“Myths are our self-interpretation of our inner selves in relation to the outside world. They are narrations by which our society is unified. Myths are essential to the process of keeping our souls alive and bringing us new meaning in a difficult and often meaningless world. ” - Rollo May

The Ozark backwoods are a place you feel. The dark nooks to hide, made in encroaching woods and the banks of rivers, the smell of wet life and decay, a steady insect hum, all create a backdrop for a people with a particular fascination for the mysteries of darkness and light. Here some of the oldest stories of humanity are told — wanderers’ lost souls and paths taken towards good or evil — but with a local twist in the tale of a strange orb of light.

Folkloric stories can provide insight into very real issues in a community. This region is marked by isolated poverty, a wariness for outsiders, and a struggle between heaven and hell that factors into everyday conversation. Spook Light is known as a floating orb found on a wooded road in a region where the Devil is said to reside. In lieu of a scientific explanation the appearance of the Spook Light has come to represent for the community a desire for redemption and the fear of slipping into darkness. It is the sublime experience whose defiance of explanation provides a reprieve from ordinary life while the stories told to explain its origin are firmly rooted in the foundation of human existence.

Devil’s Promenade is a project about our home region that blends folklore and local history with present day photographs of Ozark people, the land, and interpretive images based on the living mythology of the Light. These photographs are combined with oral accounts, short fiction, and found photographs from the region’s past in the three part book series Spook Light Chronicles. Our aim is not to provide documentation or an explanation of the phenomenon, but to suggest a narrative that, in the spirit of the light, is part fixed in this unique region and part afloat in a mysterious, otherworldly realm.

— Antone Dolezal & Lara Shipley

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