The Brown Mountain Lights
Burke County, North Carolina

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In the western hills of North Carolina stands a mountain that is not particularly striking, or even high, but it plays host to perhaps the strangest mystery in the state. The mountain is called Brown Mountain and it lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and for many years, it has attracted the attention of people all over the nation and even the attention of the United States government as two separate investigations have been conducted by the US Geological survey into the strange anomalies of this mountain.

The strange events that are occur here have been called the Brown Mountain Lights for more years than most can remember. They appear along the ridges of this mountain on a regular basis and are faithful enough that in clear weather, you can see them just about any night that you care to.

The best place to view them is at Wiseman’s View on Highway 105 near Morganton. Curiosity -seekers will line this stretch of road in the early evening hours and are rarely disappointed. By looking to the southeast, the watchers will suddenly see a light appear that is about the size of a basketball, or so it appears. The light will be reddish in color and it will hover in the air for a moment and then disappear. In a few minutes, it will appear again, but in another location and then all through the night, the lights will come and go, appearing and vanishing against the night sky.

As is normal with this kind of thing, almost every person sees the lights in a different way... some see them as white and bobbing; others as pale and stationary; while others see them coming and going quite rapidly.

Regardless, of how they are seen, they remain a mystery.

No explanation yet exists as to what the lights really are... although many have tried to solve the riddle. Some have suggested will-o’-the-wisp, that elusive gas that resides in swamps, and yet no swamps are found in this area. Others have suggested fox-fire or some sort of phosphorus; radium rays; strange gases; geological anomalies with the rocks; and more.... but all of them have been dismissed. Always popular is the explanation that the lights are simply headlight reflections from Rattlesnake Knob in the distance... but this hardly explains the fact that the lights were reported well before automobiles were even invented.

Some have even suggested that the lights could be firing of moonshine stills by liquor makers on the mountain and while this theory is certainly a romantic one, it has been quite some time since moonshine was made on the slopes of Brown Mountain.

As is the case with most ghost light reports.. there is a fantastic explanation and a spooky legend to explain the source of the lights.

The story dates back to 1850 and a night when a woman disappeared in the area. There was a general suspicion that the woman’s husband had murdered her and everyone in the community turned out to help search for her body. One night, while the search was on, strange lights appeared over Brown Mountain. They were not like lights that anyone had ever seen before and many believed they were the spirit of the dead woman, coming back to haunt her killer. The search ended without the woman being found.

Shortly after, the woman’s husband disappeared without a trace and many wondered what may have become of him. A number of years later, a skeleton belonging to a woman was found on Brown Mountain and the lights that had been seen during the search started to appear again.... and have been seen ever since.

Brown Mountain is located in Burke County, between Morganton and Lenoir, in the western part of the state. The best observation area is marked with a US Forest Service sign, which explains the history of the lights.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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