Wednesday Weirdness: The Brown Mountain Lights

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over image

Just last week, I had the pleasure of hosting my good friend, Marcia Meara, with her latest release The Light—book four in her Wake Robin Ridge Series. If you missed, that post, you can find it HERE. You may also want to check out my five star review of this fabulous story on my January 7th Book Review Tuesday post, HERE.

The Light employs the legend of the Brown Mountain Lights, a phenomena I’ve written about in the past (If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I’m smitten with folklore). With that in mind, I thought it was a good time to trot out the history behind this fascinating legend once more. I hope you enjoy!


Brown Mountain is a low lying ridge tucked into the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. For hundreds of years (some say longer) a phenomenon known as the Brown Mountain Lights has been observed by countless witnesses. The illumination, which appears as multi-colored balls floating above the mountain, has even resulted in two surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Society–one in 1913, the other in 1922. Many believe the Cherokee Indians observed the lights as far back as the 13th Century.

According to eye witnesses, the lights usually begin as a red ball which transitions to white before vanishing altogether. Sometimes a single orb will divide into several before reforming. Witnesses have also reported seeing blue, green, yellow and orange orbs, most lasting only a handful of seconds before fading or winking from sight.

A stony overlook extending into a treed gorge in

Overlook at Wiseman’s View in Linville Gorge, NC, one of the best vantage points for viewing the Brown Mountain Lights.
Photo of Wisemen’s View by Ken Thomas (KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The phenomenon is so consistent there are specific mile markers within the Blue Ridge Parkway overlook designating from where they are best viewed.

Usually “spooklights” of this sort occur in swampy areas where decaying plant matter produces methane gas. This in turn spontaneously ignites, causing mysterious light manifestations. There are, however, no swampy areas where the Brown Mountain lights materialize, and unlike gaseous orbs, those of Brown Mountain appear concentrated with the ability to maneuver about the mountain.

Naturally, theories have developed. Many involve ghosts, energy beings, UFOs and even aliens. Older folklore relies on stories passed through generations. One tale dates back to the year 1200, when a bloody clash took place on the ridge. According to that legend, a fierce battle between the Cherokee and Catawba Indians claimed the lives of many braves. That night, grieving for their fallen warriors, Indian maidens scoured the mountain by torchlight, searching for bodies. To this day, that eerie torchlight can still be seen flickering on the ridge as they continue their endless hunt for the fallen.

Another tale speaks of a cruel man who butchered his wife and child then buried the bodies on Brown Mountain where he thought no one would find them. Not long after he completed the grisly deed, lights began to appear and hover over the graves. The mysterious illumination drew others to the site, enabling them to discover the murder victims. The killer fled before he could be punished for his crime, and was never seen again. Perhaps the forest enacted its own fatal justice.

Whatever the source of the Brown Mountain Lights, they have been captured on film and video and witnessed from miles away.  As for the surveys conducted by the US Geological Society, investigators concluded witnesses mistakenly reported the oncoming headlights from trains and autos as something more mystifying.

In direct counterpoint, locals reported seeing the lights before autos and trains descended on the area. Additionally, in 1916, a flood wiped out area transportation routes for a full week. During that time the lights were still active and observed.

Fast forward to 1982, when a man named Tommy Hunter claimed to have touched one of the lights. Supposedly it bobbed up to the ridge where he was standing and hovered several feet off the ground. A few times larger than a basketball, it appeared yellowish in color, and gave him an electrical shock when he extended his hand. The light dimmed slightly at the contact, then floated off into the woods.

If you would like to know more about this puzzling phenomenon, check out Joshua P. Warren’s free booklet, The Brown Mountain Lights:Viewing Guide available for download in PDF.  As someone who has always been fascinated by spooklights, I found it mesmerizing reading!

What are your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments below.

And if you’d like an interesting take on this phenomenon in an engaging book, be sure to check out The Light for inspired reading!

Wednesday Weirdness: The Ghost Ship of Loch Awe

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageLighthouse on rocky coast shrouded in dense fogWelcome to the first Wednesday Weirdness of 2020!

It’s great to return with this regular weekly feature after all the fun of the holidays. I’ve also got an “extra” at the end, but to get things rolling, I’d like to share a legend rooted in sea lore.

In the northern waters from Scotland to Iceland, a ghost ship is often glimpsed, riding the sea a day’s journey from the rugged coastline. Known as the Ghost Ship of Loch Awe, she resembles a passenger liner of the early 1900s.  It’s uncertain why she is attributed to Loch Awe, Scotland’s third largest freshwater loch which has never received a vessel larger than a coastal cargo ship.

The phantom boat appears only when the water is calm but swaddled in layers of fog. She materializes from the mist, smoke curling from her chimney stacks, her decks ablaze with lights.  It’s been reported she passes so close to other vessels those onboard can see passengers strolling on her decks.

