Location: Watersmeet Michigan
Appearance: White or red light that appears in the trees beyond the barrier at the end of the road. The light sometimes blinks in and out or changes colors. It is not possible to approach the lights; they can only be viewed from a distance. Rarely, strange noises have been reported.
- The light is said to be that of a railroad worker who was decapitated in an accident.
Other explanations: Probably car headlights from a nearby highway.
Additional notes: The light has appeared reliably since the 1960s.
The Paulding Light is a ghost light in a rural area of Michigan that has appeared reliably since the 1960s. The light is located at the end of an old state route that is now a gravel road. This light shares many of the same hallmarks of other ghost lights, most notably the legend of a possibly headless railroad worker.
Viewing the light is not quite the ceremony it is at some other locations. To engage in some spooklight action, one only needs to park along the road and walk to the barrier that is the viewing point. The area is heavily wooded, and the light appears some distance beyond the barrier among the trees. Observers describe the light as white or red, blinking in and out, and sometimes changing colors. It is not possible to approach the light; those who try find that the light is not visible to them when they move further into the forest, even when those watching from the road can still see it. Some witnesses have reported hearing strange sounds in addition to the lights, although this seems to be not so common.
Several readers who wrote to me about the Paulding Light back in the 1990s and 2000s mention that it appeared on Unsolved Mysteries, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, or in Reader’s Digest. Based on my research, this appears to be a common belief, but in fact none of those venues ever covered the Paulding Light. Unsolved Mysteries, however, did feature the Gurdon Light in one episode. It’s probable that people are mixing up the two.
Several groups around 2009 to 2010 investigated the light and by trial and error came to the conclusion that it was caused by vehicle headlights on nearby Highway 45. Whatever its origin, the Paulding Light is currently one of the most active lights in the U.S.
(1) Date received: Fri, 13 Aug 2004
I’ve been to the Paulding Light twice now, and I can heartily agree with the other recommendations. It’s well worth the trip. I love the romantic stories that create the legend, but I have a strong hunch that the light is a corona effect, much like Saint Elmo’s Fire. I have always observed the light or lights looking down the high-tension wires. I also have heard strange noises on the AM radio in my van as the light is visible, very similar to hearing the “wind-up” that you can sometimes hear on the radio prior to a lighting discharge.
Anyhow, I’ve had something fun to puzzle with for a couple of years now after seeing the light! If nothing else, the drunk chicks are usually greatly entertaining.
(2) Date received: Sat, 10 Jul 2004
Just recently me and my buddies took a two hour drive from Escanaba, Michigan to see the world famous Paulding Light. In the early evening we could see the faint light, but it wasn’t very active at all. However, as the skies got darker we could then see a red light appearing before the bright white light.
Later in the night, I’d say around 4:00 AM or so, we were the last people viewing the light. Something about it captivated us to stay longer, like something was going to happen. When we were about to leave, all of a sudden the light shined so bright it appeared to come down the hill and rest on top of the creek. We stayed and videotaped as the event unfolded, then we tried to approach the light. It disappeared into a red dot and appeared to be moving backwards as we started down the trail. It was pretty cool to see. That’s all.
(3) Date received: Mon, 03 Nov 2003
I live in Minocqua, Wisconsin and am 28 years old. I have been going to the light with my mother since I was nine years old. I have probably been there close to 100 times. It’s a great place to go and get freaked out!
In all the times I have been there, I have never seen it revolve around any person or car. Every time I’ve been there I have seen it. Usually you see the big white one and with binoculars you can see smaller ones that have been red and green. I have never seen it come close to where people sit to watch it, but my mother said she has seen it do that.
A friend of mine and I drove further down the highway to get to the other end of the road you sit on as it is blocked off at the bottom of where you sit. We found a road that goes up to a hill for a better view. Still very far away, but a lot less crowded. We too heard a train whistle that night. I don’t tell many people about that cause they think I’m nuts, but I’m glad my friend was there with me to confirm the story! I had just honked my horn to scare her while she was in front of the car when we heard it. One short whistle blast and that was it. I’ve never seen “black forms” or ghosts. It seems to like to respond to lights and sounds, but that could also just be coincidence. If you’re ever up here take a look. It’s very neat!
