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The Min Min Lights of Australia: Fact or Fiction?

John was born and raised in Australia. Subsequently, he is interested in all things Australian: language, sport and culture.

What are Australia's Min Min lights?

What are Australia's Min Min lights?

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:

This Min Min light warning sign appears in Boulia, Queensland, Australia

This Min Min light warning sign appears in Boulia, Queensland, Australia

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)

Re-creation of the Min Min Hotel

Re-creation of the Min Min Hotel

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.

the-min-min-lights-fact-of-fiction-an-australians-contribution-to-halloween

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).

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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
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp
  • Jack-o'-Lantern
  • 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).

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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

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 09, 2019:

Kay, I am with you on this. Scientists always try to find a plausible explanation for everything, even where something is beyond logical explanation. I don’t believe the Min Min Lights are simply atmospheric conditions.

Kay Collins on February 09, 2019:

I can guarantee you they are not atmospheric conditions. Atmospheric conditions do not track you, maintaining speed and position, for several kilometres. That professor seriously must not have seen one if that is his explanation.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on January 22, 2019:

Haha, MrTKennedy. A "shire" here in Australia is an area under the control of a local council. We have shires all over the country.

MrTKennedy1981 on January 22, 2019:

The Shire???? Does Bilbo and Frodo grace this lovely area?

"Shire.....Baggins....." lol

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on March 04, 2018:

Peter, thank you for sharing your encounter with the lights on the Eyre Highway near Madura. I think I would have freaked out also.

Peter on March 04, 2018:

Have seen these lights on the Nullarbor plain on the Eyre Highway between Madura and Mundrabilla stayed directly in front of my car when i slowed so did they when i sped so did they when i stopped so did they also aplit from 2 to 3 they where dull lights with blue halo surrounding lights when i stopped and put hazzard lights on they retreated backwards when saw that i freaked out did a 180 and drove back to Madura roadhouse for the night.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on February 02, 2018:

Peter, thank you very much for sharing your testimony of an encounter with the MinMin Lights. It helps to add to the validity of this article. Very interesting indeed.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 25, 2017:

Bronwen/Blossom, thanks for reading. Yes, it took some research but the Min Min Lights are a very interesting topic to investigate.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on May 25, 2017:

Great story and you've researched it so well. It's interesting that a similar phenomena are found in other countries too.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 24, 2017:

Hi, Claire. Thank you so much for sharing that intriguining encounter by your husband and his father. I have not been fortunate enough to personally come in contact with the lights yet myself. I appreciate your in depth report on the experience and wouldn't doubt it for a second. They certainly sound like a sentient life form in the way they acted. It must have been quite a scary/eerie experience. This comment has certainly added to the validity of this article, and I hope to see the lights one day just for the experience. Thanks again.

Claire, Flowerdale, Victoria on May 24, 2017:

Hi John,

Thanks for the research you've done there. Have you been out to see the Min Min yet?

I'll share my husband's story. This was April 1993 or '94, driving south from the Barcaldine area.

Joe would go hunting up on a friend's block in central QLD. He went with his elderly father and take turns driving home. One night, his dad woke him up at around 10pm to say 'Your turn' so he took over driving as usual. He was about an hour off reaching the NSW border when the lights came along. At first, they appeared pinky white but by the time they came up behind the ute, turned to blue white. The lights merged from three into a single light and stayed above the cabin. During their speed increase from behind, Joe slowed down thinking it was the coppers (lol he had rifles- all legal- but didn't want trouble, obviously). So he thought he'd back off to 80kms but the lights slowed, too. Then, as I mentioned, hovered above the car for some time. Joe tried swerving and the light would follow. He wanted to look the pilot of this cheeky copper chopper in the eye!

The lights stayed above for 15min. Then they split into two, swinging and oscillating from side to side, back and front. Joe was scared he'd have an accident. He woke his father who thought Joe was playing an elaborate trick. At one time, Joe stopped completely and the lights separated, one in front of the windscreen, and on either side of the car then flickered different colours. He resumed driving and eventually the lights disappeared after an hour and a half. When he made it 'to civilisation' in Dubbo, they both decided to sleep in the cabin at the servo.