Most spine-tingling of all, she passes in utter silence, swallowed quickly by the fog. Not a sound is heard in the unnatural hush. From the waves breaking against her hull to the ratchet of noise that should rise from her engines, there is nothing but eerie stillness and calm.

Despite the relative serenity of her passing, calamity follows in her wake. According to legend, within twenty-four hours of the vessel’s appearance, catastrophe will strike. She is the harbinger of a collision at sea, the tragic death of a crew member, or some other dire misfortune.

Oddly, the Ghost Ship of Loch Awe has never been identified as the phantom of an actual vessel. There is no account of any ship to fit her description, no maritime record of a lost vessel that resembles her. She is a whisper of myth, an omen born from the water itself, serving as warning to those who spy her, that tragedy awaits.

Do you love legends of the sea? What do you think of this one? Drop me a thought or two in the comments. But before you set your fingers to typing, I have an “extra” to share.


My good friend, Craig Boyack, is hosting me today with an excerpt from my novel, Eventide. More and more readers are telling me this is their favorite of the three books in the series, which has me jazzed. How would you feel about buying a house with an old cistern in the basement—especially if that cistern had been securely bolted shut, almost as if to keep something in? Join me at Craig’s place for an excerpt about what happens when the bolts are removed. I hope to see you THERE.

P.S…if you’e not already following Craig’s blog, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. There’s a reason it’s called “Entertaining Stories.” I highly recommend clicking the FOLLOW button while you’re there!


 

Wednesday Weirdness: Legends of Christmas Eve

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageHi, friends. Given next Wednesday is Christmas, this will be my last Wednesday Weirdness post until we enter the New Year. I love the holidays, and am pretty much a sap the entire month of December. With that in mind, I thought I’d share legends related to Christmas Eve. But be warned—not all are warm and fuzzy.

The celebration of Christmas touches each of us in different ways. For me, it is a religious holiday. Also a time for gathering with family. There is a special magic that occurs at Christmas, an enchantment of being that is spiritual and mystical. The power of believe!

The Eve of Christmas is noted for many old world superstitions and beliefs, among them the idea the veil between worlds grows thin allowing the departed to return to the homes of loved ones.

Old table in front of a hearth laden with bowls of food, lighted chandelier of candles hanging above tableIn Scandinavia, people prepared feasts for the spirits, setting a table laden with holiday fare. They had their own festive celebration first, then before retiring for the night, made certain all the bowls and platters were refilled and heaped with food. Jugs brimmed with Yule ale, and a fire was set in the hearth. Chairs were wiped clean of debris with a white cloth. The following morning the cleaning process was repeated. If a bit of earth was discovered, it was considered proof-positive a visitor from the grave had stayed to enjoy the repast.

Another myth related to Christmas Eve involved animals. At the stroke of midnight many believed animals could speak in human voices. The downside? Whoever overheard an animal talk usually met with an untimely end or some other dreadful circumstance.

In Europe it is said cattle kneeled to worship the new-born King, and that bees came together in great numbers to hum a Christmas hymn.

The creepiest legend I found involved a blacksmith. On Christmas Eve a bell tolled, beckoning all the people of the man’s village to midnight mass, but he ignored the summons and continued to work. Not long after, a stranger arrived. Tall, but stooped over, he asked the blacksmith to add a nail to his scythe. When the blacksmith finished the task, the stranger told him to summon a priest for the work would be his last. The next morning the smitty perished, never realizing he had repaired the scythe of the Grim Reaper.

Are you familiar with any of these legends? Do you have others to share? Let me know in the comments. Whether you discover talking animals, friendly phantoms come to call, or just the good cheer of family and friends, I wish you a blessed and merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday Weirdness: Black Cat, a White Hair, and a Wish

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageWelcome to the first Wednesday Weirdness of December. At the mention of black cats, most people immediately think of witches, familiars, superstitions, and Halloween. But there is another legend, and because I love both cats and folklore, I couldn’t resist spinning both into a tale called Food for Poe.

A black cat sitting on red ribbon and surrounded by Christmas decorationsIs it weird? Oh, yes. It’s been compared to a cross between Night Gallery and Hallmark. For even more of a mash-up, it’s also a Christmas story.

But what about the legend? I’ll let that unfold naturally. In the scene below, Quinn Easterly, encounters a strange old woman in the grocery store, where she has stopped to pick up food for her newly adopted cat, Poe:

“There’s a legend about black cats.” The woman eyed her critically, continuing as if she hadn’t spoken. “Not the witch legend or the Halloween stuff you hear as a kid.”

