The Min Min Lights of Australia: Fact or Fiction?
One of Australia's Greatest Supernatural Mysteries
The Min Min lights are one of Australia’s greatest supernatural mysteries. A sign on the way into Boulia, Queensland reads:
What Are the Min Min Lights?
These football or watermelon shaped glowing balls of light have been following travellers through the Queensland outback for almost 100 years. No satisfactory scientific explanation exists to explain them.
The lights are named after the Min Min hotel (which burnt down in 1918), and mail exchange, which used to stand on the boundary of two big cattle stations—Warenda and Lucknow—located between the outback towns of Boulia and Winton. Soon after the fire, a local stockman was reportedly followed by a light on his journey to Boulia.
Slim Dusty: "The Min Min Light"
The Min Min Hotel
In his article on Australia’s most famous ghost light in The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 January 1947, Bill Beatty described the outback hotel that gave name to the mysterious lights as a “notorious shanty”.
He goes on to describe it in this rather macabre way:
“No spots on earth were lower than some of these western shanties of the Queensland of 70-odd years ago. The Min Min Hotel was regarded as the worst of these vicious dens.
Dispensing adulterated liquor and drugs, the Min Min Hotel derived its profits from the process known as ‘lambing down’ unwary shearers and station-hands, who arrived there with large cheques and still larger thirsts.
Many of these men remained there. The fierce, doped spirits caused their deaths. Others were killed in wild brawls, or were murdered for their money, and at the rear of the hotel site there is still to be seen the Min Min graveyard, where these victims were buried.”
If ever there were a place to be frequented by the tortured souls of the dead, the graveyard behind the Min Min Hotel would be among the top contenders. (source: Andrew Nicholson,weirdaustralia.com)
A number of unexplained disappearances have been blamed on the Min Min lights.
The Town of Boulia
The town of Boulia was established in 1876 to service local graziers. It got its name from the nearby waterhole, which was named Boulia by the local Pitta Pitta tribe. The waterhole is a permanent water supply when the Burke river runs dry.
Boulia is the administrative centre of the shire of the same name. Located on the banks of the Burke River (named after the famous explorer). Burke & Wills were the first Europeans in the area on their ill-fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860.
The shire comprises a vast 61,000 square kilometres with a population of 600 people, 250,000 sheep and 75,000 cattle.
Reports and Folklore
Other reports of the lights soon followed and they have become a local feature and legend of Australian folklore. Thousands of sightings of the lights have now been reported. The lights have been known to follow people on horseback, in cars and on foot sometimes for hundreds of kilometres. The lights generally travel around three feet from the ground and are often mistaken for the headlights of another vehicle.
According to folklore, the lights sometimes disappear, very rapidly, when fired upon, only to reappear later on. It is widely believed that anyone who actually follows the lights and catches up with them is never seen again. A number of unexplained disappearances have been blamed on the Min Min lights.
Much earlier stories about these lights can be found in Aboriginal myths predating European settlement, and Aboriginal Australians are convinced that the number of sightings has increased alongside the increasing movement of Europeans into the outback. The first recorded sighting dates to 1838, in the book Six Months in South Australia (source: Wikipedia; National Museum of Australia).
While many proclaim to have seen the light, Ted Baines has in fact seen it ... twice. The first was an encounter at Gurley Station in 1952 but it was nothing like the one he saw 40 years later. It was the night he was chased by a Paddy's Lantern.— www.local-legends.net
Other Names for Australian Ghost Lights
- Paddy's Lanten
- Quinn's Light
- Ghost Lights
The Min Min Lights have been seen in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and northern New South Wales. There have been a number of stories and tales written about them.
The author Mavis Thorpe Clarke wrote about them in her autobiography Trust the Dream (2004) and in her children’s novel The Min Min (1967).
Is It an Optical Illusion?
Professor Jack Pettigrew of the University of Queensland has seen the lights on a number of occasions. He believes that they are an optical effect caused by the reflection of distant lights off the atmosphere under conditions of unusual humidity and says, “The Min Min light occurs when light, from a natural or man-made source, is refracted to an observer who is tens, or even hundreds, of kilometres away, by an inverted mirage, or Fata Morgana. Named after the Morgan fairy, who was reputed to be able to conjure cities on the surface of the sea ice, the Fata Morgana has a real physical phenomenon, being caused by a temperature inversion" (source: http://www.davidreneke.com).
Poem: "Min Min Lights"
In the dark lonely nights
Of the Queensland outback,
Spooky lights may be seen
Along the old Boulia track.
These lights known as Min Min
May follow your car,
Sometimes they're mistaken
For the moon or a star.
But if you should chase them
And they move swiftly away,
Give up your pursuit,
Or for your safety I pray.
For bush folklore says,
If you follow the lights
You may disappear forever,
Like a ghost in the night.
An eerie phenomena
That can't be explained,
Min Min Lights are magical,
Their allure always remains.
© 2016 John Hansen