(4) Date received: Tue, 1 Feb 2000
My fiancée has relatives in Northern Wisconsin and a few years ago we made our first trip to Watersmeet. It was really amazing as the light would appear then disappear, then turn white and red, then what appeared to be long beams of light would shine thru the trees to the right of where we were.
A few months later we went there armed with a video camera. I caught the light on tape but it was very blurry and not good quality. But we did walk almost a mile into the woods towards where the light appeared. We saw nothing, but when we walked out of the woods and back to our car we saw it again. It’s very strange and just one of those baffling will o’ wisp cases. I plan to visit again this spring.
(5) Date received: Fri, 14 Jan 2000
Hi, I have been to the Paulding lights many times, and yes it really is freaky! They say it was a man that got killed while working on the railroad and he came back to haunt the old track that got taken out of there. Many people come and visit this strange light and no one actually knows what it is. For a fact they know it’s not headlights because it changes colors and sways back and forth. That is my knowledge of the Paulding lights. Come and take a look. It’s worth the drive, and you can stop at the casino on your way through.
(6) Date received: Sat, 18 Sep 1999
Alright, I’m from Michigan. If you look at a Michigan map you find this place called Watersmeet. There’s a ghost light there that has been seen for a really long time and today was the first time I ever saw it and it is pretty damn freaky. I pursued it and followed it but I couldn’t see it up close.
I talked to this lady that really knew a lot about it. She told me that the thing is a beacon and the area around it is a portal to another dimension. She told me about these shadow people that she has seen that are like dark blobs of blackness and they move around in the area where you can see the light. She said that she would see them all the time move across the road. This was very interesting to me.
(7) Date received: Thu, 30 Mar 2000
There are many stories that go behind the Paulding light. One story is that around the early times of the railroad in Northwoods a switchman missed his lantern signal and the train went off the track, killing a hundred people, and the switchman went into the woods to deal with his grief and was never seen again. Another story has the switchman getting his head cut off by the train. And another has the end conductor signaling the train behind them that there was trouble and the signal was messed up and the trains collided killing the conductor. These stories I have read about and heard from friends. I just recently got to see the light, and it is freaky and a great experience to have when living up in the Northwoods area for a long time.
(8) Date received: Sat, 8 Apr 2000
I was just at the Paulding light for the tenth time. It was amazing! The light came within 100 feet of us and when we went back to the car we all had this genuine feeling that we were rolling backwards. We were all completely sober and it was so freaky that I had to stick my hand on the ground just to make sure we were not actually moving, even though it was in gear and parking brake on. We also wanted to get closer to the light but then it would not appear.
(9) Date received: Sat, 8 Apr 2000
Okay folks, here is the story. We are from the UP of Michigan and have visited the Paulding Light several times. On one of our visits we tried to drive closer to the light to get a better view. We drove as close as the road permitted, but saw nothing. When we returned to the top of the hill other people said that the light had been circling around our car, yet we saw nothing!
Locals have told us that both Unsolved Mysteries and National Geographic have been to the light and have both left baffled. Even using the best photographic equipment they could not capture a good shot of the light.
If you make the trip the State of Michigan has put a sign there to tell the ghost story of the light.
(10) Date received: Thu, 20 Apr 2000
I have lived over by the Paulding Light my whole life. And I go there often. There is nothing there that leads me to believe that it is nothing more than ghosts. No swamp gas or will-o-the-wisps could have cause such a mysterious and awestriking light.
When my friends and I went there in the fall of 1999, there was a lot to see, and hear for that matter. The light was floating up, up, up into the sky above the power lines. And whoever has been there knows that it does not go high very often. There were a lot of people there that night, but they were all quiet respecting the light (it doesn’t come out when people are yelling and screaming). When it came up everyone was astounded.
But what scared us all the most was the unmistakable sound of a train whistle. People have reported to have heard it, but I was skeptical. I have never heard it before that night. I don’t know why it made that sound then, but it freaked me out. When the light faded, we left.
Many people say that weird things have happened to them on the way home from the light. Well, that night an odd thing happened to us. When we pulled out onto the highway, the CD player scrolled the words GOOD-BYE. Our CD player is an adapter because the car we were driving was really crappy, and the only thing that works is the volume. We were all freaked out. We haven’t been back there since New Year’s, but in the spring, the light looks really awesome. So if you want to see it, it’s really easy to find, and there are books and movies about it.
