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Brown Mountain Lights

The Brown Mountain Lights are one of the most well-known cases of Ghost Lights. The lights are described as red, blue, green, or white balls which disappear when approached. Legend holds that these lights are the spirits of Native American tribesmen killed in battle long ago. Other theories, put forth by such organizations as The U.S. Geological Survey, have at various times suggested that the lights are ignited swamp gas, the reflected lights of local towns, or train/car headlights. However, there is no swampland in the area, and the lights have been seen since long before the time of automobiles and electric lights. Thus the Brown Mountain Lights remain a mystery.

Brown Mountain Lights (1)

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 23:00:12 +0100
From: Paulette Boyd (
To: Ghost Discuss (
Subject: Brown Mountain lights..(was roll call)

Dear Brandy..

I have seen the Brown Mountain lights myself...but...the story that was told about somewhat different than the one your grandmother I am wondering if we are talking about the same place?

Brown Mt. Nc...the lights, as the legend I've heard and read of tells, is supposed to be the search lantern of a slave who went in search of his master lost on the mountain...neither returned.... When I saw the lights..I was looking at a sort of cleft between two portions of the mountain..the lights would appear somewhat down on the mountainside, and make their way up to the point (a cliff face, actually)...from there, they would shoot up into the sky and simply vanish...

It's been said that the lights are simply reflections caused by motor traffic on the far side of the mountain...but I can't understand the movement of the light...and how it shot up into the sky if this were did not look to me like reflected light bouncing off low hanging clouds...but who really knows?

Just another bit of


Brown Mountain Lights (2)

Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 12:00:34 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Brandy B. Stark" (
Subject: Re: Brown Mtn lights and Brandy's Grandma

My Grandmother told me that at Brown Mountain, North Carolina one can see a "ghost city". Basically, it's a city where the outlines of structures are visible, but the lights are very very clearly "manifested". For example, one sees, in her words, the headlights of the cars as they travel, the stop lights changing, the lights in the office buildings being turned on and off....overall, it's a city!

If I recall correctly, she did describe the area that the city is viewed in as a valley...or a depression in the ground. Cars of people interested to see the city park all around and shut off their lights to view this spectacle....

Some speculate that it's the curvature of the earth that causes this city to be seen. Some think it is a reflection of a city that is somehow manifest in that particular area.

HOpe that helps!


Brown Mountain Lights (3)

From: "Michael Loveless" (
Subject: A ghost light in eastern TN, or western NC
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 14:43:14 -0500

In October, 1969, I was en route to Asheville , NC. It was somewhere between Knoxville and Asheville, around midnight or later, well into the mountains. I looked into the sky and saw what looked like an ordinary spotlight beam. I may have been the first to comment on it (I don't recall for sure), but it was pointed to the other passengers as well.

We presumed it to be what it looked like, a conventional spotlight beam. We couldn't see the source because of trees and a shoulder of the mountain. When we rounded a curve of the road, the full length of the beam was exposed. That's when the unexpected and unexplained began to unfold.

The beam had no source on the ground. It was simply suspended in the sky, with no observable source. It was a white light, and as I said looked exactly like the shaft from a conventional spotlight, wider at one end than the other, but at the end you would expect to connect to a ground source, it was simply cut off and blunt, and had no connection to the mountain.

Then it began changing shape. I've never seen a beam of light go through the changes of shape I observed in the next few minutes. The ends began to close in, so that it became something like a fat toothpick. The end pointing toward the mountain began to open out into an arrow or spearhead shape, with the rest of the beam becoming the shaft. Then, the shaft began to shorten, as though it were being absorbed by the head, until it was gone. I think all of us were somewhat stunned. We made no real conversation about it.

When we were in Asheville we asked about it and were told it was the Brown Mountain lights. However, this doesn't fit the descriptions I've read of those lights.

Are there any descriptions out there of this, or was this a unique experience?

Nice website. I hope you find this an interesting story.

Michael Loveless

Brown Mountain Lights (4)

Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2000 21:07:37 -0700
From: "Perfect Dragonesss" (
Subject: Brown Mtn. lights

Hi, my name is Emily, I am a western NC native. I just came across your site and I thought you might want to know the real story of the lights as I have heard them all my life. I have been here for the majority of my life and know all the local western NC ghost stories.

The Brown Mtn lights story goes like this. A very long time ago a young woman fell in love with a much older man. Her family was ver against the marrage and begged her not to marry him because he wasn't someone who was easily trusted.

Of course her heart ruled, her sences lost and she married him. For a short while they lived near her family then he thought they should move to Black Mtn. against her families will. He kept her locked up and wouldn't let her leave to see her family. Her husband loved to hunt so he stayed gone most of the time and out of fear she stayed at their home. She found out that he had been cheating on her so she wanted to leave so she waited for him to go on his usual hunting trip but he was suspicious of her actions. She by this time had a child and packed up her and the child belongings and went out into the woods. He followed with an ax and choped her head off and killed the child as well then burried them both.

