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From the time Cherokee and Catawba roamed North Carolina’s northern mountains, people have reported seeing strange lights at night in the Brown Mountains near Morganton in Burke County. Sometimes they’re pale, ghostly lights slowly moving along the trees, and sometimes they whirl and dart rapidly across the forest. The Brown Mountain Lights always appear in the woods, rise above the mountain then slowly disappear. The lights have even been captured on video. Theories abound from alien spacecraft to natural gas formations and, of course, government conspiracy, but no proven explanation has ever been established. The Burke County Tourism office hosts annual symposiums on the theories surrounding the lights, including group trips to the places where they’re most frequently seen. The office also challenges visitors to capture images of the lights. The Brown Mountain Lights are typically visible on clear nights from vantage points along North Carolina Highway 181 and from Wiseman’s View in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area.
photo credit: Mark Houser