Mysterious lights and more

Yet another sightseeing day, this time from my new base in Wilkesboro. Blue Ridge Parkway, Tom Dooley and Brown Mountain was on todays program. From Wilkesboro I took U.S. 421 to Boone, and there I entered the parkway heading north. The goal was the North West Trading Post, which we last visited in 2002. Weather was great all day, the sun was shining from an almost cloudless sky and it was warm as well, 25 celsius, that is around 77 F, and only a little haze, so I took some pictures up on the park road, and here the autumn colors were far more visible than in Great Smoky Mountains NP.

I visited the store and bought a bottle of water - on this trip I had not, as we customarily do, bought a cooling box, as I would only be awaY for a week - and would normally be within reach of a gas station or store, where I could get water. Instead I had chosen to buy a single, cold bottle of water whenever I needed it, which was typically once or twice a day, depending on temperature and activities. In addition to water I also bought a few gifts to take home to the family. When done at Northwest Trading Post, I headed south. Before I left the place however, I just took a few pictures of the fences that is so characteristic for The Appalaches. My next stop I made at the overlook "The Lump" a few miles to the south of the trading post. This is where you find the "famous" sign telling about Tom Dooley - the sign that aroused my interest in the Dooley case. As on several previous occasions the sign was photographed, even from multiple angles.

From The Lump I continued south past Boone, where I had started, and past Blowing Rock, where I did not stop this time. At Linn Cove Viaduct, I took a few pictures that were reasonably OK, although there was now much more haze than erarlier in the day. When I reached North Carolina Road 181, I left the parkway and headed southeast. On the way southeast you pass a rest area, with a view of Brown Mountain, and here I made a stop. My plan was to visit this rest area in the evening, and to be sure to be able to find my way there in the darkness, I stored the location in my gps, before continuing.

I continued along the highway down to I-40, which I then took east to the town of Hickory. From there I headed back north towards Lenoir, the county seat of Caldwell County. From then on Tom Dooley was the theme of the afternoon exercises. I could have used a more direct route taking small byways, but at the time I just needed to get a move on after driving 35 and 45 mpt on Blue Ridge Parkway - thus the interstate. From Lenoir I took NC Road 268, the road that is the center of Tom Dooley story, even if it did not exist in 1866. The explanation is that the road runs straight through the relevant area. First I refueled though - gas for the car and more water for me. I visited a gas station in a small gathering of houses with no name, not far from Patterson. Here I also took a few pictures of the wider part of the Yadkin River Valley with one of the barns that are so normal in USA, but are rather rare in Denmark. We call them "Grandma Duck barns", because her farm has one of those in the Donald Duck comics. Along the way I passed a "Historical Marker" for General William Lenoir and another for General Collett Leventhorp. Lenoir was an officer in the American Revolution, and Leventhorpe during the Civil War.


In 2012, Tim and I had passed a small dirt road that led up to Fort Defiance, the former home of General William Lenoir, the man from the historical marker. When I got to the road I decided for a visit this time so I headed up the road, and it turned out to lead up to a nice big house - and an office. The place was open (the office that is) and a lady was busy negotiating with a couple of guys, whether their motor club could borrow her lawn for a camping trip a few months later - which they could. When she was finished with them, it was my turn and we got a nice chat anf she told me about the general and his 1792 home, which I was content, however, to look at only from the outside. But I visited the family cemetery behind the house where members of the Lenoir family (with spouses , etc.) have been buried since the general himself, as the first was laid in the ground, and the last burial was in 2000. My guess is that there were about 100 - 150 people buried at the site and it was very interesting. After visiting the cemetery, I returned to the office and talked further with the lady who obviously would like to know where I came from? When she heard that I was Danish, she would like to know what I was doing there, right out in a secluded part North Carolina?

I then explained that I had visited the area several times and was very fond of both the nature and the people - and I  also told her of my interest in Tom Dooley. She then asked me if I had visited Whippoorwill Academy and I could tell her that I had been there a few times and would visit again the next day (the museum is only open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons). Just before I had to go, she asked if I had seen Laura Foster's grave. I could confirm this  but only from the road as the grave is on private land and is fenced in behind an electric fence,, as it is in a field where there usually are cows. She, however, could tell that right in those days, neither cows in the field nor current in the fence were present, so I should go in there - and the owner was a nice man who wouldn't mind.

When I arrived at Laura's grave, I parked the car on the short cul-de-sac on the other side of the road, where you find a memorial to Laura Foster. Here I left the car behind, crossed the road and could see that the gate to the field was open, so I got the chance to get close to the grave and take some pictures. After the visit here, I drove around to several of the sites of the Dooley case, eg Grandin (where Tom's nemesis, James Isbell had lived), Gladys Fork Road, where I once again visited Ann Melton's grave, and tried to locate the cemetery where her brother should be buried, but with no luck. I also tried to locate Bates place, where the murder took place. For this I came up with two options, bu tI  don't know which one is correct if either - and no one else knows either, as the exact place seems to have passed into oblivion. Also a few of the local churches got my attention and finally I tried once again to locate Tom's own grave - and once again without any luck.