He went home and became frantic with "worry" and summond all the neihbors to help him look for them because they were missing. Everyone had loved the woman so people came from miles around to aid the man. They all brought lanterns and divided up looking for them all through the woods and of course never found them. The man eventually moved the other woman in with him but after some time the guilt weighed on his mind and he became crazy and eventually killed himself. The neihbors never stoped looking for the bodies of the woman and child. Those are the lights that you are supposed to be seeing. That's the short of the story but basically it.

There are so many western NC ghost stories and as a child I became fascinated by them so everything I could get my hands on I read and everyone that knew anything about it I talked to. If you want to know any more to add to your site let me know. My mother stayed in the Bell witches house once years ago. There are many stories I wold love to share. I'm sorry this was so long I can get carried away at times. Thanks for taking the time to read this though!

Everyone that I know that has seem the lights (except me I scare easily) has tried to walk up to the lights but the vanish. scientists have studied it and once said it was marsh gases but then later came back to say that they had no real explaination for it they couldn't figure it out. There are no marshes and there are no marsh gases. You don't get marshes or marsh gases in WNC. So for now it's still completly a mystery.


Brown Mountain Lights (5)

The lights seen on Brown Mountain are the subject of a family legend which I was told quite often when I was younger. I haven't heard it in many years, so I may not get this quite accurate. At any rate, here goes.

My mother's family was related to the Browns who this mountain was named after. They were a plantation family, and owned slaves. During the Civil War, one man was a colonel in the Confederate Army. He was wounded, and came home in 1863 or thereabouts. One day he went up the mountain ( I don't remember what for, though that was told to me) and did not return. After a few days, they sent the man's personal servant after him. The servant's name was Jim. This, I remember with extreme clarity, though I don't know why. He took only a little food, some water, and two lanterns. He had grown up on the mountain, and did not expect to look for long. Brown Mountain is not a big place.

The servant, also, never returned. No trace of Jim or his master was ever found, and no one knows what happened to them, to this day. Shortly after they disappeared, two bobbing lights started to appear on the mountain. The legend has it, that these lights are the lanterns Jim took with him, and that he is still looking for his lost master. Another version says that the lights are Jim and his master, and that they each carry a lantern, trying to find their way back to the home which is no longer there. Does anyone else have a version of these events, or a different story relating to the lights on Brown Mountain? I would really love to hear them.

Brown Mountain Lights (6)

Date: Fri, 7 Mar 1997 08:36:59 -0500
To: obiwan (
From: (Howard Winters)
Subject: Re: True facts about the Brown Mountain Lights

I have had personal contact with the Brown Mountain Lights all my life. I first ran across them when I was in Gatlinburg, some 40 years ago when we were roofing the Joy Motel. I was an installagion supervisor in the waterproofing business back then and a friend and I were free to wander the surrounding countryside as pauses in construction time permitted. I found the lights to be something of an enigma and I began to search for answers.

Over the next 5 years I learned all there was to know about the Brown Mountain Lights. Driving from Atlanta to Washington, I made it a point to stop by and check to see it they were still there.

The next time I confronted them was on my honeymoon, some time after this when my new wife and I were again in Gatlinburg, wandering through the smokies over a two week period, and found ourselves over on the "other" side of the mountain, and with a motel accomodation secured for the night, we drove up to the area where at then, (this was around 1961) the state had cut an overlook into the side of the mountain across from what is basically known as Brown Mountain. It wasn't more than just a bull-dozed level area, then eroded by spring rains, but it was adequate for me to set up my tripod, [I was and am a photographer,] and I shot 36 exposures in Ektachrome of the lights as the sun went down, and dusk settled. Kodak Ektachrome ASA 64. Fast film for back then.

I was fascinated as the lights began to show up at dusk, quite clearly visible back then, because polution had not yet filled all the hollows of the smokies and other mountains. Their appearance coincided with dusk falling, just as the sun was going down, and they were roughly 1/2 to 3/4 mile away from us, across the valley that seperated us. Their color was pale, yellows, blues, greens, pinks, oranges, all on a translucent coloring, as though there was some sort of light within them. I had studied all I could find on swamp gas, wil-o'-the wisp and other phosgene emininces, and it just didn't make sense.

Over a period of about 45 minutes, we sat there and watched as these large lighted objects would just appear, about 5-10 feet above the ground, (I was watching with 7x50 binoculars) and ' then ascend to a height of sometimes about 100 to 150 feet in the air, pause there for some minutes, and then descend again to the level of the mountain top as visible to us, and then wink out.

Immediately others would appear, always different in color, and continue the rising, resting and falling pattern, and again, each one starting at a different spot on the ridge.

All this took place across the entire crest of the mountain, from about 1/4 mile to our left, to somewhere around 3/4 mile to the south. We were to the west of Brown Mountain, on the east side of the mountain across the valley, about 3/4 mile away, remember.

