The Cemetery Lights written by Keith Jones www.mountainstoryteller.com
I guess it’s no surprise that we spotted something ghostly that night. After all, we were having a church Halloween party at the old Bethabara church outside Athens, Georgia. We’d even fixed up a ‘haunted house’ for the youth to enjoy in an old office trailer that sat up in the woods behind the church. It was one of the first really chilly nights of fall, and tendrils of drifting fog gave the oak grove where the church house sat just the right ambiance for an evening of spookiness. It was all in good fun—until one of the older youth rushed in the back door. “Brother Keith!” she yelled breathlessly. “You’ve got to come! Somebody has lit a fire over in the cemetery!”
I thought the whole thing was a practical joke or a Halloween hoax, but I went outside on the office trailer’s porch. To my surprise, the flicker of yellow flames could clearly be seen across Highway 78, among the headstones and statues. Hmmm, I thought. Must be some local kids camping out or pulling some mischief down there. Might even be someone messing around with the occult. We’ll send someone to look into it.
Mr. Asa Thomas wasn’t a big man, but his background as both retired military and an Internal Revenue Service officer made him the first person I thought of to send to check out the miscreants. He climbed into his black Ford Crown Vic, promising “I’ll take care of it.” We watched as his car pulled across the four-lane highway and into the gravel of the cemetery driveway. Momentarily, just as if someone had hastily doused it, the light from the ‘campfire’ disappeared. But just as Mr. Asa’s car came opposite our position, high beam headlights blazing, the flickering dim yellow lights reappeared, right between us and his car. He didn’t seem to observe them. He didn’t stop but continued slowly on, returning to our parking lot to report, “I didn’t see anything.”
By this time a considerable group of youth and adults was standing in the church yard. Several folks said, “We watched the light from the fire right when you drove by! How could you not see it?!” But of course, when we tried to show Asa where the lights had been, they were not to be seen.
Asa started to kid us a bit about being too ready to see something eerie. “What’s that, then?” demanded one of the girls, pointing at the yellowish, sickly-looking light that had just reappeared. Asa’s mouth may not have dropped open, but his eyes certainly got big. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he jumped back in his car. He very quickly pulled back to the entrance of the cemetery, but then drove extremely slowly through the loop road. We could see him swinging his big police-type flashlight from side to side, trying to spot whoever was in the graveyard. Occasionally he would dim his lights and then switch back to high beams, as if trying to make sure he didn’t miss anything. Of course, the campfire lights had disappeared again. Then, just as Asa again drove up the middle part of the cemetery lane straight opposite us, here came the shine of the lights again! To our frustration, Asa didn’t stop.
“I don’t understand it,” were the first words from Asa when he returned. “I saw that light when we were standing here before, clear as anything. I even rolled my windows down when I went through the cemetery this last time, and you saw me using the flashlight. I even heard some of the kids yell, ‘There it is!’ when I was right over yonder (he pointed straight across the road). But I did not see anyone, any lights, or any evidence of a fire over in that cemetery.”
“Come on, Mr. Asa,” I said. By this time, I’d had enough. Taking a few of the adult men from the group, we started to walk down between the oak trees in the church yard, heading straight at the light that was again flickering in the cemetery. It snapped out again as we got to the shoulder of the four-lane, but we had our bearings in spite of the dark. We headed right on toward the spot where the light had been. Fog swirled around us, and we had to pause in the grassy median to let some westbound traffic go by. “Y’all be careful!” I heard the wife of one of the men call.
Asa swung his flashlight ahead of us as we started up the far bank toward the old graves. There it was again! But this time the light was white, not yellowish. Then through the fog from my right, a yellow rhythmic flash of light started. And it hit me…the ‘campfire’ we’d been seeing was a reflection of the new intersection warning lights that had been installed at the same time as the new stoplight at the intersection of US 78 and Georgia 53. The lights themselves couldn’t be seen from the church because there were woods in the way. But one of the polished granite headstones was at just the correct angle to reflect the warning lights back up toward the office trailer. The wisps of fog and the intermittent nature of the warning lights had done the rest.
I hope you enjoyed Keith’s tale! I suppose you’ve noticed things are looking different here today. There’s still some bugs to work out but hopefully I’ll have those sorted out soon!