Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thomas Divide Ghost Lights

Thomas Divide Overlook
Mile Marker 464
Blue Ridge Parkway
Near Cherokee, North Carolina

High, high on the mountain
And down in the valley below,
It shines like the crown of an angel
And fades as the mists come and go.
Way over yonder,
Night after night until dawn…

--- from the classic Bluegrass song, “The Brown Mountain Light,” by
Scotty Wiseman

Thomas Divide sign. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.
My mother couldn’t quite grasp what we were seeing a couple years ago.

“You mean there’s nothing over there?”

“Well, there’s a mountain, but it’s inside the park so it’s undeveloped.”

My parents and I returned to watching the lights up on the mountain across the valley from the Thomas Divide Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The lights put on a spectacular show for us that night as well as the other spectators who had gathered to observe the mysterious phenomena. We watched for a few minutes as the lights flickered on, shone brightly for a few minutes, then flickered off, all from the ridge opposite. One light appeared to divide in two and another light changed color—from a white light to red. At one point, the lights even appeared like the brake lights of a car.

View from Thomas Divide. The lights appear along
the ridges in the distance. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell
IV, all rights reserved.
Continuation of the view from Thomas Divide. Photo 2014,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
I’ve written quite a bit about Cherokee, North Carolina, where I’m currently spending the summer. Sitting at the heart of the Qualla Boundry—commonly known as the Cherokee Indian Reservation—this land is filled with the magic and mystery of the Cherokee who have existed here for centuries. As a Cherokee friend of mine stated a few years ago, “To the Cherokee, the supernatural is just natural.” Here, ghosts and spirits are just another feature of the landscape. The spiritual activity here is stunning and ranges from ghost lights to full-blown apparitions.

Ghost light lore is found throughout the world and on every continent. Throughout the South these ghost lights appear with regular frequency: from Maryland’s Hebron Light to Florida’s Oviedo Lights, Beauregard, Mississippi’s Illinois Central Light to Georgia’s Surrency Light. North Carolina has a number of ghost lights: the Maco Light in Wilmington, the Cove City Light, the Vander Light in Cumberland County, the Pactolus Light in the small town of Pactolus and the previously mentioned Brown Mountain Lights on Brown Mountain near Morganton. Notably, the Maco, Vander and Pactolus Lights are associated with railroad tracks. The Brown Mountain Lights, according to L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations, were first seen by the local Native Americans and first recorded by German engineer, John William Gerard de Brahm one of the first explorers of the area. The lights have been seen by many and various legends have grown up to explain them.

Of course, science has attempted to explain these various lights throughout the world. Commonly, they are explained as swamp gas or, more properly, biogas that’s released as organic matter decays. Another explanation lies in ball lightning, a phenomena that’s not well understood. For many of these lights, their frequency would seem to rule out the ball lightning theory and certainly in dry area such as the desert surrounding Marfa, Texas, home to the famous Marfa Lights, the dry conditions would rule out swamp gas. The Brown Mountain Lights have been investigated by the United States Weather Service and the Geological Survey and neither have conclusively explained the lights. The Geological Survey blamed car headlights and locomotive headlights, but that would not explain the sighting dating to the eighteenth century, well before the existence of cars and trains.

The Thomas Divide Ghost Lights are apparently North Carolina’s least known ghost lights. So far in my research, I’ve found little documentation, but I can personally say that there is something going on at Thomas Divide. On more than one occasion, I’ve watched the strange lights.

To experience the lights one drives up to the Thomas Divide Overlook after dark and parks facing the Thomas Divide Ridge ahead across the valley. After flashing your headlights and possibly honking your horn the lights may appear in the distance. The first time I saw the lights, they appeared as balls of lights that shot up vertically in the air like a bottle rocket, but then circled around to drop back to earth only to shoot up again to follow the same route. The lights were rather dim when I saw them in the middle of the summer, but according to an article in the Western Carolina University Western Carolinian, they are brighter in the winter.

When I saw them with my parents, the lights were very bright; so bright it was like looking at a lighthouse. There was already a crowd assembled, so we didn’t worry about flashing our headlights. At other times, however, the lights are quite dim, possibly affected by fog or mist in the area.

