The Mystery Of The Naga Fireballs!

The Naga fireballs (Thai:  bang fai phaya nak), also referred to as Mekong lights, are a phenomenon seen in the Mekong river—in Thailand (Nong Khai province in Isan) and in Laos (Vientiane Province)—in which glowing balls rise from the water high into the air. The balls are reddish and have diverse size from smaller sparkles up to the size of basketballs; they quickly rise up to a couple of hundred metres before disappearing. The number of fireballs reported varies between tens and thousands per night.

The fireballs are most often reported around the night of Wan Awk Pansa at the end of the Buddhist rains in late October.

Naga fireballs have been reported over an approximately 250 kilometre long section of Mekong river with the centre of this section approximately at Phon Phisai town in Amphoe Phon Phisai. Balls have also been seen rising from smaller rivers, lakes and ponds in this region.

Local people say that they have seen the fireballs throughout their lives and their parents and grandparents did as well, but in earlier times they did not pay much attention to this phenomenon. The festival related to the observation of Naga fireballs gained popularity in the 1990s and is named Bang Fai Phaya Nark festival. Since the 2000s this festival has obtained international fame and is actively promoted by the authorities of Thailand.

Causes and beliefs
A similar phenomenon in plasma physics is a free-floating plasma orb, which is created when surface electricity (e.g. from a capacitor) is discharged into a solution. According to skeptic Brian Dunning who writes that whatever is sailing through the air has mass, and “must have been physically propelled”. It would be impossible for anyone across the half-mile river to hear a gunshot because it would take 2.5 seconds for the sound to travel to the spectators, and by then the crowd watching has already noticed the light, drowning out the sound when it would reach them. There is no science that can explain “the Naga Fireballs to be naturally produced burning gas bubbles.”

A programme on Thai television in 2002 demonstrated that the fireballs were produced by tracer fire from soldiers on the Lao side of the river. This provoked furious protests and demonstrations from local villagers, who believe that the balls are produced by a mythical snake, the Naga or Phaya Naga, living in the river. The phenomenon has become more prominent since the furor over the TV programme, as well as the 2002 film by director Jira Maligool, Mekhong Full Moon Party.


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About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).