Therefore I headed home to the hotel and relaxed for about an hour before going out for dinner. After dinner it was time to visit Brown Mountain, or rather the look out I had visited earlier in the day. So what is so interesting about Brown Mountain, since I wanted to go there at night? The mountain or rather the ridge itself is nothing special. It is about a mile and a half long and approx. 2.300 feet high, so it doesn't look likemuch. The mountain, however, is famous for the mysterious lights that from time to time can be seen on, above and around it. The lights became very well known in the early 1900s, but local Indians had known them for at least 200 years before that, and Cherokee legends remember them back to about 1200. The lights are a fact but what causes them has yet to be scientifically explained, although a lot of different explantions have been given. Among these are headlights from trains or cars heading towards the viewer. This explanation is, however, undermined by the fact that the lights were seen long before trains and cars were invented, and the lighrs were also seen in a period when all train and car traffic was stopped due to a flooding of the area, that had torn down all bridges. Lights from the cities on the other side of the mountain, burning swamp gasses, radioactive emission from radium in the mountain and several other explanations have been tried, but they have all been rejected after they have been put forward. Also, the United States Geological Society has investigated the lights but without finding the definitive explanation.

The latest explanation I've seen is based on the fact that the mountain contains large amounts of quartz. It is also surrounded by faults on three sides, and when these faults are moving, pizoelectric charges are generated in the quarz. These charges ignites small "lumps" of plasma, which then moves around, up and down, back and forth for a short time before dissolving. This could explain the behavior of the lights, as they have been reported moving across the hillside, up and down this, and occasionally the lights rises above the mountain before they disappear. Usually, the lights are only visible for between five and ten seconds even if some lasting for up to a minute or more has been observed occasionally. Some people claim to have been close to a light, and that this then moved away from them, which would (the theory goes) be consistent with the plasma being repelled by the person's electromagnetic field. A few claim to even have touched a light, and that they had felt pain similar to an electric shock. These postulates were made before the plasma theory was aired.

Personally though, I prefer the more romantic explanation of the Cherokees. Around year 1200 the tribe fought a great battle against the neighboring Catawba tribe in wshat is now Pisgah National Forest, where also Brown Mountain is located. Many on both sides were killed, but the Cherokees won the battle. After the battle young girls from the tribe went out to look for the missing warriors, and it is the light of their lamps, which can still be seen when their departed spirits searches for their loved ones. Come again science!

Well, that was the reason I wanted to go to the deserted rest area in the dark. The lights should be most visible in October and November, some says that the lights are mostly seen after rain, and they usually should be most visible between 10 pm and 2 am. Others maitain that thre lights can be seen all night, all year and no matter the weather conditions. As mentioned earlier, I had stored the address in my navigation unit and now I asked it to show me the way. And I can tell you that I got on a sightseeing trip. Except that I could not see anything because of the darkness. But it took me along very small and narrow roads where I didn't want to drive fast in the darkness. It turned out to be a good decision, because at some point a deer jumped out on the road right in front of me, and had I been going  35 instead of the 25 mpt I did, I would have hit it. In fact, I never see so much roadkill as on this trip, but I managed to avoid hitting anything. Although there is only approx. 35 miles from Wilkesboro to the look out, it took me almost two hours to get there. When I arrived there at 8.45 and I was not the only one who had had the same bright idea. There were four or five cars in the parking lot, two of which had kept their headlights on, which is not smart when you want to see weak lights in the dark. Fortunately, both left and so did most of the other cars, and I was left alone with a single guy armed with a camera on a tripod. Of course we started to chat. I have forgotten his name but he was a professional photographer from Morgantown and had studied the lights since 1999. Just in the week when I met him on Friday night, he had already spent about 40 hours on this deserted rest area. The camera was an ordinary SLR with a large and very light-sensitive tele lens. While we chatted he showed me some pictures that he had taken on Wednesday. He had been there Thursday as well, but because of the rain that kept me completely away, he hadn't gotten any
pictures. The pictures he showed me, clearly showed moving lights on the hillside. The movement was obvious as the lights were partially blurred while the background was sharp, and he insisted that they were genuine and not made ​​in Photoshop. While we chatted several cars arrived and left again, and the photographer thought that people did not have any patience. The lights are not seen every day, but we hoped that the rain the previous day might "drag them out".

I stayed at the look out until around midnight, and then I headed back to the hotel. The photographer would remain for a few hours more. While I was there, we saw four lights, two of which were questionable (according to my expert), they could very well be light from cars as they were visible for a relatively long time. One was likely and one was definitely a Brown Mountain Light. You should be aware, the photographer told me that the bear hunting season had just started so many hopeful hunters were wandering around on the mountain with flashlights. I tried to take pictures of the lights but my camera was simply not good enough. They were all completely black, except for the one on the left which shows a small smeared light, which could be almost anything. On the way home I gave up on the small roads and took the slightly larger NC Highways to Boone and then back to Wilkesboro along U.S. 421. It was around 1.15 am, when I got back to the hotel, so I granted myself a little more time to rest , and sat the alarm to wake me up at 8. The program for the next day would be more the Blue Ridge Parkway and a visit to Whippoorwill Academy etc.

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