Area History
Legends & Lore

Because of the geology in this area, there are a few small caves located in most every section of the Newton County. Long-abandoned zinc and lead mines also left the county with numerous mineshafts. Even though stories are told of caves that contain Indian artifacts, Civil War booty, or even remnants of Klu Klux Klan activity, there are no commercial caves in the county. Even caves, which are known to exist, are not large enough for human activity, and are sealed to prevent damage or exploration. Old mine pits are dangerous and generally closed from public access. The legendary ghosts of long-dead miners and Native American warriors will not find Newton County caves a good place to hang their sheets.

However, on dark and dreary nights, two ghostly women have been known to make an appearance, wandering the halls of two Civil War era homes. Lucinda, who resides in a private home near Neosho, appears to be searching for her own grave. Her headstone turned up in the front yard of this rural home and no one knows where it should be placed to mark her grave. Until the headstone is at rest in its proper place, Lucinda will walk the hallways and stare out the window waiting for her resting place to be properly marked.

The other woman who comes to visit is Polly Ritchey, first wife of Colonel Matthew H. Ritchey of Newtonia. Polly made her first supernatural appearance in the 1960s. One night, during a storm, a falling tree damaged her grave. One of the Darch boys who lived in the Ritchey Mansion spent the next day repairing the grave. That night the weather turned cold and Polly came to the house, removed blankets from other beds, and covered the young man who had cared for her grave and headstone. Some say that Polly still wanders the halls of the Ritchey Mansion when nights turn cold.


This strange phenomenon, located in a place local residents call "The Devil's Promenade", has defied explanation for decades. Commonly described as a "strange light", it mysteriously appears along Spook Light Road, a dark and lonely country lane. The Spook Light flitters eerily back and forth across the Missouri-Oklahoma state line near the Newton County village of Hornet.

Sightings of the Hornet Spook Light have been reported as far back as the 1890s. Each story of the light is based on appearance, but each story varies. Some stories detail merely a white light swaying as if it is a lantern carried some someone walking. Other people tell how the light changes colors, splits into two or three images, and rises and falls above the roadway. Still others tell of the light suddenly appearing close at hand, spreading enough light to read a book.

The Hornet Spook Light has given birth to many legends. One legend says it is a torch carried by a long-dead Indian who was forced to walk the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Another legend claims the light is carried by a Civil War soldier who had been decapitated by a cannon ball and is out searching for his severed head.

The light has been studied by professional and amateur scientists, but they have yet to solve its mystery. And so for now, the Hornet Spook Light remains as mysterious as ever.