Brown Mountain Lights

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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 along North Carolina Highway 181 (NC 181), near Jonas Ridge, North Carolina. Additionally, good sightings of the lights have been reported from the top of Table Rock and Wiseman's View, both located in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.


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.[1] 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.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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).[5]

It was featured in episodes of Weird or What?, Ancient Aliens, and Mystery Hunters.

It is described as the basis for the 2014 feature film Alien Abduction.[6]

The mountains and the lights are featured in Speaking in Bones (2015) by Kathy Reichs. [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mansfield, George Rogers (1971). "Origin of the Brown Mountain Light in North Carolina" (PDF). Circular 646. US Geological Survey.
  2. ^ Leigh Ann, Henion. "In Search of the Brown Mountain Lights". Our State – North Carolina.
  3. ^ Sakowski, Carolyn (2011). Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads. Touring the backroads (illustrated ed.). John F. Blair. p. 245. ISBN 0895875608.
  4. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). The Definitive Guide to Country Music. all music guide (illustrated ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 566. ISBN 0879307609.
  5. ^ "Reopening The X-Files: "Field Trip"".
  6. ^ "Alien horror movie claims to be based on 'true phenomenon' in North Carolina". Fox 8.
  7. ^ 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.

External links[edit]