A light on the tracks, where there shouldn’t be one…
Staying local this week with a tale straight from the town of Black Creek, North Carolina.
When I was a child, my dad told me the spooky story of a mysterious light that seemed to haunt the train tracks in the small town of Black Creek, in Wilson County. As the story goes, a man met with an unfortunate end on those tracks. The culprit?
A train, of course.
In the story my dad told me, the owner of the head still wanders the tracks, looking for his lost head, armed with a lantern, the only evidence that observers can see. I’ve never seen the sight myself.
The Maco Light in Wilmington is another tale of a tragic railroad death, and the never-ending unrest of the victim. I first read of the Maco Light in a book by Nancy Roberts, but the location was wrong. The Black Creek version, of course, had to come from somewhere. Recently, an article appeared in the Wilson Times (the Wilson NC newspaper) featuring some residents recounting the legend.
I think that for every ghost light we see, there are many perfectly logical explanations. Of course, logical does not have to mean anything less than extraordinary. There are reasons for things, but those reasons might catch us off guard. How much of the unexplained is just stuff that’s always been there, just without us knowing?
What would happen if we got a full explanation that we weren’t prepared for?
Certainly something to think about.
Can strange activity in abandoned places truly be ghosts, or is our universe proving to be just that much stranger?
First you see it, then you don’t, as we head north to Chicago for a visit Bachelors Grove Cemetery.
Haunted graveyards are the grizzled old veterans of the ghost story and urban legend world. Many a tale of ghostly women and phantom lights persist, stemming from cemeteries often abandoned save for those visitors drawn by the historical significance of such places. (I wrote once before on one cemetery in particular, to pass along an experience from a reader, in this post. In addition, I’ve expressed my beliefs and hesitations on “haunted” places here and here. I believe providing this information to you, the readers, gets things out in the open and lets you know that this site isn’t only dedicated to ghost stories.
So why write about a haunted cemetery?
Cemeteries are places that are, by nature, quiet. And they should be. Cemeteries are meant to be places where people might feel comfortable laying loved ones to rest. Places where one can return to visit for peaceful reflection, maybe to remember the times when a family member or friend was still among the living. But often, as family lines fade away, or generations forget the wearing names carved into granite, the greenery encroaches, and drooping headstones become little more than scenery.
In a place so quiet, stories can spawn from anything less than silent, anything that seems out of the ordinary. The shadow from a branch waving in the sun might evolve into a woman who wanders in mourning, a hundred years past the point at which she should have stopped. Another brave soul, just hidden from view by a thicket of trees and the shadow of night and the fact that both parties are trespassing might be mistaken as some ghostly visitor.
Wikipedia’s page for Bachelor’s Grove (for the sake of quickness) has the following to say:
Besides orbs and phantom vehicles, there have been additional reports of supernatural events at the cemetery, including:
The white lady (or “white madonna”); she walks the grounds during a full moon while carrying an infant.
Phantom farmhouse; a ghostly farmhouse which is purported to shimmer, float, and then vanish, mostly reported during the 1950s. There are also reports by witnesses of the house shrinking as they approach it, then disappearing altogether.
A Farmer and his plow-horse; both victims of a plowing accident—having been dragged to their deaths into the nearby slough.
A two-headed ghost; near the same slough.
Religious monks; as late as 1984 witnesses reported seeing multiple figures dressed in monk’s robes emerging throughout the cemetery.
A black dog; witnesses in the 1990s reported seeing this manifestation at the cemetery’s entrance. It would disappear when they approached it.
The “Woman sitting on the Grave;” a notable photograph which ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly showing a transparent woman sitting on a tombstone; the apparition was not apparent at the time the photograph was shot.
Women in white, unfinished business, and mysterious photographs. While intriguing, tales of this sort aren’t unique to Bachelor’s Grove.
The house, however, seems to be, somewhat. In fact, though I was able to find other tales of disappearing buildings (here, for example) it’s truly not something I’d heard of before, other than in the story of Seven Bridges Road. Read the comments on that one, though. It seems to have a rational explanation.
Not featured among what I’ve copied above is another feature of this odd dwelling. The house, in fact, may be a trap for anyone who is able to reach it, open the door, and enter. Beware, for you may end up trapped forever.
Don’t worry, though. No one’s actually ever reached the house. It always vanishes, unfindable and unreachable for anyone who’s trying.
Funny thing is, my personal beliefs lead me to the conclusion that the phantom house of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery has a logical explanation, because our universe is not a logical place as we see it. Something is obviously going on here, but what? And what about the dog, which no longer appears, or the monks, treading on ground that has never featured a church or monestery? Are they truly phantoms, or just the rules of the universe being broken? What’s going on that we can’t see?
I find myself quite unsatisfied, once again, because Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and the ground it inhabits doesn’t appear to be abiding by the normal rules of how a universe should operate.