(11) Date received: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
I am from Northern Wisconsin, and I too have seen the Paulding Light. I have been there twice so far and both times amazed me. The first time I went there a lot of people were there visiting the light, and I noticed that it kept disappearing quite often.
However, the second time a friend and I were the only ones there. This was very interesting. The light changed from white to red several times, and at one point, even split into two, resembling two shadowy looking figures walking along the trail. I got out of the car one time, and while I was outside alone, the light got so bright that it was reflecting off of the car. As soon as I got back in the car, the light faded again. I also got the light on video tape which turned out very clear, surprisingly. I will definitely be going back there again very soon! It is completely worth it.
(12) Date received: Mon, 22 May 2000
I have been to the Paulding Light about three times and it is very strange. I have talked to many people up there and I have heard about the same stories that are in the stories before mine. I heard the light was a signal man on the hill that the light is seen at. He was warning trains about the dangerous track ahead. He was killed by a passing train. There is a sign that tells the story about it, at the location of the light. I have never walked up there because it is pretty freaky once you get there. I also heard that Unsolved Mysteries was there and did a lot of tests on the light and they never really found out what it really is. When I was there just about two days ago it changed from white to red to blue and a light purple, getting bright then very dim and then disappearing. Freaky
P.S. It’s a really good place to meet girls..
(13) Date received: Wed, 31 May 2000
I live in Pontiac, Michigan and every year I go up to see the mysterious light. I just recently went and it was cool. It turned green and purple and started bouncing down the street towards us. Then it just disappeared into the long stretch of road.
(14) Date received: Sun, 21 May 2000
I checked out your website after remembering a trip I took to Michigan two years ago. My friends who vacation there in the summer took me to see the Mystery Light. It was quite spectacular. I have included a link to the Watersmeet, Michigan Area Chamber of Commerce’s web site. They mention the spook light as one of the area attractions.
When we went to see the light, it was a clear evening in September. It was quite cool, probably around 45-50 degrees. We drove to the area via the route mentioned on the Watersmeet website. The road in is a wide gravel road, but is blockaded by guard rails, seemingly put across the road by local or state authorities, as they are the same kind one would see on the interstate. The area is heavily forested, but, beyond the barricade, the road goes straight on through a long deep valley before climbing two hills. The summit of the second hill makes up the horizon for one’s line of sight while parked at the barricade. The road obviously goes over the second hill because one can see a notch in the horizon where the trees have been cleared for the road.
We pulled the car up to the blockade and sat for approximately 20 minutes before seeing anything. What we did see astounded me. I had a pair of binoculars and was focusing on the notch in the horizon. Soon I noticed the faint glow, like a light below the horizon, then several small red lights danced their way up into this glow. My friend next to me could see the lights unaided, but they were seemingly harder to focus on with the naked eye.
Soon, however, a white ball of light ascended beyond the notch. The light was spectacular. It seemed to be pointing straight at us. My friend and I both witnessed the light change shapes from an octagon to a multi-pointed star, to a diamond shape, then back to round. It even sort of spun, but didn’t seem to be giving off the beam of light it did when we first noticed it. Once over the horizon, the light didn’t seem to move laterally, but did move up and down. While the white light was visible, we could still see the three smaller red lights bouncing around and behind it.
All told, we watched the display for about four or five minutes before the light dropped back below the horizon. We waited for approximately 15 more minutes, but the light did not reappear. My friend has told me that her son has hiked the road beyond the barricade for about five miles and did not notice anything unusual. They also had an engineer friend visiting some years ago who, even upon looking at maps of the area dating back to the late 1800s, could find no logical explanation for the lights.
I have also heard that the lights can be seen from just about every direction, not just from the road that we went in on. Whether this is true, I cannot attest as I have only been to see the lights on the one road.
As for the Hornet Spooklight near Joplin, Missouri, my sister used to live in Carthage, Missouri and occasionally, she and her friends would drive out to see the light. She says it is quite incredible to watch it bounce around, but that it never came very close to them or their car.