What an odd discussion to be having on Christmas Eve with a snow storm brewing outside. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to talk.” Quinn started to withdraw, then stopped. There was something in the woman’s manner that made her hesitate. The store bustled with activity, but no one drew near. Not a single person ventured into the aisle where they stood conversing over colorful plush mice, boxes of dried meal, and sparkly ribbons adorned with bells.

“Every pure black cat has a single white hair.” The woman’s voice was low as if she dispensed a timeless secret. “Remove the hair without being scratched and you’re permitted a wish—health or wealth, but you can’t have both. And you must make the wish before midnight on Christmas Eve. Health or wealth. Do you understand?”

Quinn felt caught in a twisted dream. “I—”

The woman pulled her closer. “Beware, girl. Healing often attracts one of the Dark Things. Changelings. Creatures that pattern themselves from the thoughts of others. They live in cesspools, drainpipes, and hollow logs. Anywhere that’s dark.”

The hair prickled on the nape of Quinn’s neck. She glanced over her shoulder hoping to find someone else in the aisle, but it remained eerily deserted as though she stood in a corridor severed from the rest of the store.  What she needed was an escape route.

“I’m sorry, but I have to leave.”

“So go already,” a disgruntled male voice chided.

Quinn blinked, startled to find the old woman gone, the aisle behind her suddenly overflowing with people and shopping carts. A mother and two children shuffled past, the youngest trailing a caramel-colored stuffed bear by the arm.

“Look, lady, either pick something or get out of the way.” The grating voice acted like a chisel on the edge of Quinn’s thoughts. The speaker was squat and barrel-chested, pushing a cart loaded with ten-pound bags of dog food.

Quinn smiled politely and shuffled aside.


I admit to twining three separate legends together to suit my own purposes, but the folklore about black cats, a white hair, and a wish for health or wealth is from an old wive’s tale. There’s nothing involving Christmas Eve or midnight, but both seemed like a good fit.

As one reviewer said:

“It is a tale of love, hope, compassion, faith, superstition, and suspense with a touch of horror… I was hooked from the start. If it was up to me, I’d make it into a Christmas movie and watch it every year.”

Cover of FOOD FOR POE with cute young couple and a black cat.And here’s the blurb:
When a blizzard strands Quinn Easterly at a handsome stranger’s house on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t realize her newly adopted cat, Poe, is the catalyst responsible for bringing them together.

Breck Lansing gave up on relationships after his wife, unable to cope with their daughter’s illness, left him. But the pretty blonde he rescues from a snowstorm has him rethinking his stance—especially when Quinn’s arrival coincides with a dramatic change in Sophie’s health.

Unfortunately, that change also attracts something only whispered about in folklore. Together, Quinn and Breck must defeat a sinister creature intent on claiming the ultimate payment.

Warning: A clever black cat, Christmas magic, and paranormal trouble


I rarely promote this little Christmas novella, but can’t resist splashing it around a bit in December. If you’re interested, you can grab it from Amazon for .99c through this LINK.

Are you familiar with the folklore I used in this story? It’s also been said the reverse is true—every pure white cat has a single black hair, although I don’t know what wish is granted should the hair be removed. If you like Hallmark Christmas stories and cats, along with a bit of the bizarre, I hope you’ll give Poe a try.

Wednesday Weirdness: Spook Lights and Corpse Candles

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageIt’s time for another dose of Wednesday Weirdness. Today’s post comes with a bonus—a free book of Halloween stories. But first . . .

Beware the marsh when night unfolds,
and darkness sends the sun in flight.
‘Tis no place for mortal creature,
home to Fae and ghostly light.

Spook lights have many different names depending on culture and location, but have long been intertwined with magical things that go bump-in-the-night. Often referred to as ‘foolish fire’ for the propensity to lead night time travelers astray, these lights have various names including will-o-wisps, elf light, fox fire, and ghost lights among others.

Commonly attributed to the Fae or elemental spirits, they rarely bring good fortune to those who see them. When viewed in a graveyard, they are called  corpse candles. Dancing over marshy grounds and bogs, locals have dubbed them Jack o’ lanterns or friar’s lanterns. In some cases they’ve been said to mark treasure—assuming one is brave enough to go slogging through bog-muck in the middle of the night.

ghost lights over a bog with dead trees, Gothic structure in background

The practical explanation is that ‘ignis fatuus’ is produced from swamp gases when organic matter decays. Not very lyrical, is it? I much prefer the views of country folk who lived on the edges of bogs and forests and whispered of glowing lights that bobbed and weaved through the darkness. You can almost hear the hushed warnings as villagers huddled in their cottages and locked doors to ward off the spellbinding bewitchment. The night came alive with a symphony of light, whispering of enchanted paths, restless ghosts, and unexplored byways.

Spooky trees in the dark of night backlit by moon

Corpse candles make an appearance in my short story The Lady Ghost, about two brothers who decide to dig up a grave on Halloween. It’s one story among a collection of creepy tales all themed around October’s ghoulish holiday.

