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 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, Wiseman's 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.
Skeptic Joe Nickell who investigated has noted that "we see not only that the Brown Mountain Lights have evolved but that they have done so as cultural beliefs and expectations changed." According to Nickell there is no single explanation "certainly, automobiles, trains, and other mundane sources have been responsible for most of the lights." He noted that those attributing the lights to paranormal origin just because some lights will remain unidentified are arguing from ignorance.
The lights are the inspiration for the bluegrass song “Brown Mountain Lights,” by Scotty Wiseman, 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, Tommy Faile, and Tony Rice.
The 1999 episode "Field Trip" of the 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; the show mentions the Brown Mountain Lights (the show's main character Fox Mulder believed it was due to UFOs).
- Mansfield, George Rogers (1971). "Origin of the Brown Mountain Light in North Carolina" (PDF). Circular 646. US Geological Survey.
- Leigh Ann, Henion. "In Search of the Brown Mountain Lights". Our State – North Carolina.
- Joe Nickell. (2016). "The Brown Mountain Lights: Solved! (Again!)" Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- Sakowski, Carolyn (2011). Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads. Touring the backroads (illustrated ed.). John F. Blair. p. 245. ISBN 0895875608.
- Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). The Definitive Guide to Country Music. all music guide (illustrated ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 566. ISBN 0879307609.
- "Reopening The X-Files: "Field Trip"".
- "Alien horror movie claims to be based on 'true phenomenon' in North Carolina". Fox 8.
- Rubinstein, Mark (2015-07-21). "'Speaking in Bones,' A Conversation With Kathy Reichs". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-09-19.
- Jerome Clark, Unexplained! 347 Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences, and Puzzling Physical Phenomena, Visible Ink Press, 1993.