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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Did Jules Verne inspire the Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights?

Did Jules Verne inspire the Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights? 

Remarkably Jules Verne’s highly-popular 1886 novel Robur The Conqueror, with its first-of-a-kind unique cigar-shaped airship sailing around the world with kidnapped citizens (the first alien abduction story), is credited with initiating the first ever UFO scares after observers throughout the world started reporting seeing strange objects in the sky in the 1890s (Ron Miller, "That Time Jules Verne Caused a UFO Scar", November 22, 2013).  Similarly, Verne’s 1904 novel Master of the World may have actually inspired the early sightings of mystery lights over Brown Mountain!  The 1904 novel was a sequel to the 1886 book and included a cigar-shaped, lighted airship built by the mad scientist Robur in a secret base deep inside a mountain near Morganton, North Carolina!  The mountain was presumbly Table Rock.  The fictional story included locals scared by sightings of previously unseen lights and reports of loud noises coming from the mountain---later determined to be Robur testing his new airship.  The English version of Master of the World came out in 1911, which was two years before the first published accounts of the Brown Mountain Lights began appearing in local newspapers in 1913.   So the question arises:  “Did Verne’s novel inspire the Legend, or did the Legend inspire the novel?”  Having never visited North Carolina himself, it seems highly unlikely that Verne could have learned much if anything about the BML Legend before the 1904 French version of the book since nothing about the Legend was published at that time.  However, it is quite possible that Verne, who did not himself speak English, learned from a colleague who was familiar with one or more of the several 1800s English adventure travelogues describing the unique mountain scenery of Linville Gorge and he chose this as the location for the opening story in his 1904 book.

Jules Verne, with his science fiction adventure stories of the mid to late 1800s, became the most-read author of the time and probably helped set the stage for the public’s acceptance of mystery lights.   Just as his 1886 novel inspired the first UFO scares around the world, the possibility that his 1904 novel actually inspired the beginnings of the Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights seems likely.  Anyone interested in the Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights would enjoy reading Verne's book---The 1911 English version of Master of the World is available as a free download at:
 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Annotated Panorama from 181 Overlook




Looking for Brown Mountain Lights from the NC Highway 181 Overlook? This annotated panorama should help identify known landmarks with the measured azimuths and distances given. Our BML Research Team has compiled this panaroma with the help of topographic maps, surveying software programs and 100s of photographs

Annotated Panorama from Wiseman's View




Looking for Brown Mountain Lights from Wiseman's View?  This annotated panorama should help identify known landmarks with the measured azimuths and distances given.  Our BML Research Team has compiled this panaroma with the help of topographic maps, surveying software programs and 100s of photographs.

Oldest known written document on the Brown Mountain Lights

Kevin Massey, a new contributor to our BML Research Team recently uncovered this September 14, 1913 Winston-Salem Journal newspaper article which preceeds the previous oldest known BMLs written document by nine days!  Many BML authors credit the September 23, 1913 Charlotte Daily Observer article as the first written document; but the W-S Journal document clearly preceeds it.


First Published Article on the BMLS
The R.T. Claywell story
Winston-Salem Journal, September 14, 1913
Re-typed by E. Speer January 2, 2014 from copy of original article
(Uncertain words indicated by underline)
Strange Light in Mountains Still Alarming
Remarkable Phenomenon can be seen in Burke County
Spectator gives Vivid Description
 By
George H. Manning

Washington, Sept. 13---The strange white light which has greatly excited the people in Burke county, N. C. since it was first seen about four months ago, may still be observed almost nightly and is gaining materially in brilliance, according to R. T. Claywell, of Morganton, who is in Washington in the interests of Maply McDowell’s candidacy for the United States Marshal-ship in the Western District.  Mr. Claywell says he last saw the light about a month ago when he and a number of friends were spending a night at Cold Spring Hotel.  That Mr. Claywell is extremely excited over the appearance of the light is evident by his manner when he vividly described the awe-inspiring light he and his friends witnessed.

“There’s something ghostly and uncanny about that light that I and the folks up in the neighborhood can’t fathom and we want to get a government scientist down there to discover just what it is and the causes and effect,” said Mr. Claywell.

“The night that I and a number of friends saw this strange phenomenon, I was up there with George Patterson and wife, of Concord, Miss Bell Means, niece of Colonel Paul Means, and Mr. Honeycutt of Concord, Miss Sallie Hogan, Miss Fannie Roundtree, Miss Sarah Claywell, all of Morganton, and Robert Lovin, of Cold Spring.

