Appalachia Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

The Mystery of the Brown Mountain Lights

A few weeks ago Blind Pig Reader Will left this comment:

“This was a great article and I just love some of these old ‘Spooky Tales’ as it be, and I get reminded of a song, not sure of the originator of who wrote it but I have always liked the song, and I think it was about  a mountain in North Carolina, the version that I am familiar with was by Bluegrass singer Charlie Moore, and the song was titled I think ‘The Brown Mountain Light’, Maybe some of you folks could let me know if you have heard of the song, or know it’s origin, I would greatly appreciate it, Thanks, Will.”

I’m most familar with the song about the Brown Mountain Lights. The lyrics explain the lights are from a lonely old slave who comes back from his grave searching for his master by lantern light. Here is a short video about the mysterious lights.

Now that you know the story behind the legend you need to hear the song-here it is:

Have you ever heard of the Brown Mountain Lights?



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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    November 1, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Miss Julie used to tell of the Brown Moutains light and how the slave came on dark night searching for his master who got lost in Mtns. I remember asking her wonder what happened to him did an ole bear get him and dragg him off away from his slave or did he fall in a rock cravite? Several has seen this light a man came from Black moutain to our house and said he saw the light several times, but I thought he was adding to the tale,
    Talk about a light Truman and I saw one going to Blueridge on evening late. I waw what I thought was a basket ball roll down from the hill into the road and I
    told Truman don’t hit the ball, He saw it too but no sooner than I spoke that thing picked up speed and headed toward the car going ninety miles and hour low on the ground it was a light of sorts the size of a basket ball sort of emerand color went under the car never hitting anything. What did we see? Was it fox fire or what? ( true story)
    Mary Lou McKillip

  • Reply
    Mike Tarnowsky
    October 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Very similar to the ‘Lights of Marfa’, Marfa, Texas. Guitarist Doyle Dykes wrote a book about them. Flat land, they were seen for a distance but never found and never explained.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 28, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Bunny & I have camped just down 181 from the overlook when Deer Hunting in the Brown Mountain/Mortimer Ridge area and have a good friend who lives up the Brown Mountain Church Road but sadly we have never witnessed the lights.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve heard of the Brown Mountain Lights all my life. My early years were spent in Morganton and my teen years in Boone. I’ve spent many a night on the overlook with a lot of other people but, alas, no lights.
    Note To Poster Ed Ammons: My father and mother were married in Worry, NC. They lived in Morganton and eloped.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    October 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I like the story of the will-of-the-wisp being an mean old man who, upon dying, arrived at the gates of Hell. The devil opened the gates a crack and threw out a ball of fire and said, “here, go start your own place” and his still searching till this day. Heard it at church camp.

  • Reply
    Will Leith
    October 28, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Hey, thanks Tipper and folks who helped with the info on this story, it’s great to see some other versions of it too.I didn’t know the one about the Native American’s but it put a good twist on the story for sure, Thank’s again, Will

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I enjoyed the videos and talk of the Brown Mountain Incident, but it was Jim’s comment that got my attention on another matter. Being a “retired professor”, he still uses them ole big words that most of us don’t understand, but he’s still my friend.
    I’m glad everyone had a good time and I just knew the Pressley Girls would be a big hit. Wish I could have been there too. …Ken

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Moving lights at night seem to be something reported occasionally throughout areas of southern WV. This was reported more than once in the mountains surrounding the little railroad town of Hinton, WV. I was told many stories, and particularly liked the one where they had to get rid of a belt belonging to a relative who died long ago. Said all the noises stopped, but it would seem to me a miracle for noises to stop in that creaky old farmhouse. An older man had told me about a huge rock in the Greenbrier River where Yankees and Rebels used to hide to shoot at each other. I love oral history which may only have a shred of truth, but so very interesting
    . As teens we would lie on our beds at night staring over at the opposite mountain. We were hoping to see something spooky, and finally saw a light–probably a car or hunter on a mountain road. This could possibly be explained in many ways, but it is always interesting to speculate that something very mysterious is going on. Whatever it is, one learns to love all the Appalachian stories. Enjoyed the story about the lights, and maybe would be something where I will do further research.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 11:43 am

    This is such an intriguing phenomenon! I loved hearing the tales which surround it.
    Also, I knew the girls would do a great performance at the college, so very happy to hear about it 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 28, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Scotty Wiseman, who is singing in the video I put a link to in my first comment, is the writer of the song. He was from Boone, NC which is not too far from the location where the lights are seen.
    Tommy Faile recorded Scotty’s original version of the song;