Thanks for providing an interesting website. If you have any questions, I will respond.
(15) Date received: Wed, 21 Jun 2000
Hi! I have yet another Paulding Light story for you! A friend took me to see the light for my first time in 1991, though apparently people have been congregating on Robbins Pond Road since the ’60s to see this specter. Since that time, I’ve been back many times; I’d say we journey to Watersmeet about two or three times a year to see it and try to figure it out for ourselves. The Light is not headlights, not swamp gas, not trickery in any way.
A group of friends and myself brought some gear with us the last time we went, which was in October of 1999, and we trekked across the creek up the hill through the woods and could not find the source of the light. Of course, like it often happens when we return to the main road the light comes out again.
On previous excursions there have been people out on blankets eating and drinking and having a great time waiting for the light to come, and when it does it gets so quiet and the air goes still with anticipation. Everyone whispers to the next to be quiet hoping that it will come further up the road towards them. On many separate occasions the light has come right up to our car (I sit in the car, of course… this scaredy cat will not let it come too close!) only to disappear and reappear far away in the distance. One day we will figure it out!
This is a great attraction, and if you dare a great hike too! Just be careful when you come to the sign that says, “Keep out, will not be responsible for what happens to persons beyond this point. We didn’t go past that point… maybe next time?
(16) Sat, 24 Jun 2000
I went last summer to see the Paulding Light. Captured it on video and it is amazing to watch. Got there before sunset and started taping as soon as it appeared before sunset. My daughter and myself feel it’s there all the time and only visible when it’s dark enough. At one time three different lights were present slowly moving down the hill at about two to three miles away.
We plan to go back this summer. I have done some research on the light but have found very little information. It seems maybe one of the schools nearby like Michigan Tech would have done some work on it. Has anyone seen information on the light’s spectrum? It’s so bright that the measurement would be very easy to do with the right equipment. This would tell one a great deal about the light’s origin.
(17) Date received: Tue, 27 Jun 2000
It was about mid-January this year when a group of my friends and I went to see the Paulding light. There were two carloads with ten of us driving four and a half hours up to Watersmeet, Michigan. My buddy used to live up there and constantly talked about it. My wife and I had been up there before with my buddy, but this time we wanted to show more people.
There were more vehicles than normal up there for that time of night, in the middle of the woods, mostly drunk and noisy kids partying away. The light is very sensitive to sound. The more sound people make, the less it comes out.
The six guys in the group decided to walk down the abandoned logging road to see if we could get a better view. We walked about three-quarters of mile through six inches of snow in the complete dark until we reached a small creek at the bottom of a small little valley. We sat down there, extremely cold, trying to find a way across the creek.
What we didn’t know was that the people standing back at the barricade could see the light dancing over were we should have been, even though we could not see it. I got sick of looking for a place to cross, so I went up the little hill and lit a cigarette. I sat there for about five seconds before I noticed a bright flash on the other hill across from the creek. I sat there, completely still as the very bright flickering light started to slowly come down the hill. I saw the shadow of it as it crossed the snow, getting closer and closer to the creek.
I began whispering loudly for the others to look up. When they did we all sat staring blindly at the light as it got closer. The woods were completely silent, like I have never heard before. Then a soft moan came from the other side of the creek.
You have never, and I mean never, seen six grown men run that fast. We all could have been Olympic champs that night. I think I made it back in half the time it took to get down there. That was truly the craziest thing I have ever experienced.
Another night that we went up there, crazy and kind of chilling sounds were coming out of the woods. There were very few people up there other than us and the scientist lady. She was very interesting. That night, not only did people claim that they felt extremely weird feelings run down the base of their necks, but we also brought a camera.
Every picture we took (when developed) was completely yellow, except for where the woods could be made out on the sides. A Pepsi can that was no more than ten feet from the barricade from where we all sat disappeared without anyone walking in front of us. That all happened in a matter of seconds. What the light is? I sure haven’t figured it out.
(18) Date received: Mon, 10 Jul 2000
The Paulding Light. I used to be a morning radio show host in the Appleton area of Wisconsin and had the opportunity to discuss many topics for the show. One day a listener had asked if I was familiar with the “Paulding Light” at Watersmeet, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. I had not but wanted to learn more.
