University of Central Oklahoma professor of English Allen Rice, Ph.D., has a weakness for mysteries – specifically, trying to solve them. Along with a group of friends nicknamed “The Boomers,” Rice has traveled Oklahoma and the world on expeditions to investigate mysteries of folklore and history.
In October Rice and his Boomers took on the “Spooklight” – a visual phenomenon most often described as a floating orb of light that can frequently be seen on the border between southwestern Missouri and northeastern Oklahoma east of the town of Quapaw. To the group’s great surprise, they developed a working theory in the matter of a weekend and returned in December to test the theory and create a short documentary proving what they uncovered about the phenomenon.
The film will debut at 7 p.m. April 3 in Pegasus Theater in the Liberal Arts building on Central’s campus. The screening is free and open to the public and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Rice and his team.
Sightings of the Spooklight, a thing of folklore and oral tradition, date back to the late 1800s. It is believed to have been first documented in print in The Kansas City Star in the 1930s, and was investigated to no conclusion by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1946. National and local magazines, newspapers, and television crews have tried to solve the mystery and failed.
Rice was studying strange phenomena in Oklahoma when he found the story of the Spooklight. Having never heard of it previously, he figured looking into it might be a good weekend of fun.
Rice knows that the premise sounds a bit strange.
“Some guys hunt, some guys fish. We look for mysteries. Do we believe in the stuff we are looking for? Not really,” Rice said.
“But even the greatest skeptic on a boat at Loch Ness will peer into the slate gray waters trying to see something. We just do it to hang out and have fun – which we do.”
Rice’s partners in crime – The Boomers – are Christopher Shaneyfelt, a veteran’s education specialist and English instructor at Rose State college, as well as the film’s editor; Michael Ferguson, a world history and government teacher at Harding Fine Arts Academy in Oklahoma City; James Cast, from Medicine Park, Oklahoma; Keon Canady, an undergraduate at Central; Charles Nunley, a professor of mathematics at Oklahoma City Community College; Karl Dowell, a librarian at Mustang High School; and Deedee Rice, a world history teacher at Edmond Santa Fe High School and Allen’s wife.
The Boomers have explored Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains using an old treasure map looking for Jessie James' lost gold and have searched for Bigfoot in the Ouachita Mountains. They surveyed the waters of Scotland looking for the Loch Ness Monster. They searched for the buried body of a crashed space alien in Texas.
Rice, the leader of the pack who researches and selects mysteries to investigate, admits that while the expeditions have been plenty of fun, they have never solved a mystery, or even gotten close – until now.
“We were as shocked as anybody that we solved this one,” Rice said.
“We’re just excited to share what we’ve discovered and shed a little light on the real story of Oklahoma’s ‘Spooklight.’”
For more information about “Spooklight,” contact Rice at email@example.com