Westerly Weird: The Music of Roan Mountain
I’m finally back, and keeping it western again this week. I present, for your consideration, the strange tale of Roan Mountain.
Right on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee lies Roan Mountain, a part of the Appalachian chain that doesn’t seem to get near as much mention as some of the more notable mountains in the general area. It’s covered with rhododendron and is the home to my personal favorite type of Christmas tree, the fraser fir. The Catawba and the Cherokee were also said to have a fierce battle there, sometime in the past. The only remnant of that battle, for which there is little proof, is the red color of the rhododendron flowers. Roan Mountain is a truly beautiful place, alluring in itself without any mysterious happenings.
But an old and often overlooked legend tells of an odd occurrence for visitors who stand atop Roan Mountain.
Once someone is at the top, after a few minutes, the show begins. From seemingly nowhere comes a music that is either terrifying or beautiful, depending on who you ask. I first heard of Roan Mountain in the book Ghosts and Legends of North Carolina. The story I read said that the music started out quiet and swelled to a crescendo before going quiet again, and changed the life of the one-man audience.
There are three version of an explanation for the music. One is that the devil himself has a choir of lost souls or even demons singing away, making the most awful, unholy noise that no man can bear to hear. Another is that God has sent his angels to practice their song for the Day of Judgement. In this version, the music is unsettling, but gifted with a beauty not of this earth, rather than horror. The third version is told in another part of the world, Ireland, whenever similar phenomena appear. Western North Carolina is not without its Old World influences, especially of the Celtic variety. The Irish explanation is that the Unseelie Court, that evil group of the fae peoples, fly about at night, to generally disturb and bother mankind. As far as I can tell, the music has only been heard during the day, but even that may owe to the lack of hiking at night, due to the dangers of that activity.
So what might this music be? Is it devils, or angels, or fairies?
Or is it something else?
Back up just a bit. Remember, this music, as it appears to be, is also heard in Ireland, supposedly. More collective memory?
Remember the potential of the dread-inducing frequencies at the Beaufort cemetery? Or the Moon-eyed People? What about the weird connection between the Devil’s Tramping Ground and Roanoke Island?
In more than one post on this site, I’ve shared the possibility and belief in one of the stranger theories about our universe. The thought, though rare and unfounded by science, that there are places, holes in the walls of the world, maybe forgotten, but still there. Maybe the music is just the wind, moving across these spots, and making such a clamor that even the most rational among us are struck with fear.
Where would these doors lead? And more importantly, what would we do with that knowledge?
Maybe the music of Roan Mountain is more otherwordly than we might think.