After the show that day, my wife and I headed straight for Paulding. There is nothing from Highway 45 to indicate where this spot is, but if you get to the gas station in town, I found that they were more than happy to direct us. The road leading in is just a gravel, dead-end affair with a parking area and sign describing just what it is that you are there for.
There were about twenty people at the spot when we arrived and all were awaiting the appearance of the light. Many had seen it before and a couple offered numerous explanations for the phenomenon. To see the light, all one has to do is wait.
If there were railroad tracks here, there is absolutely no evidence of such. A large ravine cuts across at a right angle to where you look for the light, and I could find no remnants of bridge footings or the like to support a railroad bridge. None the less, it does resemble a railroad right-of-way.
The light appeared after dark. It started off as a dim yellowish blurred spot. Then, after a few seconds, it became very, very bright, almost like it was coming at us. The light seemed to sway back and forth much like a train would do when traveling down the tracks of a branch line, where speeds are generally slower due to track conditions.
The light then stopped moving and a second light, this one reddish in color, swung down away from the main light. This second light was almost as if a brakeman or conductor had climbed down from the side of the train with his lantern to go about his business. The reddish light bounced around a bit then just as quickly as it had appeared, vanished. The main light started to fade out of sight, until it too was gone. The whole process took no more than a minute.
I don’t know what it is but we have been back to the site many times and have never been disappointed. We have always, as long as there isn’t any fog or other harsh weather restrictions, seen the light. My wife and I would highly recommend a visit to the Paulding Light. Happy Haunting!
(19) Date received: Sun, 02 Jun 2002
I visited the Paulding light for the first time June 2, 2002 at 3:15 AM with high expectations after some locals told me about their experiences. There were eight other vehicles there at that time. Many were drunk kids that were loud and may have caused the light to be less active. Anyhow, the light did appear far in the distance and moved in a way no vehicle could. It was red and partially white and appeared in relatively the same spot multiple times, moving downhill and approaching, but never farther than the last hill. There were kids who went all the way down past the barricade who came back and didn’t see what we saw from the barricade. I was told the light would come within two hundred feet, but it never came within a mile. All in all, it was truly real, but I was disappointed that the light was so far away.
(20) Date received: Sun, 02 Jun 2002
I just got back from checking out the Paulding Light in Michigan. I can’t say that it was very impressive. At first we could see it as we started down the road to the parking area. It was a little overcast, with about one hour of usable light left. The only thing that seemed odd was that for how bright it was outside, the light seemed to be big and bright. It was white when we saw it, around 7:00 or 8:00 PM. It didn’t move at all; the only thing it really did was fade in and out.
We were sitting there trying to figure out what it was because we don’t know of any lights that could throw a beam like that in the day time, but when you think about it, it could have been a train light and that would fit the story that goes with the light. We stayed till 10:00 PM and then left because it was still light out and went back around 10:45 PM when it was darker out.
When we got up to the parking lot, the light was much smaller than before and it was red this time and it looked like there were two very small lights. From what I could tell we were many miles away from the light.
(21) Date received: Tue, 30 May 2000
My family and I were recently visiting my brother’s resort (The West Shore Resort on Lake Gogebic, MI) and he suggested that we drive to Watersmeet to look at the Paulding Lights. I am not much of a believer in supernatural phenomena, so we left in the evening to Robbins Pond Road.
Upon our arrival, I could not believe the amount of cars present at this remote area. We got out of our car and walked about one-quarter mile to the blockade, where we observed the light in the far distance that we had been told about. It was true. There was a light that appeared at the top of the distant ridge that would change from red to white to bright white then disappear for a few seconds, then start over again.
I couldn’t help listen to the nearly fifty bystanders comment on this mysterious light. Several people ventured down the power line towards the light, but everyone returned saying that the light was not present when they reached the distant ridge. My brother has made mention that Unsolved Mysteries and NASA have performed investigations on this light and through all their work, it still remains a mystery.
My family and I were returning to Minnesota in the early morning so couldn’t stay too long. On my next return, I would like to do a more in-depth search for this light. I am still not a believer in supernatural phenomena and must find the answer to this light. If anyone out there has evidence or related stories on this location, I would like to hear from you.