What are the Brown Mountain Lights

Brown Mountain Lights
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicensePhoto by  Kr. B.

The Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina is home to what’s known as the Brown Mountain Lights. Brown Mountain North Carolina is widely known as the place that strange and unnatural luminous phenomena have baffled it’s witnesses for a very long time.

What are the Brown Mountain Lights

The Charlotte Daily Observer in a Sept. 1913 edition is the first known printed reference to this strange phenomena of lights appearing. The article covers testimony from a group of fishermen that had seen the Brown Mountain Lights first hand. It’s said that you can see these strange lights just above the horizon. And not just once in a blue moon, you’re supposed to be able to see them on any given night.


In fact these mysterious lights appear on quite the regular schedule. They rise in the southeast just over the lower side of the Brown Mountain. These lights have been described as a toy like fire balloon with a distinct shape and apparently with no atmosphere about it, and bright red in color.


D.B. Sterrett of the U.S. Geological Survey actually spent some time investigating this phenomena and concluded that locomotive headlights were to blame. But a contradictory statement said the lights were seen just below the summit and in a position not relevant to a locomotive. They were described as floating to the southeast in a horizontal direction weaving in and out of the ravines!


Continued Sightings of the Brown Mountain Lights

Not long after Sterrett’s investigation, the sightings increased, this may be due to the popularity gained from the attention his investigation acquired. But none the less the continuing sightings brought about another Geological Survey scientist by the name of George Rogers Mansfield.


In March and April of 1922 Mansfield devoted a week to his personal quest and observations on the Brown Mountain Lights. Not only did he do a lot of personal observation, but he also included a survey of the mountainous terrain and conducted many personal interviews of the local residents during his stay.


His concluded figures were as such. 44% were attributed to automobiles, 33% to trains, 10% to stationary lights and 10% to supposed brush fires. This left 3% unaccounted for, or unexplained rather. If his investigation only concluded one thing, it would of been that no one explanation could wrap up the investigation as certainty. Basically this phenomena was unexplainable.


What I think is crazy is that he concluded the 1916 sighting of the Brown Mountain Lights to be fireflies! That’s right, fireflies. Can you believe that?!?


More Recent Brown Mountain Lights Events

Of course all these early investigations did not conclude anything for certain. So as suspected, the sighting continued on into the more recent years. Witnesses have since reported various phenomena described as “toy balloons”, “misty spheres”, “flood lights” and “sky rockets”. It would seem that as the times advance, the explanations become more advanced as well.


Here’s where it gets weird, if it wasn’t weird already. Some observers claimed to hear a sizzling noise when they were extremely close to the Brown Mountain Lights manifestation.


In 1977, there was an experiment involving a 500,000 candlepower arc beamed from a town twenty two miles away. The beam was pointed to a location west of the mountain where several observers were waiting to witness the event and give their opinion on what they saw. What was described was a “orange-red orb apparently hovering several degrees above Brown Mountain’s crest.” Now keep in mind, up close this beam of light appeared as a blue-white color.


This led investigators to the conclusion that refractions of distant lights were largely responsible for most of the sightings.


Some Other Theories

Some theorists believe that the Brown Mountain Lights phenomena is the occurrence of what’s known as “earthlights”. Earthlights are little-understood and not much is known about them. Could this have something in common with ball lightning as discussed in my post Strange Phenomenons of Fire and Light?


According to local folklore, they believe people were seeing these lights way before trains and automobiles were in existence. Although this is the local belief, there isn’t much evidence to support their theory. But in the event this claim could be confirmed, it would open up a whole new world to the unknown and I can only imagine the uproar of investigations that would follow. The world wants to know!

Have you ever visited the Brown Mountain Lights and seen them for yourself? Or have you had an experience with ball lightning or any similar phenomena? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “What are the Brown Mountain Lights
  1. great post, very different and interesting, informative post, thanks for sharing with us..

    1. You’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The Brown Mountain Lights is something that would definitely draw me in for a visit. This is one of those things I would want to see myself before making a definitive decision on it’s validity.

  2. weird phenomenon indeed, is it possibly caused by the cloud? but there are noises, perhaps an UFO 😀

    1. It’s really hard to say Belajar what could be causing this phenomenon, but it’s quite interesting no doubt. I would love to take a trip up that way and check it out for myself.

  3. Saw the lights back in 98, amazing experience to see them up close is another story. Hard to explain what we saw.. Great article…

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