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 10:42 am

    In Texas we have the Marfa Lights – usually attributed to extraterresrial origins although the more pragmatic say “it’s just gas” 🙂

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Y yeah, I live in Burke County. Brown Mountain is about 5 or 7 miles north of Worry, about 5 miles north northwest of Joy and about 4 miles south of Mortimer. Brown Mountain is actually a long ridge that parallels Wilson’s Creek on its east and Hwy 181 to its west. It’s only 8 or 9 miles from where my grandboys live.
    I’ve never been able to see the lights but I have been to the overlook on 181 where the lucky people see them. It is a wilderness area there. Part of the Pisgah National Forest. The area where the lights originate is in some very remote and rugged terrain, inaccessible by roads. Not even logging roads. It consists of mostly rock cliffs and boulder fields. If a person wandered off and got lost they might never be found.
    The legend I hear most often is of an old man and his old slave who had gone hunting in the area many years ago. When the old man fell and was unable to go on the slave went to seek help. When the slave returned with help, he was unable to find his master. The legend says that the lights are from the lantern of the old slave who is still out there searching for his master.
    Here is the version of the song I am most familiar with;

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 28, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of the Brown Mountain Lights. I’ve eve-dropped on relatives telling all types of tales of lights, ghosts, spooks, haints n’ haunts, and graveyard candlelight’s.
    I just love them all. Fox Fire, Will-o’-the-wisp, jack 0′ lantern (folklore), eerie mountain lights (not only the Brown Mountain), fairy lights n’ faeiry fires. fire flies n’ synchronized lightning bugs. Some I’ve seen my own self. Ha I even love to see the damp ground with the little glow worms every summer, except this year. No rain, I am really worried about my little glow worms. The place where I see them has been dry and the ground very hard all summer. I hope they haven’t died or moved on to the deep woods where there are some damp rotting fallen trees still left.
    We had a earthquake not far from here this week. I wonder If the strain in the fault line shift caused any lights over in the foothills. I have heard that is what causes lights rising up from and in the earth. When I feel an earthquake here, by the time I get to the window to look in the woods at our little mountain all is dark and quit shaking! Ha Everything sure gets quite for a few seconds! Did you ever notice? It’s like nature is sayin’ to herself, “Is this the big one, lights n’ all!” ha
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Chills are running up and down my spine!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 28, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of the Brown Mountain lights. It is probably good for us humans to know of things we don’t understand as we don’t need much encouragement to think too highly of ourselves. I think reports of mysterious lights are in many places but the Brown Mountain ones are among the best known. That is an intriguing video and it makes the name real to see the lights oneself. They are apparently very bright, more so than I had any idea about.

  • Reply
    October 28, 2016 at 8:11 am

    I am famiiar with the story and the song. They are supposedly seen north of Morganton. Don’t know who penned the song.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 28, 2016 at 8:05 am

    I hope I’ll be permitted to stray slightly off topic and act as a sort of unofficial Blind Pig & the Acorn reporter.
    Yesterday I enjoyed the great pleasure of driving over to Spartanburg to listen to The Pressley Girls, ably and gently aided and guided by their mother, perform to a full house (men of the church were scrambling to unfold more chairs prior to the performance getting under way). I can assure all of you who collectively form the Blind Pig Gang (I think we’d all prefer “gang” to being known as piglets and nuts) that the trio did us proud.
    They sang some old favorites, performed some of the tunes they’ve written, and in between selections talked. Or, to put it more accurately, Katie talked and Corie and Tipper occasionally got a few words in edgewise. If you aren’t familiar with the word “loquacious” (what a high school teacher of mine, Thad DeHart, would have called a “ten-dollar word”), just look it up. If it’s an illustrated dictionary, chances are you’ll find Katie’s picture alongside! For all her garrulous and carefree nature though, she was insightful and entertaining as all get-out, and whenever Corie added a comment it was incisive and often quite funny.
    All in all it made for a great afternoon, and this old fellow was tickled pink to have a front-row seat for the performance and give all three of them a big hug afterward.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. the highlight of the day for me was when one of the girls talked of how close they were to their mother and suggested that sometimes she was mistaken for or seemed like their older sister.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 28, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of the Brown Mountain Lights and I’ve heard the song by a few different singers. I’ve wondered what the light might mean but I’ve never doubted that they were there. There are lots of things in life that I cannot explain but I know to be true. I don’t discount things just because my brain cannot define it.

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