Allow me to paint a picture of my husband and his father. Both men are tough, no nonsense, practical and blokey blokes. Okay, I'll say it, they're country bumpkins, haha. Listen to Slim Dusty and Tammy Wynette, non drinkers and certainly not into the Mary Jane. But trust me when I say this. The lights are not refracted blah blah blah. They were acting like a sentient life form and Joe and his dad (dec.) swore on the Bible that this story was true. (His mum didn't believe them at first but knew they wouldn't risk a smiting). They were genuinely scared when telling their story. I do not for a minute believe they could make it up (they don't/ didn't have the imagination for that anyway). Oh, and they timed the rest of their drives after that, so they'd hit Dubbo at dusk, never to drive SW QLD at night again.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on December 29, 2016:

June, thank you for sharing your personal experiences that confirm that the min min lights are a real phenomena.

June Quinn on December 29, 2016:

I worked as a nurse in the Northern Territory in the 60s and was on call for ambulance duties 2 3 times a week Most of the callouts were after dark and could take 8hrs+ at times The min min lights could be seen on many many occasions. They were investigated but no answer was forthcoming on the outcome.

The lights were out to the left of the ambulance and would travel at the same speed as us If we slowed down the min mins would slow and if we put the foot down it would do the same

One occasion a man was admitted to the hospital with a fracture of his femur He was not an aussie and when he saw them for the first time (he was driving a mini moke) and was trying to get away from it and rolled his car.

Yes they do exist

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on November 21, 2016:

Lawrence, they are a pretty freaky phenomena whether there is a scientific explanation or not. Thanks for reading. Blessings to you.

Lawrence Hebb on November 21, 2016:

Fascinating story, I hadn't heard of them before. Maybe like the professor says there is a natural explanation, but then again maybe not!

Blessings

Lawrence

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on November 10, 2016:

Shauna, I really appreciate readers like yourself. That was a very nice comment, thanks. I found that poetry always does better here if a backstory or additional information is included. I have written some abstract poetry but I find it defeats the purpose if the audience has to struggle to understand your message, so I try to make most of mine easy to read. The Min Min lights seem to appear randomly throughout the year (as far as I can determine) though if they are dependent on atmospheric conditions certain factors may come into play. Thanks for reading and enjoy your upcoming weekend..

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 10, 2016:

Wow, pretty freaky, John! Is there a certain time of year the Min Min lights appear? Or is it random?

I love your poem. Your poetry is easy to read and always has a natural rhythm. I love poetry that doesn't make you strain to understand it. That's why you're one of my favorite poets. Plus you always throw in some facts or backstory. You're always a pleasure to read!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on November 02, 2016:

Hi Missy. I certainly have an interest in the weird and unexplained and the MinMin Lights are certainly in that category. I am pleased that this read like a documentary and found it both interesting and chilling. Thanks.

Missy Smith from Florida on November 02, 2016:

Loved it! I really enjoy documentaries, and your tale here read like I was watching a doc. The poem was great and the video gave me chills as well. Congrats on moving this one to Exemplore. I think this one fits well here. Awesome!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 27, 2016:

Funny you should say that Mike, about my Poem. I have had a few people say I should use some of my poetry to turn into children's books. The thing is, as a freelance writer, I have probably "ghost written" at least twenty or thirty children's books for other people. Whether they have all gone on to be published I don't know. Maybe I should join up with an illustrator and publish my own.. one day.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 27, 2016:

I have to say, your poem reads like the text of a children's book. I think that is the second time I have seen this in your work. Could be a whole new direction for you. Thankfully, I have not see the Min Min lights, or visited the namesake hotel were you can check in but you can't check out.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 26, 2016:

Thanks MsDora. There have been reports from those claiming to follow the lights that they try and lead the pursuer over a cliff or into quicksand and the like. But that is also a mystery that we can always wonder about.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 26, 2016:

At least, the origin of the Min Min lights is suggested, even if not certain. Your warning of disappearing forever make us keep our distance, so the mystery will always be there. Good Halloween story.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 26, 2016:

I always prefer the supernatural or unexplained than the scientific explanation, Linda. Much more interesting. Thanks for reading.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 25, 2016:

The scientific explanation for the lights makes sense, but the idea of ghost lights is more interesting! Thanks for sharing this enjoyable article, John. As others have said, it's a great hub for Halloween.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 25, 2016:

Thanks Blossom. I was hoping to get positive feedback from a fellow Aussie. much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 25, 2016:

Hi DEvika. That is the effect I wanted this story to have..scary but interesting. thanks.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on October 25, 2016:

Enjoyed your Aussie Halloween story - and the images added to the mystery as well.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 25, 2016:

You shared a scary story but also something that made me feel like when I watched Urban Legend or other horror movies.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 25, 2016:

Glad this hub captured your attention, ps. Unexplained lights can be pretty creepy can't they? Thanks for sending those Angels.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 25, 2016:

Okay....so...I think this perfect for this time of the year...mysterious lights appeared in a town not far from where I lived as a young girl and no explanation for them was ever found. Folklore? Urban legend? Who knows for sure?

