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Mysterious Lights of the Lackawanna Valley:
Spirits or Simple Science?

© 2016 - All Rights Reserved


A rchbald is a borough of about 17 square miles. It is located in Lackawanna County between Carbondale and Scranton. Although operations ended in 1955, Archbald was - like most towns in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania - a mining town. The first mines opened there in 1845. By 1890, however, Archbald was known for something other than coal: strange lights that residents regularly watched float along the river, drift through the mountains, and hover over rooftops. So famous were these lights that the New York Times ran an article about them.

The lights were only seen at night, most frequently near the mouth of an abandoned colliery called Sebastopol Mine. But they were also witnessed near the town graveyard, by a dilapidated water wheel, and along roads regularly walked by wary residents who dreaded these nightly illuminations.

Superstitious Archbald residents claimed the strange lights marked the spots where unfortunate souls met violent or untimely ends.

Scientists of the day, however, offered a more earthly explanation. The lights were simply the product of gasses generated by timbers decaying in the mines, they told local residents. Archbald, sitting between two hills, was simply better at "catching" these gasses than other surrounding towns.

Some inhabitants of Archbald accepted this explanation with relief. Others continued to believe (and some believe to this day) that the mysterious lights of the Lackawanna Valley were supernatural in origin. 💀


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