Brown Mountain Lights
The Brown Mountain Lights are a series of ghost lights reported near Brown Mountain in North Carolina. The lights can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks at mile posts 310 (Brown Mountain Light overlook) and 301 (Green Mountain overlook) and from the Brown Mountain Overlook on NC Highway 181 between Morganton, NC and Linville, NC. Additionally, good sightings of the Lights have been reported from the top of Table Rock, outside of Morganton, NC. One of the best vantage points, Wisemans View, is about 4 miles from Linville Falls, NC. There is also a Brown Mountain Overlook on North Carolina Highway 181 that was recently improved with help from the city of Morganton for the purpose of attracting those who visit the area to see the lights. The best time of year to see them is reportedly September through early November.
One early account of the lights dates from September 24, 1913, as reported in the Charlotte Daily Observer. A fisherman claimed to have seen “mysterious lights seen just above the horizon every night,” red in color, with a pronounced circular shape. Soon after this account, a United States Geological Survey employee, D.B. Stewart, studied the area in question and determined the witnesses had mistaken train lights for something more mysterious.
Reports of odd lights continued, and a more formal US Geological Survey study began in 1922, which determined that witnesses had misidentified automobile or train lights, fires, or mundane stationary lights. However, according to a marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a massive flood struck the area soon after the completion of the USGS study; all electrical power was lost and trains were inoperative for a period of time thereafter. Several automotive bridges were also washed out. The Brown Mountain lights, however, continued to appear.
The lights are the inspiration for the bluegrass song, Scotty Wiseman’s “Brown Mountain Lights,” later performed by The Hillmen (Vern Gosdin - Vocals) and also the Kingston Trio and the Country Gentlemen. In this version, the light is being carried by "a faithful old slave/come back from the grave" who is searching for his lost master. The song was also recorded by the progressive bluegrass band Acoustic Syndicate and performed by Yonder Mountain String Band. This song was also performed and recorded by Sonny James, Roy Orbison and Tommy Faile.
A 1999 Sixth Season episode "Field Trip" of the popular paranormal drama show The X Files centered around a mysterious case of missing hikers that were found dead in the vicinity of the Brown Mountains of North Carolina.
In 2004, a science fiction novel was published by the author R. Scott Caines under the title The Brown Mountain Lights and The Mesozoic Phoenix. The story centers around a scientific mystery involving the Brown Mountain lights of North Carolina and the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
- Mansfield, George Rogers (1971). "Origin of the Brown Mountain Light in North Carolina". Circular 646. US Geological Survey.
- Caines, R Scott (2004). The Brown Mountain Lights and The Mesozoic Phoenix. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595295463.
- Jerome Clark, Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena, Visible Ink Press, 1993.