Brown Mountain Lights

So far as is known, the first printed reference to the lights reported in the Charlotte Daily Observer for September 13, 1913 near Brown Mountain in North Carolina. These lights have been described in various ways. Some witnesses report that the lights are intensely bright; others say they are soft and misty. In any case, the lights disappear as suddenly as they appear, leaving witnesses to puzzle over what they have seen. Consequently, some have speculated that the lights are caused by an unknown geological phenomenon, perhaps related to Earth’s magnetism, while others have said the lights are caused by alien spacecraft. One early account of the lights dates from September 13, 1913, as reported in the Charlotte Daily Observer. Citing the testimony of a group of fishermen that the “mysterious light is seen just above the horizon almost every night. . . . With punctual regularity it rises in the southeasterly direction just over the lower slope of Brown Mountain. . . . It looks much like a toy fire balloon, a distinct ball, with no atmosphere about it . . . and very red.”

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.
But participants in a 1916 expedition swore that they had seen the lights just below the summit and, moreover, floating to the southeast in a horizontal direction and in and out of the ravines.

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. One of the best vantage points, Wisemans View, is about 4 miles from Linville Falls, NC, and the best time of year to see them is reportedly September through early November.

Continuing sightings and debates about their meaning brought another Geological Survey scientist, George Rogers Mansfield, to the area in March and April 1922. He devoted seven evenings to personal observations and supplemented these with a survey of the mountains and with interviews of local residents. He attributed 44 percent of the lights to automobiles, 33 percent to trains, 10 percent to stationary lights, and 10 percent to brush fires. Besides leaving 3 percent unaccounted for, Mansfield was acknowledging what by now seemed obvious: no single explanation covered all the phenomena.He did speculate that the 1916 witnesses had seen nothing more than fireflies, even though he conceded that a government entomologist whom he had consulted held that identification to be “improbable” for various reasons.

In the years since then, witnesses have reported phenomena that they state resemble “toy balloons,” “misty spheres,” “flood lights,” and “sky rockets.” In a few instances, when witnesses believe they have been closest to the manifestations, they claim to have heard a sizzling noise. A 1977 experiment beamed a 500,000-candlepower arc from a town twenty-two miles away to a location west of the mountain where observers lay in wait. The blue-white beam looked like an “orange-red orb apparently hovering several degrees above Brown Mountain’s crest.” The investigators concluded that refractions of distant lights were largely responsible for the sightings.

Other theorists, such as Britain’s Paul Devereux, hold that the lights are evidence of the presence of little-understood, so-far-unrecognized geophysical phenomena he calls “earthlights,” but this explanation seems needlessly complex.

Local folklore has it that people were seeing the light long before the age of trains and cars; the evidence for this, however, is exceedingly slight. Still, if this claim is ever validated, it would demonstrate that the Brown Mountain lights have not yet surrendered all their secrets.

Sources :
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena by Patricia D. Netzley;
Unexplained! : Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena” by Jerome Clark;

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1 comment

h e m a n t h said...

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