“Have you seen the light?”
Another vehicle had pulled up, dispensing a group of women who were eager to witness the Paulding Light. They were led by a veteran, a woman from Minocqua (Wisconsin), who said she had visited the light many times over the years, too many times to count. To her, it is a deep mystery, and the car light theory? Bunk. Definitely not car lights, she said. Why? Well, the last time she and her husband were here, the light moved rapidly toward them, coming as close as that second pole there. No doubt. Indisputable. The light was right there. Also, she has seen tandem lights, green and red, swinging to and fro. She and her husband have shot videos of the light; and she brings her friends and neighbors to see the light. Car lights? No way. She can attest to the Paulding Light, versions 3, 4, 6, 7 and 23.
The red light appeared. The women, clustered behind the barricade, oohed and aahed. The light, they said, was moving oddly, jumping all over.
“Did you see that?! Did you see how it moved?”
Suddenly, I realized the light was moving. It seemed to veer up and to the left. Then it disappeared, and I was not sure what I had seen. I’ve been told—and the accounts are legion—on summer nights this spot at the end of the dirt road gets crowded, becomes a party. No doubt. Beer, dope, the woods, a light, the power of suggestion. My buddy, who has seen the light many times, claims he’s seen it do all kinds of crazy things, whirly things, spinning-type things, very hmmm-type things.
It’s quite a tourist attraction, and up the road or on the Internet you can get your souvenirs. Hats, T-shirts, key chains, all adorned with little glow-in-the-dark ghosts.
The white light appeared again, shot toward us, faded and disappeared. The red light came and went, and it repeatedly moved up and off to the left, sometimes quickly, sometimes lazily floating. Chatter and laughter flowed.
A comment was made about how it was like that back page in the Sunday comics, you know, where you put your nose right up to the page then slowly move the page away, staying focused on that one spot, and…an eruption of laughter drowned out the rest of that musing. We all knew what she was getting at. Sometimes, what looks like one thing can turn into another. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s M.C. Escher. It’s the tri-fold trick on the back cover of Mad Magazine.
I have read that the light has been the subject of a Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” investigation and $100,000 has been offered to anyone who can prove the light’s origin. As well, I have read that the light has been subject to the scrutiny of the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries.” But I missed that air date.
Maybe you’re thinking there must not be much to do around here if people are driving into the woods at night just to look at and talk about car lights. Maybe you’re right. We’re out here in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a forest, surrounded by ghost towns, dilapidated cemeteries, abandoned rail lines, overgrown two-tracks, bars, trees, bear, deer, wolves, ghosts and casinos. It is dark enough at night to see the Milky Way, and sometimes the Milky Way is so close you can reach out and touch it.
So, what is the Paulding Light? Will we ever know? My theory is it is all of the above—and more. It is our imagination; it is a rational explanation. It is a stranger’s altered view, or your own memory of something similar. It’s what you’ve heard; it’s what you’re told; it’s what you believe; it’s what you see. It is the dark, and it is the light.
—Leslie Allen

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