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Chasing Fireballs: An Unexplained Encounter in Arizona’s Desert

Many of my ghost or paranormal stories come from my father. My father was a very practical man, but he did have a strong belief in the paranormal. When he would tell (or retell) one of his experiences with the supernatural, it was always in a very cut and dry manner. Most nights around the campfire would start the same way. We would all beg our father to tell us a ghost story. His response was always, “I don’t know any ghost stories. However, there was this one time.” And Dad always started his tales with the same account. 

My father was born while my grandfather was serving in World War II. My grandfather returned to southern New Mexico, gathered his wife and (now) two children, and quickly took a job with the railroad. My grandfather worked with Southern Pacific until his retirement. As my father grew up, they were rather transitory, moving along the train tracks in small railroad settlement towns throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico. During my father’s early adolescence, they were living out in a railroad settlement in Dragoon, Arizona. 

Even today, Dragoon remains fairly isolated and rural. My father told stories of hopping on trains with his friends to go into the nearest actual town (Benson) for entertainment. He also spent many nights out camping in the desert with the other children of railroad workers. My father always eased us into a night of paranormal stories with an account of one of these camping trips. 

My dad and his friends took their camping gear and headed out into the desert near Dragoon. He stated they hiked quite a few miles out of “town.” They ended up in an area where they were completely remote and there were no houses in sight and no other people anywhere in the nearby vicinity. During the night as the boys were sitting around talking, one of them saw what appeared to be a fire in the distance. The boys were both scared and curious. They decided to immediately set out at a run and see what was on fire. Clearly, on a clear night with no lightning, someone had to have set the fire and fire spreads quickly in the desert. 

As the group drew closer to the fire, it seemed that the fire kept getting further and further away. The boys ran faster, but the fire kept moving. They finally drew close enough to see the fire clearly. What they saw defied logic and explanation. My father said that they saw what appeared to be approximately five large fireballs in the air spinning in a circle. As the boys moved closer, the balls moved away from them. They followed the fireballs for miles until the flames moved away from them and out of sight. 

What happened that night haunted my father and he spent much of his life looking for people who had had similar experiences. Dad searched books to try to find accounts that corroborated his encounter. He did say that once he found a book in our local public library that included a story nearly identical to what my father said that he saw that night in the desert near Dragoon. I have continued my father’s hunt for stories that would match his account, but I have not found either the book that he found in the public library or any other similar stories. 

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The Arizona desert holds many mysteries. It is possible that one night back in the middle of the 20th Century a group of young boys witnessed something unexplainable. It is also possible that the imaginations of young boys who enjoyed science fiction and horror stories got the best of them. Whatever the case, I am not the only one who continues to seek the fireballs in the night sky. 

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Bili White
Bili White was fortunate to be born into a family fascinated with the paranormal. She grew up in a home full of ghost stories and books about the strange and unusual aspects of our world. Although she pursued teaching as a full-time career, she was always seeking ways to satisfy her interests in the paranormal. She worked with a ghost tour and paranormal investigation group while in southern Arizona, and once she moved to California she sought out a parapsychology academic program. She currently teaches English and theater while conducting paranormal investigations and writing whenever she can.

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