Unexplained ‘ghost lights’ dot West Virginia landscape
Unexplained sightings of ghostly lights in the Ohio River Valley and the Mountain State date back to the early settlers and Native American Indians. These glowing curiosities puzzled the pioneers causing many concerns of the supernatural sort. Some settlers viewed these lights as omens of doom while others saw them as magical entities or biblical prophecy in motion. In medieval times, it was believed that these astral globes and streaks were the fiery breath of dragons. Ghost lights are not unique to the area and have been experienced worldwide. They are typically white, blue, orange or yellow in color and are usually seen at night.
Ghost lights have also been called Will o’ the Wisps, Earth Lights, and Spook Lights. The most popular ghost lights in the United States are the Brown Mountain lights in North Carolina, which were popular enough to spawn a bluegrass song! There are several Ghost Lights in West Virginia that have been explored in folklore and even reported to local law enforcement. These are two of the most popular in folklore:
Sandstone Ghost Light of Raleigh County
This Ghost Light sighting dates back to the Civil War era. Samuel Richmond of Raleigh County was a staunch Union man who ran a ferry service across the New River near Laurel Creek. Samuel was shot by a Confederate sympathizer by the name of Jefferson Bennett in September of 1865. His fatal shot occurred in his canoe while crossing the New River. Samuel managed to somehow paddle back to shore before his life ended near his home on the Raleigh County side of the river. Many people have claimed to see the Sandstone Ghost Light at night bobbing and bouncing slowly over the river. Many speculate that the light is the spectral spirit of Samuel Richmond as he makes his nighttime journey across the river for all eternity.
Cole Mountain Ghost Light of Hardy County
Hardy County West Virginia is no stranger to the unique phenomena of Ghost Lights. Folks who live around Moorefield have whispered of the ghost light sightings dating back before the Civil War began. Wealthy landowner and noted hunter Charles Jones lived in the Moorefield area and owned several slaves. When on late night hunts, Charles would often take his most trusted servant with him when coon hunting on Cole Mountain. On one late night hunt, both master and slave heard the dogs baying as if they had treed a coon. The slave ran ahead of the master to view the dogs capture and upon his return, found his master gone. The slave searched high and low in the woods to no avail but could not find him. Search parties in town were formed for Charles Jones. These continued until the locals gave up, but the slave continued his search. Charles was never found but the townspeople would often see the glow of the slaves yellow lantern light as he went to and fro across Cole Mountain in his search for his master. The faithful servant continued his nighttime search until he mysteriously vanished in the woods on the one year anniversary of his master’s disappearance. On occasion, and to this very day, people around Moorefield still report seeing the glowing light on the mountain. Locals claim it is the light of the slave’s lantern as he continues to search for his owner in the afterlife.
What exactly are these ghost lights? Scientists offer plausible explanations of swamp gas, ball lightening, and foxfire glow. Until the 1960s, most scientists argued that ball lightning was not a real phenomenon but an urban myth, despite numerous reports from throughout the world. According to legends in various cultures, unexplained lights are thought to be wandering spirits of the dead, the work of the devil or the pranks of fairies. Atmospheric ghost lights are also thought to be related to UFOs. Whatever your belief, scientific or metaphysical, these odd occurrences can be seen best at night. This summer, I encourage you to spend time outside at night and away from the city lights. Grab a chair, your favorite beverage and look to the skies. Gaze across dark rivers and shadowy mountains losing yourself in the millions of stars above. You never know what you may see.
Sherri Brake is a paranormal researcher, author and Haunted Heartland Tour owner. You may email her at SherriBrake@gmail.com or visit her website at www.HauntedHistory.net