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The Brown Mountain Lights

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They appear in the dark of night, suddenly appearing from unseen places within the shadowy forest.  They are ethereal orbs that float up the mountainside, darting, dancing....and then in a blink of an eye, they are gone.  Sometimes there are only a few and sometimes there are hundreds.  They have been well-known for as long as man has walked the area, but nobody knows what they are or where they come from. This is the enigma of the Brown Mountain Lights. 

Many scientific and not-so-scientific studies have been done on the Brown Mountain area, and a few claim that they have solved the mystery, but in reality, no theory has yet come to light that completely explains this phenomenon.  The only thing that we really know for sure is that the Brown Mountain Lights are a real and ongoing wonder of the modern world. 

Brown Mountain is a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is part of the bigger Appalachian chain, a old mountain system that dates back to before Africa split from North America.  In fact, the Atlas mountains in Morocco were originally part of  the same Appalachian chain. The mountains we see today are the result of the collision of two continental plates pushing the land up and even folding it over in places, and there are still fault lines in the area of Brown Mountain.  Brown Mountain itself is not the most spectacular example of this evolutionary process, and in reality is a rather flat, non-descript looking mountain with a higher peak at one end.  The valley below is U-shaped, offering several vantage points for viewing the lights from other mountains at various points on the borders of the U-shaped valley.  The mountain itself is made up of primarily granite, sandstone, quartz, mica, iron, and magnetite.  Of these, quartz, mica, and magnetite are crystals, with quartz being well-known and widely used in every facet of our lives for its electrical properties, and magnetite with well-known magnetic properties. 

We know a lot more about what The Brown Mountain Lights are not than what they are.  We know that they are not St. Elmo's fire, which is fairly well understood and manifests differently.  We know they are not similar to the Andes lights, because that also manifests completely differently.  We know that they are not released swamp gas energy because there are no swamps in the area.  Indian and early settler lore attributed the lights to various spirit entities doomed to eternally search for loved ones whose lives ended tragically.  This is certainly a romantic theory but is probably not the case, especially since the lights were likely there before any of the tragedies related to the lore happened.  Lights from cars, trains, and nearby towns, along with fires and flashlights from within the valley probably account for some of what we see today, but don't explain the Indians and settlers seeing the very same phenomenon before autos and flashlights, and don't explain all of what we see today by a long shot.

What we do know about the Brown Mountain Lights is that they are visible energy from an unknown source, and that's about it.  One somewhat believable theory in wide circulation today is that the lights are some type of plasma generated by water flowing within the mountain and bouncing off the rocks.  Because of the basic components in the rocks, it is feasible that they could produce electrical or magnetic plasma such as what we are seeing, but this doesn't explain why we don't see this type of thing occur elsewhere in the area - or in areas with similar physical attributes.

Sometimes when studying a phenomenon, it helps to look around and see if there are any similar but unrelated manifestations elsewhere that might give a clue as to the origin.  In the case of floating orbs, there are indeed other manifestations of orbs of light appearing under different circumstances.  Ball lightning is one such manifestation that is very poorly understood.  We generally think of ball lightening as happening during thunderstorms, but we don't really know enough about it to say with certainty that it never manifests otherwise under the right conditions.  The behavior is similar - a bright ball of light or fire that dissipates quickly, sometimes with a bang and sometimes not. 

Another instance is the remarkably similar orbs or balls of light have been reported repeatedly around newly formed crop circles, where testing shows higher than normal radiation, and plant materials that appear to have been "microwaved."  Interestingly,  the appearance of the Brown Mountain Lights has been documented to become more frequent at times when the solar wind is at its strongest, so radiation may very well play a part, in addition to something about the configuration of the land and the composition of the mountains.  

Lastly on the "maybe list" is the theory that the lights are related to Earthlights, which appear to act as harbingers of strong earthquakes, but that can appear years before the quake itself.  The origin of Earthlights is still under debate but there is wide agreement that they do indeed exist.  The theory at this time is that giant formations of rock on either side of a fault line are scraping together underground with incredible force, somehow producing a powerful charge that eventually explodes up into the atmosphere and manifests as a ball of light, quickly dissipating and blinking out within a short time frame. 

The Brown Mountain Lights make appearances all through the year, but for whatever reason, fall is reported as the most likely time to see them.  They are not a nightly occurrence and it's largely a matter of luck as to whether you will see them on any particular day of the year.  They are also reported to be more active after a rain or during a drizzle.  Even though they probably are not spooks or ghouls, they are still an unknown phenomenon, and as such are a fascinating thing to see if you are lucky enough to be in the area at the right time. 

If you have had the experience of seeing the Brown Mountain Lights, we would love to hear your experience.   Please feel free to email us using the link below (Blaze) or post to the Message Board. 


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