Location: Senath, Missouri
Appearance: White or yellow rapidly moving lights that may chase a car or lead it down the road. Some report their vehicles stalling at the site.
- The light is said to be the spirit of a railroad worker who was decapitated in an accident.
- Another tale tells of a woman carrying a lantern, searching for her husband who was hung from the “Hanging Tree” on the road.
- A slight variation of number two has the woman searching for her lost daughter.
- The light is the ghost(s) of one or more sisters who died in a house fire after one of them left a lantern burning in the window to summon her boyfriend.
Other explanations: Perhaps car headlights or swamp gas.
Additional notes: Two nearby sites, Lulu Cemetery and Crybaby Bridge, are also associated with the ghost light. In the early 2010s, the trees around the main viewing point on the road were pruned, which has dramatically cut down on the number of sightings.
The Senath or Arbyrd Light is a ghost light near Senath, Missouri that appears along a county road. Like many other spooklights, it can be summoned by flashing one’s car headlights. While older accounts describe the road as tree-lined, apparently some of the trees have been removed so the area is now more open. In addition to the road itself, there are two nearby sites, Lulu Cemetery and Crybaby Bridge, that are associated with the ghost story behind the light and some people report the light may be seen from these two locations as well. Witnesses have also claimed to hear the crying of a ghostly baby from Crybaby Bridge.
There are several legends surrounding the light. One tells of the archetypal railroad worker who lost his head in an accident. Another involves the ghost of a woman carrying a lantern, searching for her husband, who was hung from the “hanging tree” along the road; a variation of this tale has her looking for her missing daughter. In a third version, three sisters are killed in a house fire when one of them leaves a lantern burning in their window to summon her boyfriend. More prosaically, locals sometimes attribute the light to swamp gas or the refraction of car headlights.
The reader experiences I received over the years regarding the Senath Light were quite detailed. Readers described the light as white or yellow and often quite aggressive, either “chasing” them or leading cars down the road. This matches up with other accounts I found in my research, in which the light moves rapidly and tends to appear and disappear suddenly. Some of my readers reported their vehicle stalled when approached by the light, another common claim in stories online. Several mentioned that the light is not so reliable, only appearing occasionally. Unlike some other ghost lights, it seems to not be a nightly occurrence.
This spooklight was apparently quite well-known from the 1960s through the 1990s, but it seems to have lost some popularity over the past decade. Modern accounts of the light are scarce. This may be due to the pruning of the trees around the beginning of the 2010s, which changed the look and feel of at least one of the viewing areas. While researching, I found vague claims of university studies of the light, as well as its appearance on the 1980s television show That’s Incredible, but these appear to be false.
(1) Date received: Sat, 19 Jun 1999
I’ve been to a location, just across the Mississippi River in Missouri, where a spook light appears. A friend in Missouri kept telling me about it and I finally relented to go see it. The location is in the river bottoms along an abandoned rail line and is known as the Senath Light. Getting there requires driving through miles and miles of desolate farm country on narrow blacktop roads. Then you have to turn off on a gravel road that soon turns to a dirt track. Eventually you can see the built-up railroad bed up ahead and sweeping out of sight to the north.
My friend pulled up near to the old track bed and switched his car off, telling me the light would be traveling south through the curve and then turn around and go back from where it came. It was pitch black out there the night we went. I thought my friend was full of BS. I was being very skeptical about the whole thing.
Supposedly, some train conductor had fallen off a train and was decapitated, and the light was the conductor while looking for his head, swinging his lantern along the track. Someone else told me later that it was the light of the old train, like a ghost train. So there are two viewpoints. I don’t see any way the light could be reflected from someplace else. Anyway, I saw the light, it got a lot closer to me than I wanted it to, and I finally convinced my friend to get the hell out of there. As we sped off, I looked back and the light was traveling in the opposite direction. It was real enough for me, I’ll tell you.
A couple of months after that I was in the bottoms again in that general area. My friend and I were out scouting a place to go hunting and we were way back in some big field. (We had gone through several big fields to get there.)
I must have run over some thorns because suddenly we were sitting on four flats. Looking back, we should have run the truck out of there on the flats, but we decided to walk out. We walked for a couple of hours and finally found a blacktop road and started walking towards the general direction of a town. I was more perturbed than spooked.
As we went along, we began to pass an old empty farmhouse. It was all grown up with vines and brush. It was pretty eerie-looking. Bravado was ruling the moment as we both were packing pistols, so we didn’t think much of it. We got on down the road when we heard the most godawful woman scream I have ever heard. I’ve heard wildcats scream and this wasn’t the same. My friend and I looked at each other and picked up speed, away from the house. I never went back to investigate and we went back to my truck in a different way. We had to walk about another three hours before we reached help, both of us looking over our shoulders. I guess I’m a ‘fraidy cat after all!
