by Kimball Long
The problem with chasing down a good spook story is that sometimes the people who are really interested don’t remember much about it and the ones who do remember don’t want to be associated with the event.
Such is the case of the 1960 Spook Lights in Black Jack. Yes, that Black Jack. Our Black Jack, the one across the river whose main road wobbles between Cedar and St. Clair Counties. In the fall of 1960, Charlie Vilhauer’s field on the west side of the old Sac River Bridge at Black Jack became ground zero for this area’s one and only (to my knowledge) spook light sighting.
Linda Gayle Goodwin Leonard, – (was born and raised in Blackjack and lived there until 1966) “The main thing I remember was that us young people would go up on the highest hill on the land that belonged to Charlie Vilhauer. I don’t know if I ever saw it. It was a fun thing at night for us to go look. The story back then was that different people would see it at different times. Honestly, later I heard that it was a prankster and it probably was. But at the time, it was the real thing. People honestly believed it was a spook light.”
Some folks says the lights were red, others white. One former resident remembers coming home with his mom and dad and while coming around the curve in the road, being the first one in the car to see the lights waving in the field. He was six. It made an impression. “It was one of the most exciting events to happen in BlackJack.”
Dwain Witt – (who used to live in the area) “ I remember them. It was just something I couldn’t understand. It’s been so long. I saw them, whatever it was. I think the first time I saw them they were red and green like a traffic light. One time we started towards it and it just went over the tops of the trees. All you could see was a light. It got to the point people were driving from town just to see if they could see it. Sometimes it would be there and sometimes not. “
The crowds grew. Sometimes the cars would be lined up from the county line sign for a 1⁄2 mile to the top of the hill to the west. Art Witt’s store supposedly did quite a business that fall.
Anonymous source – “It’s been a long time. I remember the deal out there. I lived at Caplinger at the time. Those around Caplinger store were taking off, several in a car, to see what was going on. They parked on the hill a mile or two from BlackJack every night. Everybody was telling about this red spook light and then they were talking about a blue spook light and they would chase it and someone said it went through a fire.”
“Several years later I got to running around with a guy and he told all about what happened. He said there were actually four guys that were caught up in it. They started out hunting one night and they took out running and someone chased them, so they thought they’d do it again. People got to trying to run and catch the light. One night this guy was being chased and fell and the light went out. One night the guy just stepped around a tree and the chaser gave up.”
According to this source, he was sworn to secrecy.
“It was kind of fun. For several years I didn’t know any difference. It made a pretty good story for everybody.”
As I said, the people who know don’t want to talk about it, the people who are willing to talk don’t know too much about it. The story goes that there was a group of men, four or five, that had a splendid time fooling the people of this area. The other story is that the lights were caused by swamp gas. The third story is…well, you know, “The truth is out there.”