You got my attention and held it :D Have a lovely day...Angels are once again on the way to you ps

manatita44 from london on October 24, 2016:

Then lost souls or vigilante's... joking Bro. Would sure be nice to find out. I'll be there with a pair of binoculars and some garlic for protection next week. (chuckle) Have a great day.

whonunuwho from United States on October 24, 2016:

Jodah, they are called "Ghost Lights", UFOs and Mystery Lights in other areas of the state. Many have their own variety. One such group were later identified as car lights shinning beams over a hillside that gave the odd appearance of being in different locations.Most sightings are never resolved.Thanks. whonu

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

That's good news, Theresa. Thanks again.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 24, 2016:

Hey, it's showing now! Eeks...

Love your poem too!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

So glad you found this fascinating, Theresa. I checked the first video and it is working fine for me. Maybe it is only able to be viewed in Australia. No one else has said they couldn't view it yet. Have a good day/night.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 24, 2016:

Fascinating and spooky stuff here, John! Perfect hub for Halloween. I would be scared to death if they started following me. What a great mystery today, especially with all the technology they still can't solve these mysterious lights. They look like orbs.

I enjoyed the video. The first video is not working on my end.

Thanks for sharing this. I learned something ...well, that there are still unexplained occurrences on this Earth.

Good one!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Cheers, Eric. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Thank you, Marlene. Glad you enjoyed the story, and the poem. Have a great day.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 24, 2016:

Really cool

Marlene Bertrand from USA on October 24, 2016:

I found this story fascinating and scary at the same time. Your poem rounds out the story beautifully.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Guardian angels, Manatita? I am not sure about that one as they are said to have led some to their death, either over a precipice or into quicksand etc. could be some sort of spirit though.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Thanks Larry. Yes it is.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Hi Ruby, I think I am going to have to take a trip just to check them out. This type of thing intrigues me, and you may be right about the lowlands. I am sure Nell would find it interesting. I hope she reads this hub.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Yep, I agree Clive. Fact!

manatita44 from london on October 24, 2016:

Interesting, ethereal kind of story. Perhaps they are guardian angels, more place-related than person. Nice story for Halloween.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 24, 2016:

Cool phenomenon.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 24, 2016:

This is the perfect time to write this spooky piece. I would love to see the lights. I'm sure the lowland has something to do with this phenomenon. The fog would make it more creepy. I have never heard of the Min Min lights. Nell ( from England ) will love this. She writes about paranormal activities..

Clive Williams from Jamaica on October 24, 2016:

FACT!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Flourish, it does sound very much like the same phenomena that your mother experience...maybe a link with the Min Min hotel graveyard, and the funeral home in your case. That would make it some type of paranormal activity. Thank you for sharing that.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

You are like me, Bill. We both love a good scare for the thrill of it. Nothing beats a good horror movie or real spooky experience, so I'd enjoy coming across the Min Min lights.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 24, 2016:

I enjoyed this haunting read. It reminded me of the lights that used to follow my mother down a country road in the 60s when she took her husband to his army post. It was like a motorcycle riding too close behind. with the high beams on. But when she turned around to look, there was nothing. We were on the same road years later and she was explaining that it always started here and then ended ... here. I looked up and there was an old funeral home off the road a bit. Spooky.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2016:

Alrighty, then! That's a little bit spooky...but I'd love to see them in person and be scared out of my bejeebers!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

Yes, Mel. I read about the Marfa lights while I was researching this. I agree, even if there was a satisfactory explaination and I encountered one I would be rather uneasy. Thanks for reading.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on October 24, 2016:

There is a town here in Texas called Marfa where similar lights have appeared, but I don't think they follow people. I think the atmospheric phenomenon theory is probably satisfactory, but I still would be spooked if I saw them. Great read.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on October 24, 2016:

There seem to be similar mysterious lights in many different countries, Whonu.. Will-o'-the- wisp etc. what are they called in Georgia? Glad you found this interesting.

whonunuwho from United States on October 24, 2016:

Very interesting sightings and well done on your report my friend. These strange kinds of sightings are familiar in the Georgia regions of The U.S. also. I lived there many years and the lights were sometimes seen but never identified. Thanks for sharing. whonu