Find out more on Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery by starting at this link.
Is there a good explanation for the way they rise into the sky, or do the years of sightings point to a deeper reason?
Westward bound, yet again, for Brown Mountain, and the lights named for them.
To be honest, I debated whether I should bother covering this topic, since it’s been done probably countless times before, in its status as a staple NC happening. It is, however, a part of the weird folklore in North Carolina and the world. I felt it deserved a place in the admittedly random and disjointed narrative that I’ve tried to make here.
If you haven’t heard of what exactly the Brown Mountain Lights are, I’ll cover that, because knowing what exactly goes on is necessary to really examining them.
On very dark nights, with all headlights and flashlights and lanterns covered or cut off, the lights will appear. First they slide into view, and begin to move upward, into the sky, where they hover.
Then they fade.
And that’s it.
As captivating as the Brown Mountain lights are to people, how they work is very simple. They come from no visible origin, rise up slowly, and then they’re gone. It’s a nice, spooky story.
Legends of their origins abound. The one I heard from my dad was that the lights were lanterns in a desperate search by the wives of dead warriors, still without closure so many years later. And of course, there are legends of fierce battles and people long before us and long gone now. Perhaps, some believe, they are UFOs, the nature of which may be completely alien (since, of course, “UFO” does not necessarily mean extraterrestrial, despite having that connotation). There is a movie, Alien Abduction, that follows that story exactly.
Skeptical explanations are sure to follow. Cars, trains, some perfectly regular, normal cause, all of which are logical, and may be true.
Whether the lights are mourning ghosts, the oddest aliens in the universe, or just evidence of humanity, the reality is that they’re there, and no one has definitively explained them yet, to my knowledge.
Figuring it out is a fun mystery, and they could probably be called a “must see” if you’re in the area. A cool story, maybe nothing more.
But I’m not really satisfied with that. The Brown Mountain lights are almost teasing us. Taunting us to come closer and really figure them out.
Maybe, one day, someone will.
Glowing eyes piercing through the dim haze of a foggy night….
Is is paranormal activity, or is the explanaton even stranger?
Urban legends can begin as truth or nightmare. They may either grow from an actual occurrence and become more nightmarish, or begin themselves as nightmares made up to scare friends or explain away impropriety. Regardless of their origin, the most memorable stories make deep roots and stick around until they become an ingrained part of our culture, a source of paranoia about government activity or the guarded glances you cast over your shoulder on a night-darkened street.
They are fuel for our imaginations. But what if everything you ever heard about the Mothman was true…in a way?
The story of the Mothman is arguably one of the most famous tales to come from the state of West Virginia, and its details are simple. The story begins in 1966, in a graveyard. The harsh truth of life is that sometimes, there are graves to be dug, and someone has to dig them. This particular grave was being worked on by five people who were much surprised to see a giant man lift off and fly away. It most definitely was not the last time that anyone would see the Mothman, and for the next year, more sightings would come, all centered around the town of Point Pleasant.
They were always much the same. A large winged humanoid flying through the night sky, eyes aglow, often red, and terrifying. Some dismissed it as a bird, while others embraced it as a sign of something supernatural, or alien.
The sightings ended, apparently, when the Silver Bridge collapsed a little over a year after the first time the Mothman made his appearance. It was December 15, 1967, and a total of 46 people died. After that, no one said much more about the Mothman, for good reason. John Keel wrote a book about it, 1975’s The Mothman Prophecies. A connection was established between the bridge’s collapse and the appearance of this creature. Perhaps he was a warning?
Another famous figure with glowing eyes is Spring-heeled Jack. Jack first appeared in London in 1837, amid already existing stories of street hauntings there. The first time he showed up, he jumped out of an alley and attacked a girl by the name of Mary Stevens. The next time, he ran in front of a carriage, caused it to crash, and jumped away, over a wall, laughing. He was said to have claws, the jumping gave him his nickname, and later accounts would give him glowing red eyes.
Though he is linked so firmly with England, Spring Heeled Jack has been spotted in New Mexico. Some versions of him breathe fire, and he still attacks people, and still jumps away, scaling seemingly impossible heights very quickly.
He was last seen in 2012.
The last on our list of strange-eyed folk are the Loveland Frogmen. It was the middle of the night, summer 1955. The person who first saw the creatures is to this day unknown. As the story goes, he was driving along this particularly dark stretch of road when he saw, off to the side, a few creatures, roughly 3 or 4 feet tall, standing. Watching. The creatures are described as having skin like a frog, big eyes, wide faces, and, instead of hair, scalp wrinkles. I imagine they must have looked eerie, because a human’s eyes don’t reflect light like an animal’s.
So who were these guys? The Mothman, Spring-heeled Jack, and the Frogmen? Just stories, embellishments on real people with a little shared nightmare thrown in?
The eyes are the key.
