After dark, the desolate lands of the Australian Outback are filled with mysterious, bobbing lights. Known as the Min Min Lights, these strange lights are circular, about a quarter of the size of the moon, and have fuzzy, vibrating edges. Thousands of these light sightings have occured, with little real evidence of an explaination.
Reports of the phenomenon are widespread throughout Australia as well as in Saudi Arabia as people name this phenomenon “abu fanoos” “ابو فانوس” which means the man with the lamp in Arabic. The lights have been reported mostly in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australian states and near Rub’ al Khali desert in Saudi Arabia.
The name Min Min was adopted in 1918, named after the small Min Min settlement and Hotel in between the two Northern Queensland towns Boulia and Winton in Australia. The story goes that a stockman was riding his horse down the Kennedy development road past the now burnt down Min Min Hotel when suddenly a light appeared above the graveyard that was behind the premises. Boulia is now a major tourist hotspot for Min Min sightings.
Accounts of the light appearances vary, though they are most commonly described as being fuzzy, disc-shaped lights that appear to hover just above the horizon. They are often described as being white, though some accounts describe them as changing colour from white to red to green and back again. The fuzzy orbs can dance around erratically left to right, up and down and back and forth. Occasionally, a single Min Min light can suddenly split into two separate lights. Some accounts describe them as being dim; others describe them as being bright enough to illuminate the ground under them and to cause nearby objects to throw clearly defined shadows.
The Indigenous, Australian, Kalkadoon people believe that if the lights catch up to you, you will disappear completely without a trace.
Some witnesses describe the light as appearing to approach them several times before retreating. Others report that the lights were able to keep pace with them when they were in a moving motor vehicle.
Shanaee Pracy was returning to Eva Valley from Mataranka at night with her partner and three young children when they noticed what may have been the Min Min light.
“We were only about 10-15km out (of Mataranka) and my partner said, ‘Can you see that light?’,” she said.
“It started flickering from one side of the car and jumped to the other.
“We parked behind a tree to see if it moved – if it was just a star, it wouldn’t – and it came out from behind the tree.
“It looked as if it was following the car and it would come down towards the car about 100-200m away.”
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.”
Of course, they also feature regularly in supernatural folklore, with local residents stating that they’re afraid of their erratic and seemingly unexplainable appearance. Their true nature remains a mystery.