There are numerous legends behind the lights. The WCU article does mention the legend stating that it involves a Cherokee shaman who tried to remain in the beloved mountains that the Cherokee had called home for centuries after the American government ordered their removal. Believing he and his family could remain on their land, they escaped into the deep coves of the mountains. Many natives escaped into the mountains and were tracked by soldiers. When the shaman was caught he was executed as an example to the others. His body was dismembered and the parts spread throughout the mountains. The Thomas Divide Lights are his spirit attempting to find all of his parts.

Other legends include the lights as being from the lanterns of the Cherokee Little People or fireballs hurled by Judaculla, a mythical giant from Cherokee lore. More sensible people have suggested that the lights may be hikers or from camp fires, though that would not explain the erratic movement or the lights changing color.

Like the Brown Mountain Lights, these lights may be just as old. A recent article about the phenomenon from The Smoky Mountain News, quotes the Beloved Man of the Cherokee, Jerry Wolfe. Nearing 90 years of age, he recalls seeing the lights when he was a teenager. A local paranormal investigator is quoted in the article as saying that, according to lore from various Cherokee families, the lights have been seen since the 18th century.

Regardless of their origin, the lights still flicker and glow nightly and I’m glad I was able to share them with my parents.


This is a rewrite and edit of the entry posted on this topic September 12, 2010

Sources
Ball lightning. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September
     2010.
Brown Mountains Lights. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     12 September 2010.
Hester, Margaret. “The Thomas Divide.” The Western Carolinian. 10
     November 2006.
Kasper, Andrew. “Theories swirl around perplexing mountain lights.”
     Smoky Mountain News. 23 January 2013.
L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations. History. BrownMountainLights.com.
     Accessed 12 September 2010.
Rivers, Micheal. Appalachian Mountain Folklore. Atglen, PA: Schiffer,
     2012.
Toomey, Michael. John William Gerard de Brahm. Tennessee Encyclopedia
     of History and Culture. Accessed 12 September 2010.
Will-o’-the’wisp. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2010.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Old Folks Still at Home (Newsworthy Haunts)

Museum of Seminole County History
300 Bush Boulevard
Sanford, Florida

That’s where the old folks stay.
--“Old Folks at Home,” Stephen Foster, 1851

It’s rather fitting that a former old folks home is now the home to a county historical museum. Of course, it’s no surprise that the same location remains home to old folks who have passed on. Such is the case of the Seminole County Old Folks’ Home which now houses the county’s historical museum.
 
Seminole County Old Folks' Home, now home to the county's
historical museum. Photo by Ebyabe, 2006, courtesy of
Wikipedia.
In the era before the advent of government assistance, many local governments provided poor houses and poor farms where the poor and indigent could seek shelter and attempt to support themselves. Seminole County constructed this building in 1926 as part of an 82 acre county farm. This site was operated as the county’s “Old Folks’ Home” until 1964 when the structure was converted for use as the county’s Agricultural Center. It served in that capacity until a new center was built in the early 1980s. The structure became the county’s museum in 1982.

However, it seems like some of its residents may have not left. A recent article in Florida Today notes that the museum is now providing paranormal activity tours of the building. With a tablet computer as a guide, guests can see evidence from the two paranormal investigations of the building and discover the varied types of paranormal activity witnessed in each room.

While the spirits have not been identified, many of their activities have been noted.  One guest had their sunglasses knocked from their head while a museum employee has discovered lights on that she specifically turned off. In one case, the employee experienced what she described as a feeling of being lightly tased. Investigations of the museum have uncovered photographs of orbs and EVPs.

Sources
     Florida Today. 17 June 2014.
Old Folks Home Marker.” HMdb.org. Accessed 18 June 2014.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Louisiana and Mississippi: Newsworthy Haunts—6/3/2014

First up, we have a pair of hauntings from Louisiana:

Eunice Public Library
222 South Second Street
Eunice, Louisiana

If there is a spirit haunting the public library in the small town of Eunice, then it may really like children’s literature. According the librarian, a book by Mary Alice Fontenot, a local children’s author, “has gone missing from our shelves, and after replacing this book, the replacement went missing as well.” But this is only one of a number of incidents that remain unexplained including the staff opening the library in the morning and discovering that the restroom door is locked with the light on inside.



