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
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.