While I was in North Carolina visiting my family, my mom and I decided to go check out the Brown Mountian Lights. I had heard of the phenomenon often growing up as it was a semi-local legend known in North Carolina. Even though it was a few hours drive from where I grew up, I never ventured up there to experience the phenomenon.
For those of y’all who aren’t familiar with the Brown Mountian Lights, I will take this moment to explain what it is. Brown Mountian is located in western North Carolina near Boone. The lights have been observed since the 1200’s. The lights are balls of lights that form on the side of the mountain and then rise above mountain where they flash in different colors before fading away. The Cherokee Indians in the area first reported the lights after a battle took place with another clan. The Cherokee theorized that it was the spouses of warriors looking for their loved ones after the battle. Later on, the legend would change to a young bride looking for her groom who died on their wedding day or a mother looking for her children lost in the woods.
As the years went on people tried to explain away the phenomenon by saying that it was cars, trains, or even swamp gas that is reflected of different surfaces. Thanks to the power of nature, those suggestions proved to not be the cause of the lights. In 1922 a flood caused most of the roads and railroads in the area to be out of use for a while. While they were out of use, residents in the area still observed the lights forming on Brown Mountian.
When Mom and I went there we had an interesting adventure. We decided to take Cujo (my German Shephard/ Wolf mix dog that lives with Mom) and Kismet (Dad’s chihuahua/ dachshund mix dog that now lives with Mom) with us. I found Brown Mountian on Google maps and it showed the overlook, so I assumed that was the pin for the overlook area. After driving up there we realized that Google Maps is an evil joke in the mountains. We ended up on a one-lane dirt road with a raging river by the road when it happily announced: “You have reached your destination”. Not only were we not at the overlook but we had no cell service.
So we retraced our steps but ended up getting lost trying to find cell service. Out of desperation, we stopped at a stranger’s house because they were sitting on their front porch. I know I freaked them out because we were random people showing up at 10:30pm asking for directions back to Lenoir where we could figure out how to get to Brown Mountian or home. They gave us directions and then immediately brought out their three big pit bulls. As we were following their directions, we found a magical intersection that had full cell service but if you went two feet in either direction, you would lose all signal again. We turned around after losing signal again and parked at the intersection. We decided to try one last time to find Brown Mountian before heading back to Mom’s house.
Thankfully I found the location of the overlook on a website and then was able to find it on Google Maps. The overlook was surprisingly larger than I was expecting. I found out afterward that the overlook was built to attract more visitors to Brown Mountian. After parking, I checked out the info board about Brown Mountian.
Turns out we arrived at the wrong time to see the lights clearly. It is recommended that visitors come when the leaves have already fallen and when it’s a new moon out. Not only were all the leave on the trees when we arrived but it was a full moon. Oops. But we still stayed to see if we could see anything. We both saw tiny pinpricks of lights on the side of the mountain but they were so small and quick it was hard to tell if we were really seeing them or if it was our eyes playing tricks on us.
We were wondering if that was supposed to be what everyone else saw or not. I pulled out my phone to see if there were pictures or videos from other visitors witnessing the lights. I found a video on youtube that showed the lights. I was showing it to Mom when she said: “Look!”. I looked up and noticed a hazy glowing area on the mountain in the same place as the lights were in the video! We used binoculars to try and look at the area better. It didn’t look like fog or a cloud and it glowed brightly for about 15 to 20 minutes before fading away. I didn’t even think to take any pictures of it. I was enjoying watching it too much to think about documenting it. It wasn’t the balls of lights that the video showed and other people talked about but I wonder if it was because the trees still had their leaves and that blocked the balls of light themselves.
I hope to go back either later this year or next year when the leaves have fallen and it’s a new moon to try to see the lights. If you have seen the lights please let me know. If you go to see them, I ask that you please respect the area. There is a lot of graffiti there (oddly a large part of it is religious graffiti). I would hate for the overlook to be closed down because people couldn’t respect the area.