After discovering that a local psychic and paranormal investigator had had odd experiences at the library as a child, the library asked the investigator’s group, On the Edge Soul Seekers, to conduct an investigation. The results were presented to the public on May 29th, with nothing published yet on what those findings were.

Sources
Johnson, William. “Is the Eunice Public Library haunted?” Daily World
     29 May 2014.

Spring Street Historical Museum
525 Spring Street
Shreveport, Louisiana

At the Spring Street Historical Museum in the old Tally’s Bank Building in Shreveport, the ghost is more interested in the welfare of the employees there than children’s literature. A 2013 article mentions that a museum employee was about to get up on a ladder when he saw the museum’s front door open by itself. The sturdy door was not prone to open easily and the employee was a bit frightened. When he returned to the ladder, he discovered he had not set it up properly and may have fallen should he have climbed upon it.

The museum occupies the Tally’s Bank Building, considered one of the oldest in Shreveport. It was constructed as a bank just after the close of the Civil War. With the South’s economy still rather unstable, the building housed three different banks. The first two failed, but the third—B. Jacob’s Bank—became First National Bank of Shreveport in 1885. That bank occupied this Italianate-style building until the 1950s when the bank needed more space. The structure served as a bar for a number of years until it was donated to the local Colonial Dames organization for use as a museum.

The stories of paranormal activity from the building have led to its being investigated three times. According to a recent article in the Shreveport Times, the primary spirit is of a former bank manager named Edward.


Sources
Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office. Document on Tally’s Bank.
     Accessed 1 June 2014.
Spradlin, Courtney. “City Explorer: Step inside downtown’s Spring
     Street Historical Museum.” Shreveport Times. 28 May 2014.
Thomas, Angela. “Before ‘Ghost Hunters,’ Louisiana Spirits Explored
     Shreveport’s Haunted Past.” KEEL News Radio 710. 13 June 2013.

1905 City Hall
300 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Two hurricanes, Katrina in 2005 and Camille in 1969, tossed this Bay St. Louis landmark about pretty badly. Camille blew off the building’s cupola and Katrina severely damaged the building when it made landfall near Bay St. Louis. Now, tenants of the restored building are experiencing something that’s tossing things around inside the building.

Originally, the building housed the city’s Mayor’s office, City Council chambers, police department and the jail. Over the years, many city departments have occupied the building which, after Katrina’s destructive blow to the city, required extensive restoration. After its Georgian splendor was restored recently, the building now houses a variety of businesses and offices with a restaurant, the Cypress Café, occupying the entire first floor. It is here, where the old jail was once located, that quite a bit of paranormal activity has been experienced.


An article from a local TV station, WLOX, quotes the café’s owner as saying, “We’ve had a lot of things move around, we’ve had glasses fly around. Doors just open and close real quick, and all of our doors have safety mechanisms which [means] you can’t actually open them. There’s just so many things that happened here on a regular basis that just didn’t seem normal.” After initially attempting to ignore the activity, the owner and staff decided to call in a paranormal team.

The café has just seen its second investigation after an earlier investigation by The Atlantic Paranormal Society. Just recently, G-COM: Ghost Chasers of Mississippi, investigated and captured evidence of three possible spirits.

Legend points to an incident in 1928 which may provide the origin of some of the building’s activity. That year, a man incarcerated in the jail shot his way to freedom, killing a man in the process. After he was recaptured, the prisoner became the last person executed by hanging in Hancock County.

For the café’s owner, however, the spirits are not fearsome, “nothing bad has really happened, it’s really kind of cool,” she said.

G-COM has produced a video of their investigation, it can be viewed here.

Sources
Belcher, Geoff. “Old Town ‘Haunt’—Paranormal investigators probe
     historic Bay building.” The Seacoast Echo. 4 April 2014.
Showers, Al. “1905 city hall restored in Bay St. Louis.” WLOX. 29 October
     2010.
Showers, Al. “Could the historic city hall in Bay St. Louis be haunted?”
     WLOX. 29 May 2014.