“It was the last Thursday in July, July 31st,” continued Claywell.  “We were all sitting on the cottage porch in conversation, on Rattlesnake Knob, about 150 yards from the Cold Spring Hotel, at exactly 10:05 o’clock.

“The first thing unusual that attracted our attention was a hazy kind of a light across the valley on Brown Mountain in two places.  We all watched it intently with mixed feeling of awe and wonder, while shivers ran up and down the spine of everyone present.  In a few minutes while we all directed our gaze intently on the two hazy spots, just off to the right of the light in the direction of a Morganton, we saw this brighter light appear at the foot of Brown Mountain where Upper Creek cuts it at Joy.  It appeared to be swinging to and fro, pendulum like, and then went upward about a distance of 200 feet.  When it first appeared it seemed to be round and yellow, and gained steadily in brightness, becoming redder and redder as it went upward.  When it reached its greatest height, it appeared like a flaming red ball, but the strange thing about it was that it did not cast off a particle of light.  All the air around it seemed to be as dark as ever, and that added to its ghostly appearance.

“It was across the valley from us at a distance of about 12 miles.  It had rained in Morganton that day and there were a few clouds still hanging about.  When the light started rising again and reached a height of what  seen from our distance to be about 1200 feet, it went behind one of these clouds and we did not see it any more that night.

“It was one of the strangest experiences I believe I ever had, and many of the folks were near fainting.  In fact it was with difficulty that Mrs. Patterson was revived from a faint.  We had been at the cottage three days previously and every evening had gone to bed about nine o’clock but this Thursday night we stayed up later.  We would probably have witnessed it the other evening had we stayed on the porch a little later.”

Mr. Claywell with Congressman Webb, called at the Geological Survey today to urge them to hurry the arrangements being made to send a scientist to fathom the mystery.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

10Dec13 Photography from Wiseman's View

Last night's photography from Wiseman's View produced some more interesting images of distant city lights, stars, and airplanes---but no mystery lights!

Lenoir and Taylorsville City Lights
Communication Tower light & Lenoir's Christmas Star on Hibrighten Mtn
Azimuths (in degrees) and distance (in miles) shown for selected features
Tripod-mounted Canon REBEL DSLR T3i camera with 105-420 mm zoon lens set at 287 mm, f/7.1, ISO-800, 30 sec
 
Distant City Lights over Brown Mountain
Tripod-mounted Canon REBEL DSLR T3i camera with 18 mm lens, f/4.5, ISO-800, 15 sec

Hawksbill Mtn with Stars and Distant City Lights
Tripod-mounted Canon REBEL DSLR T3i camera with 18 mm lens, f/4.5, ISO-800, 61 sec
 
Hawskbill Mtn with Staged Hiker's Light, Airplanes, and Stars
Four airplanes, one with bright landing light, and short star trails in skies over Hawksbill Mtn
A small white hiker's light from a friend of the photographer,
was staged on the skyline in the middle of Hawksbill's summit
Tripod-mounted Canon REBEL DSLR T3i camera with 105-420 mm zoon lens set at 105 mm, f/5.6, ISO-800, 33 sec

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

18Nov13 Forest Fires, Bright Moon Rise, Car & City Lights

Last night's observation from Wiseman's View was both interesting and informative.  The recent Table Rock fire which started a week ago and has now burned nearly 2,500 acres on the east rim of Linville Gorge, is nearly out with only a few tiny isolated spot fires remaining.  However, some folks at the overlook last night were hoping to see vast large fires and dismissed the remnant spot fires as the usual BMLs!  At least the large crowds provided the opportunity to photography vehicle headlights on NC Hwy 105 on the west rim of the gorge.  In addition, the bright rising moon over Hawksbill Mountain was spectacular.  Most of my photos should be enlarged to see the finer details.
  
Distant Lights of Taylorsville, 41.5 mi
Azimuth 88O from Wiseman’s View
Taylorsville is the dim horizontal band of lights immediately below the far skyline in the center of the image
Two communication tower lights are visible on Hibriten Mtn (89O azimuth) on right side of image:
1)       The usual blinking white light on the tall tower north of the summit; and
2)       A new red light on a tower on the summit
City Lights of Lenoir lie above and beyond Brown Mountain (the flat ridge in the foreground)
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/8, 1 second exposure & ISO-400
 
Lights of Hickory 31 miles beyond north slope of Table Rock Mountain
Azimuth 111O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 138 mm lens at f/7.1, 2 second exposure & ISO-1600
 
Small Isolated Forest Fire on Flanks of Table Rock, 1 mi distant
Azimuth 135O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/8, 47 second exposure & ISO-3200
 
