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Mysterious spirit lights part of Catawba legend
Indian Country Today October 25, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: October 25, 2005
by: Jim Largo / Indian Country Today

LENOIR, N.C. - Those dancing evening lights on Brown Mountain near Lenoir are the spirits of Catawba women looking for their departed love ones, a local legend says.

The story is told of a bitter battle between Cherokee and Catawba warriors on the mountain during the 1200s. After the fight, both tribes left many dead warriors on the battlefield.

During the evening, Catawba women went to the battleground. With torchlight's in their hands, they looked for their dead husbands, sweethearts, brothers and fathers. Now, the lights seen by thousands of tourists every year are said to be spirits of those Catawba women, still searching for their loved ones after 800 years.

Almost every evening, but especially in September and October, the lights appear: moving up and down for a few seconds, then disappearing and later reappearing. Some witnesses have seen them shoot up into the air. The lights can be seen only from a distance, not up close.

During the past 300 years, many (including scientists) have tried to explain the cause of these mysterious lights. They usually appear from just after sundown to around 10 p.m. but sometimes they appear all night on the mountain, located in the Pisgah National Forest northwest of the towns of Morganton and Lenoir.

As Europeans moved into the area, they developed their own stories about the Brown Mountain lights. One story tells about a couple living in the area around 1850. The husband, who was cheating on his wife, killed her. The dead woman's body disappeared, and the local people began looking for her.

Suddenly the lights appeared, and the searchers surmised that the lights were part of the woman's spirit returning to haunt her husband.

One of the first white men to see the lights in 1771 was a German engineer, Geraud De Brahm. He said the lights were ''vapors which are borne by the wind and when laden winds meet each other the niter inflames, sulphurates and deteriorates.''

One scientific explanation said the lights were made by radioactive uranium in the area; another said the mysterious lights were a reflection of lights from nearby towns like Lenior, Hickory and Morganton. However, these lights were seen before those towns were settled.

In 1913, a U.S. Geological Survey team conducted an investigation and decided that the lights were reflections of motor vehicle headlights in Catawba Valley to the south of Brown Mountain. However, a flood in 1916 disproved that. The flood damaged the roads and railroads, and there were no vehicles in the area for several months. The lights continued to appear as usual during that time.

The survey team also said the lights were caused by spontaneous combustion from marsh gases, but there are no marshlands near Brown Mountain.

One explanation says the mysterious lights are like the South American ''Andes lights,'' which are caused by lightning discharging from clouds into the mountains. But the Brown Mountain lights are not lightning strikes. They are balls of light that appear spontaneously on the side of the small mountain, which lies at the bottom of the larger Blue Ridge Mountains.

Another explanation suggests that the lights are foretelling of a catastrophe about to occur in the region. They are ''earthlights,'' the explanation says, similar to the ones seen in the 1970s on the Yakima Indian reservation in Washington not long before Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. The Yakima lights disappeared after the eruption caused earthquakes on the reservation.

''If that is true, and if the Brown Mountain lights are earthlights, it may be that an earthquake may be looming,'' wrote Greg Little in a report. A geological fault line, Grandfather Mountain Fault, runs under Brown Mountain.

Every evening, curious onlookers gather in several places to see the lights. Among these places are Brown Mountain Overlook on N.C. Highway 181; The Wiseman's View Overlook on Old N.C. Highway 105; and Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook, also on Highway 181.

Republished with permission from Jim Largo, and Special Thanks to: "Indian Country Today."

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CCCRN News: A recently found native Indian account, "The Daughters of the Star," in the book Thirty Indian Legends of Canada (first published in 1912), includes the mention of a hunter finding a flattened ring in prairie grass; similar to other old accounts in legends and folklore from the US and Europe, a further piece of evidence that crop circles, at least simple ones, may have been around for a long time...

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Dog People, a fabulous race believed by the Inuits to be the descendants of an enormous red dog. They are said to be the result of a beast marriage between the dog and an Inuit woman, which produced five monstrous children and five dogs. The dogs were set adrift on a raft by their mother and drifted across the sea to beget between them the white races, but the monsters produced a terrible race of bloodthirsty cannibalistic warriors. Called Adlet by Labrador groups and Erqigdlit by those wet of Hudsons Bay, this mythical people is also recognized by tribes in Greenland and Baffinland.

Also see:

Adlet - Encyclopedia Mythica

Adlet - Wikipedia

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