Yes, they are real! But in order to say that, we have to come up with a definition that excludes all post-observational interpretations. Thus the following definition is based on the original observers’ on-site, real-time interpretation, not someone else’s subsequent interpretation: A BML is any nocturnal light, seen in the vicinity of Brown Mountain, with an origin that is unknown to the observer at the time of the observation
This definition is purposefully broad to include all sightings by everyone who has seen lights that they identified as unexplained in the area since the late 1800s. It is the assumed or presumed unknown origin that makes the lights mysterious in the first place. Each person's sighting is real and significant to them and none are dismissed as not-real. Since the distinction of 'unknown origin' is the determination of the observer, then all lights visible in the area must also be BMLs! Let me explain.
Eye-Witness sightingsEvery light visible in the area of Brown Mountain probably has been called a mysterious unknown-origin light (in other words a BML) by someone either recently or in the past---remember it is left up to each individual observer to label the light they saw as explained or unexplained. Over the past two years, our research team has amassed a vast collection of BML eyewitness descriptions, both recent and historical. Although these descriptions are often conflicting and vary greatly in the details of what was seen, none can be dismissed, even those that can be easily identified by others as misinterpretations of normal lights. It is clear from these varied descriptions that people are not always seeing the same thing, but rather they are seeing a large number of different light phenomena; none of which should be rejected as not real. Certainly for many observers their sighting was not only memorable, but also unique, fascinating, and in some cases, life-changing. Therefore, to include all mystery light sightings as BMLs, the definition given above is based on the observers' characterization of the light as having an 'unidentified-origin'. However, just because a light is unknown to an observer doesn't mean that light is also unknown or unknowable to someone else.
Identification of Light OriginsWhile misidentification of lights plays a major role in the Legend of the BMLs, observation of lights defying easy explanation also plays a role. The difference between an identified light and an unidentified light is often the difference between an informed observer and an uninformed or misinformed observer. One person’s BML is another person’s street light. One person’s BML is another person’s flashlight, or communication tower light, or airplane, or campfire, or car headlight, or firefly, or International Space Station, or planet, etc. And yet some lights defy all attempts to identify them by scientific or scholarly investigation. However, those lights that seem to defy scientific or otherwise scholarly explanation are generally from sightings that lack sufficient details to classify them as anything; as a result those lights are temporarily listed as 'unclassified' until such time that their actual origin might be determined.
To know the BMLs, First Know the ObserverThe level of one's nighttime outdoor experience, familiarity with nature, supernatural beliefs, and understanding of science vary greatly amongst observers, yet each of these plays a major role in how an observer interprets what they see. As expected, an informed observer is much less likely to misinterpret what they see, while an uninformed or misinformed observer is more likely to misinterpret what they see.
Don't Mess With my BMLsEveryone enjoys a good mystery and the desire to believe in unexplained or unexplainable lights is strong and even highly emotional for many people. In fact, most people aren't receptive to hearing something that threatens their beliefs, favorite mystery, or opinions. "I know what I saw, and it wasn't a manmade light" and "Some things just can't be explained" are common reframes from those unwilling to give up the mystery, or to even consider alternatives. On the other hand, there are those who sincerely believe they witnessed aliens, UFOs, disembodied spirits, ghosts, secret government projects, or otherwise unexplained paranormal phenomena. To everyone, no matter what you believe, the BMLs are real! It's just our interpretations of what we see that differ.