Monday, November 3, 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights: An Appalachian Mystery

Light appears just below the horizon (center of photo)
Deep in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina there exists a lingering mystery that predates European settlement and continues to defy solid explanation despite much investigation by countless individuals and government agencies. This deep Appalachian mystery known as the Brown Mountain Lights has been the source of much speculation over the years. It has inspired films and even been blamed for mysterious disappearances.

The Brown Mt. Lights are characterized by luminescent spheres which appear on the mountainsides, ridges and valleys of these ancient forests much like the will o' the wisps of European folklore that lure travelers astray to an unknown fate. The lights which can appear as a faint glow or the flame of a lantern will occur after nightfall on evenings throughout the year and are visible from a number of overlooks within the park. While they appear to pose no threat by most accounts they have at times been associated with more ominous happenings. Local Indian lore has associated these lights with the simultaneous disappearance of individuals and even large groups of people. Many contemporary accounts include people who say they have had encounters with UFO’s, missing time, and even abduction by extraterrestrials while in the vicinity. The setting for the 2014 independent film Alien Abduction took place in the area around Brown Mountain. In fact this area has such a reputation for unexplained events that it’s sometimes called the Bermuda Triangle of the Appalachians. The attraction I felt for this place became irresistible. So I scheduled a “business trip”.

After a brief 7 mile hike on the Nantahala portion of the Appalachian Trail (South of the NOC) I packed up the Jeep and made for Pisgah National Forest. I wanted to get a glimpse of the infamous lights for myself and possibly get abducted. Arriving at Pisgah I followed the dirt trail leading up the mountain to Wiseman’s View just before nightfall. Several vehicles were stationed along the trail overlooking Brown Mountain so it was obvious that I wasn't alone in my curiosity.
Despite my advanced state of preparedness and savage physique I’m nonetheless cautious when approaching strangers in National Parks where the number of people who have disappeared without explaination is significantly on the rise. It’s another troubling mystery which author David Paulides writes about in his book Missing 411: North America and Beyond. So taking care to avoid looking like a creeper I approached a young couple who were natives to the area and regular observers of the lights. I asked questions and they shared with me some of the popular speculation which includes everything from ancient Earth spirits to subterranean gas combustion, geomagnetic forces and witches.

As darkness came I climbed on top of the Jeep with my night vision equipment and a very good bottle of merlot from the nearby Lineville Falls Winery. I waited several hours and would have fallen asleep if not for the frigid breeze. Just before midnight is when they came. I couldn’t believe it. Peering through my scope I began to see what appeared to be a series of glowing orbs flickering in the dense forest canopy. The silent objects rose vertically and then extinguished at slow unpredictable intervals before reaching the mountain horizon. For several moments I was overawed by the deepest sense what my eyes were witnessing was something primordial. Then the lights ceased. They disappeared. No aliens abducted me and after two solo adventures to this area I don’t believe the extraterrestrials are directly involved with the cause of the phenomenon. As with so many enigmas it remains yet unsolved. So if you seek an encounter with the unknown this is one that is quite accessible and with the beauty of North Carolina as the backdrop for your expedition, why not explore it for yourself?

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