(2) Date received: Mon, 1 Nov 1999
My husband and I live about five miles from the “Senath” light, or as people around here call it the “Arbyrd” light. We have lived here all our lives. We have been out there hundreds of times trying to see the light, unsuccessfully.
However, one night about four years ago us and two of our close friends ended up at the “light” on a double date. We shut off the car, flashed our headlights three times, and waited. After about thirty minutes we saw what appeared to be a car approaching. I’d say it was one-quarter of a mile from us when we realized it was only one light. It was a ways back, then all of a sudden it jumped towards us, then backed off, then it was coming back. The driver decided to drive into the light. It was like playing chicken then it just disappeared. We don’t know exactly what it was but we were convinced that we’d finally seen the light.
The legend of the light around here is that the light is a ghost of a woman carrying a lantern up and down the road looking for her husband. He was said to have been hung in a nearby tree.
The light is just one of the many mysteries that this particular road has. Rumor has it that a nearby cemetery, “Lulu,” is also haunted. We personally have yet to experience anything there. Just past the cemetery is a bridge known to locals as “Crybaby Bridge.” If you park on the bridge you can sometimes hear a baby crying. We have heard the sounds on numerous occasions but have no explanation for it. If you have any information about these things please reply.
(3) Date received: Fri, 11 Feb 2000
When I moved from Jonesboro, Arkansas to Blytheville, Arkansas to live with my grandparents, I began to hear stories from my aunts and uncles about the Senath light. We were on our way to the family reunion in Powhaten, Arkansas one spring and my uncle told me about the Senath light. He said, “See that little cemetery we just passed? There is a road up here to the right that if you take it you can see the Senath light.” Of course I had no idea what he was talking about, but my curiosity was certainly piqued. I asked, “What’s that?” He explained the story.
Apparently when you drive by that cemetery there is a wrought iron fence around it. When you drive by on the way to see the light, the gate is closed. When you get to the road, you park and flash the lights three times to “summon” the ghost light. Then it appears. If you let the light get close enough to touch your car, the car will stall. Then when you drive past the cemetery on the way home the gate is open.
When we got to the family reunion, my cousin and I asked around about the Senath light, since we had driven there in several vehicles. It seems each of my aunts and uncles had a version of their experience with the Senath light.
Years later, after many family reunions, every time I pass the graveyard, and I do quite often, I kind of look sideways at it. Once I even stopped. The graveyard is strange-looking when you drive past. It is very small. There may be ten or twelve graves at most, and they are so bunched up it is hard to believe there are people buried there and not pets. I stopped on the way past one day to see for myself if there were people buried in the cemetery and I chickened out before I got across the ditch.
Years later I had my own encounter with the light. I was staying with a friend in a neighboring city after a dance. We were with some other teens and didn’t have anything to do. Someone spoke up about the Senath light. I have always been interested in ghost stories and such so I was all for it. Some of the others had seen it before, and knew where it was.
So we set out. We “summoned” the light and it appeared. We were far back enough from the highway that we could see cars passing occasionally, but they were passing behind the light. It was far enough away and so bright that it shined in the hood of the car. It grew bigger and smaller and changed colors also. We had rolled up the windows and locked all the doors.
Someone suggested that it was someone holding a spotlight, but I refuse to believe that there is some crazy old man who has been standing in that road every night for decades waiting to be “summoned” and shine his light. Too many people have witnessed it and there are too many odd things about it. Its brightness, for one thing.
My friend who I was staying with that night said that her older sister had photographed the light and when the film was developed there was a skeletal figure in its place on the film. I don’t know what to think but I know I witnessed something that I cannot explain. What do you think?
(4) Date received: Mon, 1 May 2000
There is a small town called Arbyrd in the southeastern part of Missouri where it is told that three sisters burned inside their home while the oldest was waiting for her boyfriend to come for her. She apparently had a lantern in the window to let him know that it was ok for him to come by.
From what I understand the lantern caught the curtains on fire when they all fell asleep while waiting. The boyfriend never came and the three burned in the house. To this day it is said on the anniversary of that fateful night you will see the light of the lantern roaming the area in a search for the boyfriend that never showed.
This is all of the story that I know.
(5) Date received: Fri, 07 Nov 2003
I live in a little town about seven miles away from the little country town Senath. I have always heard legends about the Senath light from my friends, but did not really get to see it. For example, my friend went up there with his best friend. They wanted to see it for themselves and see if it was true or not. When they got out there they turned off their headlights and flashed them one time. All of a sudden a light came from the old railroad bed and came straight at the car. When it hit the front of the car, the engine quit. They turned it over several times before it finally started, then all of a sudden they heard something almost like a herd of deer running at them. Then they heard a huge noise and it felt like someone hit the car with a semi.
