North Carolina Icons: The Brown Mountain Lights

NC IconsThis week as Halloween sneaks up on us we’re featuring number 79 from Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons list: the Brown Mountain Lights. Unexplained lights often appear at Brown Mountain, hovering in the air when the weather is right. Our State writes, “Your best chance at catching the Brown Mountain Lights is Milepost 310 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Brown Mountain Overlook along Highway 181, or from the top of Table Rock.” There have been various explanations for the lights, from scientific to legends and ghost stories. The North Carolina Division of Tourism reveals some other haunts around the state. To get you in the mood for Halloween, we have some great books of Carolina ghost stories to share around the campfire.

The Devil's Tramping Ground and Other North Carolina Mystery Stories, by John Harden

John Harden has two books of ghost stories specific to North Carolina. In The Devil’s Tramping Ground, he tells the mystery of the Brown Mountain Lights as well as other North Carolina legends and ghost stories.

From the first colonization at Roanoke Island, the bizarre and inexplicable have shrouded the Tar Heel State. From history and legend, Harden records ominous events that have shaped or colored state history.


Tar Heel Ghosts, by John HardenIn Tar Heel Ghosts, John Harden captures the “spirit” of North Carolina’s past. North Carolina’s ghost stories have infinite variety. There are mountainous ghosts and seafaring ghosts; colonial ghosts and modern ghosts; gentle ghosts and roistering ghosts; delicate lady ghosts and fishwife ghosts; home ghosts and ghosts that just want to be noticed.

These stories have a marked realistic North Carolina flavor. The reader finds mountain cabins and antebellum mansions, Indian trails, water wheels, river steamboats, railroad trains, slave labor on plantations, revenuers and stills in the mountains, a burial in St. James Churchyard in Wilmington, Winston-Salem before the days of Winston, Raleigh in the 1860s, Fayetteville during World War II, and even a new suburb with some old haunts.


Ghost from the Coast, by Nancy RobertsFor more regional ghost stories, check out Ghosts from the Coast: A Ghostly Tour of Coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Acclaimed storyteller Nancy Roberts takes the reader on a haunted tour of coastal North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia in this engaging new collection of 33 ghost stories and legends.

In North Carolina, we hear of the restless spirit who troubles visitors to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the phantom ship that, though lost in a storm at sea, sailed into Beaufort Harbor for a final farewell. South Carolina provides the backdrop for tales such as that of the Union soldier killed at Charleston’s Fort Sumter—more than a century later, a tourist is startled to discover the eerie, blue-coated figure of the soldier standing next to him. And in Georgia, we encounter ghostly pirates doomed to sail the creeks and inlets of St. Simons Island forever without rest.

These new tales and classic legends, all collected firsthand by the author, reveal a thrilling undercurrent to some of the southern coast’s most popular destinations.

Learn more about the Brown Mountain Lights and other icons on the North Carolina State library website. Remember to check our NC Icons tag for weekly updates.