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Strange Shape-Changers in the Woods

Encounters with mysterious, glowing balls of light, ones that have the mystifying ability to change into the forms of strange and savage creatures, are not unknown. A classic example is the collective, large body of data that surrounds a certain huge area of forest in Texas. Located in the Piney Woods area of East Texas, the Big Thicket has a most apt moniker: it is a huge, 83,000-acre area of woodland. “Dense” barely begins to describe the massive, forested environment, which is home to numerous wild animals, including alligators and bobcats – as well as to other creatures of a very odd kind, as we’ll soon see. Running through the heart of the Big Thicket is a long, thin, and incredibly sandy old road called Bragg Road. That’s not what the locals call it, though. To them, it is known as Ghost Light Road.

There is a very good reason for this: for at least three centuries, people have reported seeing weird, small balls of light flitting through the trees late at night. But, we’re not talking about anything quite as down to earth as fireflies. These particular lights vary in size from – approximately – a tennis ball to a beach ball. They also exhibit evidence of intelligence: witnesses describe the lights approaching them, even circling them, in what is occasionally perceived as a playful fashion. Such is the interest that the lights provoke in the people that live there, and in visitors too, a historical marker has been erected at the start of Bragg Road and which details the strange story of the lights. The late Rob Riggs was one of the most learned figures in the Bigfoot research field and someone who spent a significant portion of his life living in the Big Thicket area. Riggs collected numerous reports of the mysterious ghost lights, dating back to the 1800s. But, Riggs did far more than that: he also catalogued an astonishing number of reports of what seemed to be Bigfoot and large, black leopards. I say “seemed to be” for a very good reason.

While most people who have reported seeing large black cats, and who have had hairy wild-man type encounters in the Big Thicket, the vast majority are content to conclude they encountered animals of the type that very few ever get to encounter. But, not all of them. A small body of individuals have sworn that the large cats and the hairy humanoids – when spotted by the astonished and sometimes terrified onlookers – vanished before their eyes. We’re not talking about them making hasty getaways into the woods. Rather, we are talking about the “animals” – in an instant – changing form from big cat and Bigfoot to a small, brightly-lit globe of light. The ghost lights that have been staple parts of the area for centuries, of course.

Three such reports surfaced in 1977, and from entirely unconnected people: two encountered the Big Thicket man-beast, and one the paranormal panther. All three witnesses – whose accounts were collected by Ernie Sears, a now-deceased UFO researcher, swore that, in barely a couple of blinks of the eye, and as the creatures realized they had been seen, they became as still as statues. Then, rather incredibly, they shrunk in size and transformed into small balls of light that vanished into the trees. A near-identical incident occurred on Bragg Road itself in 1998, when a group of campers encountered an immense Bigfoot – in excess of eight-feet in height – which vanished in a flash of light and that left just one tell-tale card: a golf ball-sized globe of light that hovered around the immediate area for around twenty or seconds and which then fizzled out of existence, and amid what was described as an electrical crackling noise. I had the good fortune to meet one of the campers at the June 11, 2005 Texas Ghost Lights Conference in Austin, Texas.

Finally, in 2007, one of the mysterious big cats was seen by a wildlife officer, as it drank from a small pool of water deep in the Thicket. The woman – who I met on a 2009 trip to the Big Thicket and who prefers anonymity – knew all the stories of the area’s resident “black panther,” but didn’t really put much faith in the accounts. That is, until she saw it for herself. And she saw much more than that: as she stood, transfixed to the spot, the immense cat turned nonchalantly in her direction, and was suddenly reduced to a glowing ball that melted into the pool, amid a great deal of steam – suggesting the light was extremely hot. In view of all the above, it’s no wonder that the Big Thicket has developed a reputation as one of the most paranormal places in all of the Lone Star State.

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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