7 Small Isolated Forest Fires on Flanks of Table Rock
Table Rock is Azimuth 13O from Wiseman’s View
The largest spot of fire in the center of the image is enlarged in photo 5178
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 18 mm lens at f/4.5, 60 second exposure & ISO-1600
 
Vehicle Headlights on North Flank of DogBack Mountain
Azimuth 185O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 18 mm lens at f/4.5, 6 second exposure & ISO-1600
Vehicle Headlights on North Flank of DogBack Mountain
Azimuth 185-191O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 55 mm lens at f/5.6, 14 second exposure & ISO-1600
 
Moon Rise Over South Flank of Hawksbill Mountain
Azimuth 75O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 18 mm lens at f/4.5, 60 second exposure & ISO-200
 
Moon (bright white) with Unique Lens Flares
Azimuth 75O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 420 mm lens at f/8, 1 second exposure & ISO-400
 
Moon (bright white) with Unique Lens Flares
Azimuth 75O from Wiseman’s View
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR with 294mm lens at f/7.1, 1 second exposure & ISO-400
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forest Fire in Linville Gorge---how's that for nocturnal lights!

Yesterday (Tuesday, 12Nov13) a forest fire burned on the east rim of Linville Gorge immediately south of Table Rock.  I photographed it from Wiseman's View on the west rim of the gorge from 8:37 pm until 9:13 pm when the howling winds and cold temps drove me back to the car.  Winds of 25-40 mph with much higher gusts fanned the fire and made tripod-mounted time-exposure photography difficult.  Fall's recently dropped dead leaves undoubtly added fuel to the fire.


Forest Fire on East Rim of Linville Gorge
The image shows the forest fire immediately south of Table Rock, an airplane light streak in the sky above Table Rock, the constellation ORION in the sky through the tree branches, and the lights of Lenoir & vicinity over the top of Brown Mountain in the distance.

Forest fires and brush fires were first mentioned as possible sources of BMLs in George Mansfield's 1922 USGS report.  While fires as large as this one are not likely to be mistaken for mystery lights by many folks, smaller ones such as campfires probably can be.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Catawba Valley Lights, Moon & Venus

My photography from the NC 181 Overlook tonight produced some more interesting images; however no mystery lights were seen.  All photos were taken with a tripod-mounted Canon REBEL EOS DSLR camera with either a Canon 105-420 mm  telephoto zoom lens or a Meade ETX-125 1,900 mm 5" mirror reflecting telescope.

60% Waxing Gibbous Moon
 
 
Catawba Valley city/town lights, view looking southeast
Brown Mountain is the dark tree-covered ridge slopping to the right in the foreground

Baker Mtn, 32 mi distant & communication towers on far horizon
Brown Mountain is the flat top, tree-covered ridge in the foreground

Single flashing white orb atop communication tower on Hibriten Mtn, 20 miles distant.
Adams Mountain lies directly in front of Hibriten Mtn
Note airplane light streak in the sky and two small red orbs stacked vertically on a smaller communication tower to the left of the white orb
The north slope of Brown Mountain can be seen in the lower right corner of the image

Venus above Hawksbill Mtn, east rim of Linville Gorge

 
Venus setting through trees on ridgeline north of Hawksbill Mtn
on east rim of Linville Gorge
Note short star trail in sky above

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Staged Light test Nov 4, 2013

On Monday night, November 4, 2013, our BML Research team conducted another radio-assisted staged light test on Chestnut Mountain.  I manned cameras at the NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook while a pickup truck drove FS Rd 198.  The staged lights were only visible to the naked eye at one spot along the road, approximately 1.9 miles from the 181 Overlook.  Image 4832 shows our staged light.  This road is a popular destination for bear hunters & bear season recently opened in the area.  Other lights in the image are stars in the sky and distant communication tower and house lights.

Staged Light Test on Chestnut Mtn
Looking northeast from NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook
The small white light below the skyline on lower flanks of Chestnut Mtn
is  520-lumen battery-powered handheld spotlight on FS Rd 198,
approximately 1.9 mi from the camera
 
The 8% Waxing Crescent Moon setting over east rim of Linville Gorge
 Looking southwest from NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook

House Lights on Jonas Ridge
Looking northwest from NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook
Prominent colored light streaks across center of image
are those of a large delievery truck heading north on NC Hwy 181
The skyline lights are from houses in the Gingercake Acres community along NC 1265

City/Town Lights in Catawba Valley beyond Brown Mountain
Looking southeast from NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook
The lights of Valdese and Drexel between 125 & 140 azimuths are visible
The blinking navigation lights of an airplane are visible in the sky