Last night ACU students made history. We officially busted the Anson Light.
One of my most favorite posts is the one where I tell the story of how a group of students and I went out to try to bust the Anson Light.
If you've not read that post, let me catch you up. About 25 miles north of Abilene is the small town of Anson. And one of the things Anson is famous for is the Anson Light.
The Anson Light is a ghost light that has attracted over the decades quite a bit of media and paranormal investigative attention. But mainly it attracts high school and college students who have got nothing to do on slow Saturday nights.
To find the light you head north out of Abilene on US-83. When you get to US-180 in Anson (the first traffic light you reach) you take a right. You go about a mile or so down the road until you reach a cemetery. You take a right on the dirt road next to the cemetery. You go about a mile down the dirt road until you reach a crossroads. At the crossroads you turn around to face back down the road toward the cemetery. Here's a map if you ever want to plan a family vacation to Anson:
After you turn back around you're supposed to flash your car lights. After some moments the ghost light will appear down the road.
The legend behind the light is this:
There was a young boy who got lost in a snowstorm. His mother, in her grief, went out searching the night for him with a lantern. They both never return. The Anson light is the illumination from the mother's lamp still searching the night for her lost son.Visiting the Anson Light at least once is kind of a rite of passage for ACU students. When I last visited with my students a few years ago we indeed saw the light and spent a couple of hours trying to figure it out. I was pretty convinced the light was coming from car headlights but I wasn't 100% confident. So we left with a mystery. But I was determined to return in the future to get to the bottom of the matter. And last night we did.
Around 9:30 Caroline, Kurt, Zach, Anne, Casey, Tyler #1, and Tyler #2 gathered in the Chambers parking lot at ACU, piled into my car and Kurt's truck and headed north to Anson.
We got out to the crossroads and, sure enough, there was the Anson Light. We watched it for awhile, looking at it through binoculars. Some of the group got spooked because it is very dark out there. And then the coyotes started howling and screaming...
I ignored the coyotes because we had a hypothesis to test. After my last failed attempt at ghost busting I went home to research what the various paranormal investigation groups had determined about the light. The best analysis I found was a 2001 report by the Southwestern Ghost Hunters Association. According to their report, the SGHA thought that the Anson Light is caused by the oncoming headlights from US-277 which is perfectly aligned with the dirt road where the Anson Light is observed. You can see this alignment here:
As best I could tell from their online report, the SGHA didn't actually trace the light to its source. They mainly drew their conclusion by zooming in on the light with their video camera where they said they could make out the car lights on US-277. However, I've looked at the light through binoculars with students and while some of them see car lights others disagree. So if we really wanted to settle the question we'd need to do something the SGHA didn't do: Trace the lights to their origin. Only then would we have the definitive "proof" that the Anson Light isn't a ghost light.
And that's what we set out to do.
Looking at Google Maps it appeared that we could follow some dirt roads from the crossroads to the source of the light (what we believed to be car lights from US-277). The key was to get ourselves exactly on the line between the ghost light and the crossroads. The route for the first part of our journey looked like this:
From this location we'd be "in between" the ghost light and the crossroads, theoretically speaking. It was possible that once we arrived to this spot the light could have been to our south rather than to our north. That is, we could have "passed" the ghost on the way to this spot.
However, when we got to this location we looked north and were able to see the ghost light. Only this time we were much closer to the source and, thus, were better able to see that these were car lights. However, some of the students still doubted. We needed to get closer.
So we set out on the second part of the journey, driving on the dirt roads to get all the way to the light. Fortunately, as you can see from the map below, the last little bit of this drive would be exactly on line with the ghost light. We'd be driving right into it:
So we set out. Then took a right heading north. The light came back into view, off to our right. We then took another right and lost the light. But taking a final left turn we got back on the sight line. The light came back into view and we drove toward it.
And as we closed in on the light, approaching the intersection with US-277, it all became clear: The Anson Light is the approaching car lights from southbound traffic on US-277. The Southwestern Ghost Hunters Association was right. But we had tracked the light all the way to its source. If there was any doubt back on the crossroads looking through binoculars those were effectively dispelled.
Conclusion: The Anson Light is not a ghost light. Anyone interested can repeat the steps we took to verify for themselves that the source of the Anson Light is the southbound traffic on US-277.
And as best I can tell, this is the first investigation of its kind posted on the Internet. We are the first group I know of to post a public record of tracking the Anson Light from the crossroads to its origin. Where scores of media and paranormal investigators have failed our ACU students have succeeded. Caroline, Kurt, Zach, Anne, Casey, Tyler #1, and Tyler #2 enter the history books of the world as the people who officially busted the Anson Light.
The legend of the Anson Light died on June 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm.
What made our success possible? Why were we successful last night when my other students couldn't bust the light those many years ago?
Answer: the iPhone.
As many of you know, as a part of our Connected initiative all ACU students are given iPhones. And those iPhones were the difference-makers in our paranormal investigation.
The key to our success as described above was getting ourselves exactly on the sight line of the Anson Light. Using the Google Maps and GPS system on our iPhones we were able to execute the plan described above (we also used our iPhone compasses, picture, and video applications along with using the phones to communicate between cars and those walking the road). The last time I was out in Anson with students we couldn't have pulled this off. It is very difficult to navigate those dirt roads and it's very dark. Plus, the terrain obscures your sight. It was only with the Google Maps and iPhone GPS that we could get to the exact locations we needed to test hypotheses and track the light.
So hooray for ACU's Connected initiative! In my opinion, this is its greatest and most stunning success. There's a lot of talk on our campus about how the iPhone would allow ACU students to do field research. But I bet the Connected folks could never have envisioned the role of the iPhone as vital part of paranormal investigative field research.