In this short excerpt, Conner, and his brother, Dorian, have been discussing the legends associated with an old cemetery overlooking a bluff along the Atlantic. They are there to dig up the body of a man name Grim, but the cemetery is gated and locked.


The seaside cemetery where Grim and his Lady Ghost were buried was reputedly haunted and had been a haven for unexplained phenomena for centuries. Corpse candles danced among the tombstones, a mysterious figure in black roamed the bluff overlooking the ocean, and a horrible keening wail sent trespassers fleeing in terror. Ironic that they’d decided to put those folktales to the test on All Hallows Eve.

Conner stopped abruptly, whistling softly as the cemetery came into view. A portion of the perimeter fencing jutted above the bluff. Even from a distance, the spiked tines looked weathered, coated with the coarse white grit of ocean salt. Trees clustered nearby, many blighted and stripped of leaves, a few nothing more than husks of dead wood. To the right, and below, the fury of the Atlantic crashed over spines of black rock.

“You know what I don’t get?” Conner had yet to look away from the brooding gated entrance to the old graveyard. “If the whole thing is a hoax, why lock the cemetery up tight and keep everyone out?”

Dorian rubbed the top of the wolf’s head cane. A crisp breeze chased dried leaves across the footpath, a tangible whisper of autumn rot snarled among brambles. Up ahead, towering stone angels flanked the gate.

 “Maybe it’s to keep something in.”


Book cover for Macabre Sanctuary shows a close up of part of a spooky old house at nightIf this snippet appealed to you, be sure to pick up your copy of Macabre Sanctuary FREE from the bookseller of your choice. Just use this link.

And if you enjoy the tales, I know the authors, myself included, would greatly appreciate any thoughts you’d care to share in a review.

I’ve always been fascinated by night time lights, which is probably why I love using solar lights to illuminate pathways in my yard. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t a throwback to the enchantment our ancestors felt when they saw a dancing elf light or hinky-punk (the names are endless). I can’t help wondering what a stray will-o-wisp might feel should it blunder into my little oasis.

Would you follow a disembodied light into a dark forest or swamp? As much as I love legends, I’ll content myself with writing about them.

Wednesday Weirdness: The Dog Suicide Bridge

pathway between large, gnarled trees with words "on the path of Wednesday Weirdness" superimposed over imageWelcome to another Wednesday Weirdness. Today, I have a strange tale that will certainly strike at the heart of any pet lover.

Many people love to take their dogs for a walk. Whether it’s a turn around the neighborhood, a stroll down a country lane or a jaunt through the park, it’s a relaxing experience for owner and companion. If you have a dog, you may have even meandered across a bridge or two, your best friend trotting happily at your side. The image certainly conjures a quaint picture.

Unless you happen to be walking your pet on the Overtoun Bridge in Scotland. 

Looking across Overtoun Bridge. Stone bridge with greenery on either side, rain puddles in pathway

Looking across Overtoun Bridge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. Lairich Rig [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Tucked into the countryside, near the town of Dumbarton, the Overtoun Bridge is a gothic looking structure that carries a much darker name—the Dog Suicide Bridge. Built in 1895, it soars fifty feet over a placid stream below.

Since the 1960s more than fifty dogs have leapt to their death from the bridge. Making that anomaly even stranger is the fact all of the dogs have jumped from the exact same spot, and each apparent “suicide” has occurred on pleasant, sunny days. All of the dogs involved have been “long-nosed” breeds—collies, labradors and retrievers.  A few, fortunate enough to survive the fall, returned to the top of the bridge and leapt from the same spot again, as if compelled by a supernatural force.

Why this horrifically odd behavior from man’s best friend? Is it possible a dog can suffer depression and commit suicide? Or is the bridge cursed, as some speculate?

Overtoun House, forbidding Gothic looking abode at end of long drive

Overtoun House, Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. By dave souza (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s long been believed animals have a keener sense of the spirit world than humans. Perhaps the dogs in question sensed a malevolent presence in Overtoun House, a nearby residence rumored to be haunted. Or perhaps they detected something extraordinary in an area considered a “thin place.” According to legend, Overtoun exists in a region where Heaven and earth are nearly joined.

The most practical explanation to date involves the presence of mink below the bridge. In marking their territory, it’s believed the mink emit a scent powerful enough to lure the dogs to their death. Overcome by the odor, the dogs react instinctively. Blinded by the wall rising beside them, they fail to realize the height from which they plummet.

Why, however, would any animal that survived such a fall, willingly return to the bridge and jump again?

Perhaps the answer will never be known. Thus any dog-owner should be wary when taking their pet for a stroll across Scotland’s Overtoun Bridge. I certainly would!