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The Min Min Lights of Australia: Fact or Fiction?

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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:

Min Min Light Warning Sign, Boulia QLD, Australia
Min Min Light Warning Sign, Boulia QLD, Australia | Source
Min Min Lights
Min Min Lights | Source

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 (that 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.

A markerBoulia, Queensland, Australia -
Boulia QLD 4829, Australia
get directions

Slim Dusty- The Min Min Light

The Min Min Hotel

Bill Beatty, in his article on Australia’s most famous ghost light In The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 January 1947, 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)

Recreation of the Min Min in Hotel
Recreation of the Min Min in Hotel | Source
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A number of unexplained disappearances have been blamed on the Min Min lights.

Boulia

The town of Boulia was established 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 km² with a population of 600 people, 250,000 sheep, 75,000 cattle.

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
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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).

Professor Jack Pettigrew (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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Min Min Lights - The Poem

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 44 comments

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 6 weeks ago from United States

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 6 weeks ago from San Diego California

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

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


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 6 weeks ago from Nibiru

FACT!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

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..


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 6 weeks ago from Oklahoma

Cool phenomenon.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 6 weeks ago from london

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

Yep, I agree Clive. Fact!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Larry. Yes it is.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 6 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

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


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 6 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Really cool


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

Cheers, Eric. Much appreciated.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 6 weeks ago from southern USA

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!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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 profile image

Faith Reaper 6 weeks ago from southern USA

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

Love your poem too!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

That's good news, Theresa. Thanks again.


whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 6 weeks ago from United States

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


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 6 weeks ago from london

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.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 6 weeks ago from sunny Florida

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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


DDE profile image

DDE 6 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

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


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 6 weeks ago from Victoria, Australia

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 6 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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


MsDora profile image

MsDora 6 weeks ago from The Caribbean

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 6 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

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.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 6 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 5 weeks ago from Florida

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!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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.


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 4 weeks ago from Central Florida

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!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 4 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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..


Lawrence Hebb 2 weeks ago

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


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 weeks ago from Queensland Australia Author

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

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