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22 September 2008, JellyBean @ 12:42 am

In the western hills of North Carolina stands the mountain called Brown Mountain. For hundreds of years it has been the home of one of the most mysterious phenomena to occur in the US.

Go to the area on any clear night and you will be able to see the mysterious lights rising into the air. Some rise slowly and others are more like fireworks. As they rise they fade away. On some nights the lights are so numerous that they can notbe counted.

The strange lights are only visible from a distance. If you tried to climb the mountain to see them, they do not appear.


The U.S. Geological Survey has investigated this phenomenon at least twice, as have countless numbers of other scientists, historians and amateur paranormal sleuths. None have ever given a satifactory answer to what they are or what causes them.

The first westerner to record the lights was a German engineer, Gerard Will de Brahm, in 1771.

“The mountains emit nitrous vapors which are borne by the wind and when laden winds meet each other the niter inflames, sulphurates and deteriorates,” said de Brahm.

Others disagreed with him, particularly the members of the local Cherokee tribes. They believed that the lights were the spirits of Cherokee and Catawba warriors who had been killed in a vicious, ancient battle on the side of the mountain. Other say that it was the spirits of Indian maidens who have searched through the centuries for their husbands and sweethearts who had died in the battle.

Another legend says that a planter travelled to the mountain to hunt and became lost. His most loyal slave went up into the mountains at night with a lantern to search for his master. Night after night he was seen wandering the moutain in search of the planter. Eventually he died but his spirit still roams the mountain with the lit lantern, still searching.

The first U.S. Geological Survey investigation in 1913 stated that the lights were merely reflections caused by the locamotive headlights in the Catawba Valley. In 1916 they were proved wrong.

A great flood swept down the valley, destoying the railway line. Roads and power lines were also washed away. It was only weeks later that repairs could be undertaken. During this time the lights continued unabated.

A second U.S. Geological Survey investigation claims that the lights are caused by spontaneous combustion of swamp gases. That there are no marshes or swamps on the mountain made little difference to them.

Other scientists have claimed that the lights are caused by uranium ore whose radiation may be repsonsible. Others suggest that it could be phosphorous, however this mineral is not found in the area.

The best places to see the strange lights are from:

Brown Mountain Overlook Located 20 miles north of Morganton, on NC highway 181, 1 mile south of the Barkhouse Picnic Area.

Wiseman’s View Overlook Located 5 miles south of the village of Linville Falls on Kistler Memorial Highway a.k.a Old NC 105 or State Road 1238.

Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at mile-post 310, 2 miles north of the NC highway 181 junction.

You should go on a clear night with little or no moonlight. You should be able to see the mountain without difficulty.

The lights are the inspiration for the bluegrass song, Scotty Wiseman’s “Brown Mountain Lights”, later performed by the Kingston Trio, and the Country Gentlemen. The song was also recorded by the progressive bluegrass band Acoustic Syndicate and performed by Yonder Mountain String Band.

The Brown Mountain Lights were the subject of an X-Files episode, called ‘Field Trip’ from season six, which originally aired on May 9, 1999.

Appalachian State: The Brown Mountain Lights

Prairie Ghosts: The Brown Mountain Lights

Western NC Attractions: Brown Mountain Lights

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