Might they have something to do with the mysterious Moon-eyed people? This group was said to see better at night. It might follow, then, that their eyes were reflective.
We still have no idea where they might have come from.
But the Mothman, Spring-heeled Jack, and the Frogmen might have an origin even odder than any of us can imagine.
Screams echo, distant memories etched in time, voices left behind by speakers long-dead…or are they something else?
Man first stepped on the moon on July 20, 1969. We would only go a handful more times before keeping ourselves fully grounded on Earth.
As with most great accomplishments, we tend to see the results as a much bigger thing than the work put in before. The guts, blood, sweat, and sacrifice.
January 27, Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral. The crew of Apollo 1 were engaged in a test for the mission, not due to launch until February 21. In a tragic moment, something (and they really don’t know what) ignited inside the cabin. The craft was quickly and violently consumed in flame. Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White were unable to escape, and died inside. Launch Complex 34 was used until 1968 and then decommissioned.
Today, you can visit LC-34 on one of the tours and see the part of the structure that’s still there. It serves as a memorial to the men who were lost as the human race pushed to stand on other worlds.
Of course, because of the deaths, it’s not without its ghost stories.
The stories are much the same as any other. Screams of the dying. Weird happenings, and the rumor that NASA closed it because of strange things going on, horrors too great for the general public. The last bit seems to be unfounded, and I couldn’t find any reason for it to have been closed other than the recent government shutdown.
But suppose there are screams at Launch Complex 34, just not from the dying. Not echoes, but a real true sound with a mysterious source. A source as real as you and me, as physical as we are, but not something we can see so obviously. Like the Seneca Guns, there aren’t many answers.
If we could find where the noises are coming from, look through a gap, imagine what we’d find there. Who we’d find there, staring back at us.
What might be hiding at Launch Complex 34?
Deep shadows, sticky water, and the sense you’re never alone will haunt you in the Great Dismal Swamp.
Growing up in the typical American elementary school brought with both study and celebration of the origins of the United States as a nation. When I was a kid, back in the 90s, that meant memorizing the names of Christopher Columbus’ ships and wearing a paper grocery store bag at school on the day before Thanksgiving (or a black construction paper hat if you were supposed to be a Pilgrim.) Columbus didn’t even land on what we now know as the United States, and he certainly didn’t set out to discover a whole other continent. Yet on Monday, October 14, we’ll observe Columbus Day. It’s a wonder more children don’t grow up more interested in this continent and who might have gotten here first. It’s them that all the little kid history books tend to ignore, and you could just grow up tending to assume that the first people on the North American continent just sort of appeared here one day. Of course, it’s much much more interesting than that. What I find funny is the tendency to assume that people living in Europe, Africa, and Asia basically never went anywhere and ignored the rest of the planet, while North America remained serene and mostly unpopulated. We now know that at least the Norse were here, at some point, in Canada.
That brings us back to the Great Dismal Swamp, and its role in a weird story about the possibility that Chinese explorers also set foot here, based on an old sighting of a junk, under the command of Zheng He, that might as well have been a ghost ship, buried in the mud off the coasts of North Carolina, and seen only a tiny handful of times. It’s elusive and the last time anyone recorded seeing it was some time in the 1920s. The Great Dismal Swamp isn’t the easiest waterway to navigate. You could imagine that someone could get lost.
Or leave their boat behind.
And head inland.
Possibly meet early Americans and establish a settlement in Appalachia.
Maybe they met up with the Moon-eyed People?
This isn’t to say that Gavin Menzies is a great historian or even right for that matter. A simple Google search doesn’t turn up much about this story. After all, there are much weirder and more accessible theories and legends about pre-Columbian American history that tend to overshadow the simple curiosity of other people we weren’t expecting to have been here.
And knowing what we do about the history of this continent, like how much of the past has been lost, buried under other old things in our race to build a nation, makes us all to aware of how much we aren’t able to know.
We can only see the shadows left behind, footsteps on the surface. We make up tales and imagine aliens and underground people to fill the quiet void of an empty continent. And without even a nod to all our stories, indifferent to the questions we ask, North America resolutely keeps its secrets buried in rock, clay, and mud.
All the weird legends and ghost stories that turn up about North Carolina always end up being about the Western part of the state, in the Mountains.
I intend to change that.
So welcome to Weirdly Awesome NC, delivering an attempted daily dose of Eastern North Carolina pics, stories, legends, and just plain old stuff. Of course, this isn’t to say I’ll completely exclude Western North Carolina, but when our side has Blackbeard and a hydrogen bomb buried deep underground, things can get pretty odd around here. Feel free to leave some links in the comments to other stuff you’ve come across, even if it’s not in North Carolina! I’d love to know about your weird findings. I also plan to have Twitter, and I’d be ever so delighted if you’d follow me.
Now grab a pint of Eastern NC BBQ and join me back here soon for one of our oddball offerings.