They did not spend any more time there and sped off as quickly as they could. When they got home they could not believe what happened, and went in to tell everyone what happened. Everyone thought they were drunk and everyone ignored them. The next morning he was woken up by his dad because his dad was mad because the back of the car was torn by something like claws. Then everyone was wondering what really happened.
However, in my personal experience me and my and two of my friends went out because one of them was moving away in a couple of days and we wanted something to remember. When we went out there it was about 11:00 or 12:00. We sat out there for over an hour and tried everything we could to see it, but could not see any light whatsoever. It was a complete waste of time.
Even though we did not see it, we were not content. About a year later we were bored and had nothing to do, so finally about two in the morning we were so bored that we decided we would go see if we could find where the light was at. This time we took a different way to get there.
We were about two miles away from where it was supposed to be on an field road going a weird way because we got lost when we actually saw the light. The only thing was that it was going from side to side. It was also changing brightness. We stopped right there, and the light stopped also. What was weird is when we turned my headlights out it was still there, so it could not be my headlights beaming off something.
We drove about a half mile on the small field road without headlights, and then I ran off the road into the side ditch. We got out all right but I decided to drive with my headlights. The whole time the light was still in front of us and kept going. We followed the light for about another mile going down this field road and following the light, then all of a sudden it just brightened up and hit the whole front end of my truck. The truck stalled but didn’t die. Then as soon as it brightened it up, it went away.
We were going to follow it up, but in a couple hundred feet we ran out of anywhere to drive. We sat there for about ten minutes and me and my friend decided let’s get out of here. We went his to house scared to death. Ever since then we have not been back, but we still wonder what it was that caused the light to do the things it did, but neither one of us is brave enough to go back.
(6) Date received: Wed, 04 Feb 2004
I am from Jonesboro, Arkansas and all my life I had heard about the Senath Light, either by way of “ghost stories” or from my mother’s own encounters. Last summer my friends and I finally got the guts to travel the 45 minutes to Senath. After stopping at a small gas station to ask directions and hear the clerk’s own story about the light we were on our way.
I had remembered my mother telling us about a little cemetery and a house on the corner of the road where an old man used to live that would shoot at you if he saw you driving down the road; sure enough there was the house and the little cemetery not far past it. We drove down the road, turned around, turned the truck off, flashed our lights, and waited. Unfortunately, we did not see it that time, or the three times we went afterwards. We still knew we had to see it, though.
We gathered a couple more friends and went out again. This time we sat for two hours, and we didn’t see a thing. When we decided to leave—we were going to drive down to the bridge and go to the cemetery—a huge bright light started chasing us. There was no one behind us at the time we started the truck to leave, but my friend looked in his rear view mirror and asked when a truck had turned onto the road. When we turned around to look at it, it was gaining on us and we were doing about 60 trying to get out of there.
When we crossed the road the light disappeared, just like it was never there. The light itself looked like a car’s headlights from far off, but as it gained on us we realized it was only one light, and it was coming at us way too fast and the light was too far off the ground to be a vehicle. I’ve never seen a light so bright and it wasn’t reflecting off anything or casting shadows around it like headlights would. Everyone in the truck that night is convinced that we saw the Senath Light and we can’t wait to see it again!
(7) Date received: Mon, 17 Jul 2000
I am writing in reference to what many in Southeast Missouri call the Senath Light. My family is from Senath and I have traveled this dirt road several times in my life. Actually, the road is closer to Arbyrd Missouri, but we all know it as the Senath Light.
My first experience with the light was when I was a teenager and my uncle, aunts, and some of my cousins went out to the light. My uncle is a practical joker and loves to pull pranks so he kept me pretty shook up the whole trip.
After arriving on the road, we parked near what my uncle called the hanging tree. To get a visual picture, imagine yourself on this dirt road at night, a long tree line on both sides of the road with the overhanging branches forming a natural tunnel along the path. On this night all that could be seen were stars and no moon.
We parked facing west, which is in the general direction of U.S. Highway 412. Cars traveling north and south on that road could be seen ahead of us. However, after my uncle turned the engine off and the lights off, it was pitch black. You could hear the cicadas and crickets and the sound of irrigation running.
However, after a few minutes of adjusting our eyes, I saw a dim light ahead and it appeared to travel up the road but at the same time bounce from side to side in a up and down motion. By that time, me being a big chicken that I was, I grabbed the keys from my uncle and started the car for him and yelled for him to leave. When the car lights came on, the light went out.
My grandmother long ago told me that scientist came down here in the ’40s or ’50s and explained the light as swamp gas. I have been there several other nights, sometimes seeing it, others nothing but darkness. No matter what it is, I can for sure testify to its reality. It exists!
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Updated 04-18-21. -Obiwan