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On August 14 and 15, 2009, The WPRS visited Watersmeet, Michigan to investigate a phenomenon known as the Paulding Light.  The Paulding Light is a well-known “mystery light” that is visible from Robbins Pond Road, also known as Old State 45. The most popular viewing area is along a guardrail that has been put in place, barricading Robbins Pond Road to through traffic. The light seems to rise over the horizon along a row of power lines and travel closer to the viewer, sometimes changing color, varying in intensity and seeming to move up and down or side to side.

History & Legend 

There are many legends surrounding the cause of the Paulding Light. Perhaps the most popular version is that it emanates from the lantern of a phantom railroad worker. Some tales say that the worker was crushed between two train cars, while others believe he was murdered. It is also thought that the Light is actually the headlight of a ghostly train.

Natural explanations for the Light include swamp gas and headlights and taillights from cars driving on the stretch of Highway 45 North of Watersmeet, which was built in 1953.

Other legends about the Paulding Light include the phenomena being the subject of investigations by both Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Unsolved Mysteries. It is rumored that Ripley’s investigated the area, even blocking off a section of Highway 45 North of Robbins Pond Road, and documenting the Light on their television series, which ran from 1982 – 1986. Local legend has it that the Ripley’s investigators were unable to find an explanation for the Light, and that a reward of $100,000 was promised to the person that could provide an explanation. The WPRS was unable to find any mention of the Paulding Light in relation to Ripley’s, and upon inquiry, received this response from Edward Meyer, Vice President of Ripley’s Believe It or Not Exhibits and Archives:

“Totally urban myth—we have never been involved in or interested in the Paulding Lights. We have never offered a ‘reward’ for this or any other ‘phenomena’…..Frankly have absolutely no interest in this story…

Research into the Unsolved Mysteries television series provided similar insight. While the show did feature an identical phenomenon, it was not related to the Paulding Light in Michigan. Unsolved Mysteries episode #317, which aired December 16, 1994, covered the following case:

“The Unexplained: Gurdon, Arkansas is at the center of a bizarre mystery in which an eerie unexplained light nicknamed “The Gurdon Light” has been seen along railroad tracks. This segment poses the possibility that it may be the ghost of a long dead railroad man.”

Another rumor surrounding the Paulding Light is that reports of sightings go back over 100 years. It is well documented that the first report of the Light was actually in 1966.

Investigation Day 1

The WPRS arrived at the Paulding Light observation area shortly after nightfall. There were a handful of others there to view the Light. All team members were able to see the Light, which appeared at regular intervals in both white and red. WPRS members Coscio and Shaw remained at the observation point, while Blaschka, Duginski, Spialek and Brogli drove north to see where Highway 45 led. We soon spotted an access road that we suspected would lead to Robbins Pond Road. Upon taking the access road, we found that it did indeed lead to Robbins Pond, and that Robbins Pond is drivable from the intersection of the access road all the way to an outlet onto Highway 45 at Running Bear Resort. After meeting up with Coscio and Shaw, it was discovered that, while driving Robbins Pond, our vehicle was visible from the observation point. The vehicle didn’t seem to disturb the Paulding Light phenomenon, which appeared to continue above and beyond the vehicle. Team members in the vehicle had not been able to see the Light from their perspective.

After this initial viewing of the Light, WPRS members agreed that the head/taillight theory seemed the most logical.

Investigation Day 2

In the early afternoon, the WPRS walked past the guardrail and down Robbins Pond Road. A short way north of the observation point, there is a somewhat steep grade with a creek at the bottom. The creek can be walked across, using rocks as stepping-stones. After climbing up the grade at the other side, there is another guardrail. From this point, the road becomes drivable, leading to Highway 45. There are occasional homes along the road.

Team member Duginski had a map with a location marked “Big Rock,” which we found to be a large hill off to the right of Robbins Pond Road. Big Rock is underneath the power lines, and in direct alignment with both the perceived location of the Paulding Light and the observation point.

The team then returned to the vehicle and drove north on Highway 45 past Paulding, toward Bruce’s Crossing. We were able to visually pinpoint the highest vantage point on Highway 45, where the “V” in the trees along the power lines is visible for miles to the South. This peak starts .5 miles South of where Highway 45 intersects with Taylor Road, near the Town Hall at 1904 Highway 45, and begins a 2.8 mile gradual descent to the south, parallel to the power lines.

After sundown, The WPRS broke into three teams. Blaschka and Coscio (Team A) drove North on Highway 45 to observe and take notes on passing vehicles. Duginski and Spialek (Team B) went to the observation point. Brogli and Shaw (Team C) went to Big Rock, and later met up with Team B at the observation point. These teams were to watch the Paulding Light and take notes on what they observed.

Team A first situated themselves at a point along Highway 45 that is 3.3 miles South of where 45 intersects with Taylor Road. This location is near the bottom of the long, gradual descent that 45 makes on its way to Paulding. From here, they carefully logged all traffic along the highway. They then moved to a second location, near the top of the hill, .9 miles South of Taylor Road, where they continued to take traffic notes.

After producing a sufficient amount of notes, Team A then drove North and South along this stretch of Highway 45, alternately flashing their vehicle’s brights, turning the lights on and off, and braking at regular intervals.

All three teams then regrouped to compare notes on what they had witnessed throughout the evening. The following was determined:

         Team A noted that from the bottom of the hill on Highway 45, headlights at the top of the hill, 2.8 miles away, appeared merged as one light, and very much resembled the Paulding Light.

         From 10:58 until 11:00, Team A traveled Northbound on 45, blinking their vehicle’s brakes on and off, while maintaining a speed of 65 mph. This was visible to Teams B and C, who where both situated at the observation point during this part of the investigation. Team B logged seeing a red light blink off and on approximately 13 times.

         From 11:01 until 11:03, Team A traveled Southbound on 45, turning their vehicle’s lights on and off, as well as flashing the brights. This was also visible from the observation point. Team B logged viewing a white light flashing on and off, sometimes disappearing completely and sometimes only dimming, approximately 10 times during the same time period.

         Anomalies in the Light seemed to correspond with occurrences along Highway 45. For instance, at 9:25, Team C logged 2 small lights, getting brighter and larger. At this point in time, Team A noted two cars traveling southbound. At 9:39, Team A logged a semi truck traveling southbound. At that point, Team B noted the Light being “intense” and Team C described the Light as “brighter.”

         Team A viewed 15 northbound vehicles during the observation period. These would theoretically appear as a red light at the observation site.

Team B perceived the Paulding Light as being red 13 times.

Team C perceived the red light 16 times.

         Team A viewed 14 southbound vehicles during the observation period. These would theoretically appear as a white light at the observation site.

Team B perceived a white light 16 times.

Team C perceived a white light 19 times.

While these numbers aren’t exact, the WPRS feels that when factoring in differences in perception, human error, dealing with a large crowd at the observation point and a great amount of insects at Big Rock, these numbers point to a correlation between traffic along Highway 45 and the Paulding Light phenomenon.


The WPRS feels that the Paulding Light in Michigan is the direct result of cars driving both north and south on Highway 45, 8.2 miles north of Robbins Pond Road. The light comes from a 2.8 mile stretch of road that runs directly north and south alongside power lines (.9 miles south of Taylor Road,) with a high vantage point at the top and a gradual decline to the bottom. As you stand at the Robbins Pond Road observation point, this stretch of highway is approximately 7.5 miles due north.

We feel that the Paulding Light appearing to move closer and dance from side to side is nothing more than an optical illusion, commonly known as Autokinesis.



*Any use or reproduction of this documentation is prohibited without the sole permission of the WPRS.