A university English professor and his former student believe they have solved the mystery of the spooky lights haunting the Oklahoma-Missouri border just east of Quapaw. Modern-day pioneer Marna Davis teaches children to piece by hand during Saturday for Kids at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. And the Friends of Venezuela Association brings Caribbean culture to the University of Oklahoma for an evening of folkloric dance, music, history and food.
Many have theorized the source of the haunting night lights that dance along Spook Light Road, just this side of Missouri. Professors Allen Rice and Christopher Shaneyfelt claim to have proven the origin of the lights in a 20-minute documentary to be revealed Friday, April 3 at UCO’s Pegasus Theater.
Rice is the social glue for an expanding group of weekend adventurers he’s named the Boomers.
“Some people fish, some people hunt. We fish for folklore. We hunt for history,” says Rice.
The gentlemen have searched for Jesse James’ lost gold in the Wichita Mountains, three times without success. This may be a cryptic expression for hiking around in the Wichitas for a day. The Boomers are college educators, historians and professionals, but they do not consider themselves expert explorers. When Shaneyfelt and Rice visited Spook Light Road for the first time in October, they brought a metal detector, expecting to detect light-emitting chemical compounds in the soil, or an electromagnetic field. They also brought Rice’s nephew, a chemist, thinking the lights may result from swamp gas.
Shaneyfelt visited the Joplin Public Library to research all periodical mention of the lights, dating them back to the early 1800s, and revealing origin myths. Rice says some hypothesize the lights are the rambunctious souls of an Ozark Romeo and Juliet, two young lovers who died on that road before having the opportunity to unite, body and soul.
The Boomers went back to Quapaw in December, to prove the theory they had developed. Said theory was unknown to the general public until the screening. The short documentary includes history and accumulated lore, footage of the lights and proof of their origins. Rice supplies guests with a list of several scientific organizations who have previously attempted to solve the mystery, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Popular Mechanics and some university students who camped out on Spook Light Road for two weeks in the 1930s.
“They ended up so frustrated that they pulled out their guns on the last night and just shot it out with the spook lights!” says Rice.
The Boomers were pleased with their results, so they shot with cameras only. The short but thoroughly entertaining documentary "Boomers on the Case: The Spook Light Adventure" is now available online.
Marna Davis specializes in frontier period clothing and shoemaking. She also raises sheep and spins yarn at the family farm Shooting Star, in Hitchcock, just North of Watonga. She is a member of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums and enjoys passing on her skills through the Blaine County 4-H Club and Fiber Fanatics of Northwest Oklahoma. She also offers a variety of classes back at the ranch.
During a quilt piecing demo Saturday morning at the Cowboy Museum, kids will choose their favorite fabrics from Davis’ scrap bag of materials saved from various projects, just like grandma used to do with grandpa’s old shirts, suits and overalls. They sew scraps into four patches, and stitch those into a quilted square.
“We decided on a quilting demo as a do-able craft that would have been practiced by our pioneer foremothers,” says Davis.
The make and take workshop is inspired by the current exhibit Madonnas of the Prairie: Depictions of Women in the American West, which features more than 100 works of art, including a couple of late 1800s quilts.
This is the final free Saturday for Kids scheduled at the Cowboy Museum between now and September, and an excellent opportunity to see a second exhibit that ends May 10, Coyote Songs – Desperado Dreams: The Art of Robby McMurtry. McMurtry was a prolific painter, illustrator, art teacher and mentor in the Okmulgee area. He passed away tragically in 2012. The 35 paintings and drawings on display span his 40 year career.
The Norman Area Quilters' Guild hosts a quilting demo and workshop Saturday at Library Central. Quilters demonstrate piecing by hand, and with hand-cranked and computerized sewing machines. OU professor Elizabeth Bergey presents an early history of the sewing machine at 11:00 a.m. While you’re there, peruse nature-inspired quilts in the gallery room, on display all month during regular hours of operation.
The 10th annual Venezuela Night at OU boasts folkloric, regional dances performed by students and friends. Amazonia Restaurant caters a dinner following the show, with pabellón, a national dish of black beans, rice, marinated pulled beef, fried plantains, and dulce de tres leches for dessert. The show begins with an exploration of Venezuelan culture and history at 6:30 p.m.
As spring continues to bloom, and the heat creeps in, our calendar fills with outdoors events, activities and music festivals. Check it out for unique suggestions of what to do, see, hear and experience in Central Oklahoma during the 168 hours of your week. You may also submit your own events for possible listing and on-air announcement.
OneSix8 returns next week with information about the Oklahoma Urban Cinema Festival. Also, we’ll get a sneak peek of the Curbside Chronicle’s most recent project How I See OKC, a photo exploration of homelessness as pictured by the magazine’s vendors and friends. We talk with two of the photographers, Geovanny and Robert, and Curbside’s founder Ranya O’Connor.
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