When it finally became too dark for them to be easily seen, for some reason, the activity stopped. We waited around for some little time, fifteen or twenty minutes, and seeing that the "show" was over for the evening, we drove back to the motel.

Back in Atlanta, where we were living then, the film was processed by Kodak in Chamblee, at their processing plant, and I got normally exposed slides of these lights, which are still in my posession. Over the past 40 years, I've taken then out of storage to show to people who have been interested, and they rest in my attic in my storage area even as I write.

The next time I was up there was around 11 years later, which would have been around spring in 1973. My wife and I were seperated, pending a divorce, and I had my girls with me for a week's vacation. We wandered through Gatlinburg again, and by way of something to do, we drove over to the overlook opposite Brown Mountain.

The overlook had been finished by the state, and a marker had been erected, describing the overlook and what could be seen each evening at dusk, (it doesn't take off for Saturdays or Sundays) but it had been badly damaged by grafiti. Phrases left by local people with nothing to do had fouled it with all manner of four letter words, steeped in escatology.

Also, polution was beginning to be found there in the hollows and valleys, and the visibility was markedly reduced from where it was some 10 years before.

Still, when the sun began to set, the same activity began to occurr, almost on schedule, and as my daughters and myself watched, the same old panarama began. Though difficult to see, there again were the pale colored globes of light, somewhere around 50 feet in diameter, possibly less, appearing from nowhere, rising 50 to 100 feet, pausing for a while, then slowly dropping back to the ridge, to stop, and then wink out, just as before. The girls were first fascinated, and then a little bit frightened.

Again, the area covered remained the same. From about 1/4 mile to the left of the overlook, down about 3/4 miles to the south. Not so clearly visible, due to the polution, but still there and still performing as they've been doing since the days of the Cherokee indians, and probably before them.

I've researched the stories of lights reflected from headlights or towns to the south. There were no towns, or lights visible anywhere around us for the light to be reflected from, or directed towards us from. 35 years ago, sitting on the overlook or alongside the highway, it was pitch dark, as it usually is in the mountains.

I know the story of the plantation owner who went hunting one night and never came back, and I know the story of the faithful servant who went looking for him with a kerosene lantern and never came back. I know all the theories as to what's going on, and I find them flawed in one way or another.

Since I e-mailed you this information some weeks, days ago or whatever, I've had occasion to reconsider my trips down to Brown Mountain, (I'm in New Jersey now) and in light of other things that have happened to me, I've reached a possible solution.

I have no idea if you're psychic or not. Possibly you are. Possibly you aren't. I happen to be of Irish and Scotch background, with Celts and Picts way back, and there is also a history of English mixed in as well. This makes me Scotch/Irish/English by ancestry, and I come with an honest to God Banshee attached to my family tree.

Believe this or not. I have the ability [neither wanted or sought after] to see those who have lived before, including members of my own family, and also those beings known as angels. Each time an angel has appeared before me, it was heralded by a transparent ball of light, much smaller, ((but still like those larger balls of light that rise each night on Brown Mountain)) and the only difference being that they are followed by a phosphorescent trail of small sparkles, much as a train would follow a gown, tapering off into nothing.

I have no way of knowing, but after reflecting, I've decided that it is just possible that these larger tranparent/translucent balls of light may be akin to one another. Given that they are far larger, 25 to 50 feet in diameter on Brown Mountain, size in other dimensions is relative, and it may be as they move closely among men, they don't need to appear as large.

These lights on Brown Mountain don't go anywhere, remember. Just rise up about 50 to 100 feet in the air and then settle down. I've seen these smaller balls of light transform first into transparent men, who later solidify, and then return to their transparent form and then back into the pale balls of light with the phosphorescent trails of light before rising into the air and just disappearing.

In this context then, there is therefore some possiblity of sameness between the two. The bible states that God has given his angels charge over us, to keep us from harm, and tradition has long helf that we each have a guardian angel, and men for centuries had debated, albeit tongue in cheek, about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Are the Brown Mountain Lights real? Yes. Can you walk up close to them and examine them? The family that owned the mountain years ago would not permit it. I tried. Beyond this, there is the current information concerning them, that when you walk up onto the ridge itself at dusk, they are never seen. I don't know.

I do know they are still there. I think they will possibly be there as long as the world stands. Do I worry about them? Not any more. I've found that there truly are more things in heaven and earth than I'll ever understand. I leave it there.

I am an adult male, approaching 67 years of age, and I've wandered 3/4 of the world in the past 50 years. I do not recall who OBIWAN was, in my original contact with you, 'tho it must somehow be involved with Obiwan Kenobe from Star Wars, but if you are truly interested in this sort of thing, from pesonal experience, I'm willing to continue this e-mail link. Not too many people are truly interested in what's really out there.

Like someone told Agent Mulder, "The truth really is out there."

Howard Winters


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