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


  1. Hello Ed!

    I was doing some research on the Brown Mountain Lights and came across a blog (Skeptoid – Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena by Brian Dunning). I read your comment on the blog, which led me to your BML blog.

    I live in the Charlotte area, and grew up in NC and as a kid have always heard of the mystery and stories behind BML. My girlfriend and I love the outdoors and we planned a trip to Linville on Labor Day weekend 2013 to visit the gorge. We then realized this would be a great opportunity to try and catch the lights. I’ve always heard them described as bright white lights on the brown mountain face that are unexplainable. I would consider myself a skeptic, and was excited for the opportunity to see them myself and make my own conclusions as I’ve heard it all – From ball lightening, to gas, to reflections from trains and cars, all the way to Native American spirits and UFO’s (which I do not believe in).

    We had heard that the best chance to view them was from Aug to September, and the locals say you have a better chance after or before an electrical storm. On Aug 31st 2013 there was a thunderstorm and it cleared up enough that we wanted to try seeing them at the 181 overlook. We drove out there and waited about 10 minutes before we saw glowing light red to dark red balls rise over the crest of Brown Mountain one after the other. Most would dissipate once they were higher, but some would remain in their “ball shape” and move just to the right (south I believe). When they would dissipate, it almost looked like a firework exploding, but a little slower and fuzzier. The frequency of this would die down and then stop altogether. We gave it another 15 minutes or so and decided they may be over and left. What we saw, was not what was described to me in school as a kid – So I still was not certain that we saw BML.

  2. The next day, we were hiking and were caught in the middle of a very intense thunderstorm at around 2-3pm.
    The rain and clouds cleared out that evening, and we decided to drive to Wiseman’s view to catch another glimpse at a different angle. When we got there, there were 5 or 6 others waiting to see the lights. A couple we met before sunset said the night before had a lot of activity. We told them about our experience that night, and they said what they saw was completely different. They described more of what I heard of as a kid, being the bright white lights that wander around the face of the mountain. We stuck around a while, and right at sunset we saw a few bright white lights, that look like they had been there the entire time the sun was setting, but as the night grew darker they were more prominent. After sunset, these lights would go out, and some would appear elsewhere. These were more prominent on the face of the mountain between Hawksbill and Table Rock. There was one instance at approx. 10:30pm that really had my blood pumping. 2 lights midway up the mountain face almost halfway between Hawksbill and Table Rock (close to Table Rock’s side) we saw 2 lights next to eachother. One would remain white, and the other switched from a white to a blueish color. They then started wandering zig zag down the mountain towards the river. I understand that there are night hikers/campers (myself being one) but to me, these lights were moving much faster than someone could walk/run. Once they meandered for about 5 minutes, one of them spun in circles very quickly for perhaps 2 seconds and went out. The radius of this spinning may have been about 75 – 100ft. After this, there were a few more lights that would appear. One of them would change from white to an intense bright red, and then back to white, and disappearing shortly after. There was another strange occurrence on the very top of Table Rock. A very bright red glare would cast a light on the surrounding area every 5 minutes or so. It almost looked as if a very large campfire was flaming up, and then would disappear, and then flame up again in 5 minutes. This went on 3 or 4 times over 20-25 minutes. The couple that we met stated the night before, there were lights that moved all over the mountain at a fast pace on the face of what I think is Dogback mountain. We did not witness this event, only the moving / flipping of the lights between Hawksbill and Table Rock.

    There were also a couple of very bright lights that would rise from the mountain face, above the crest, and would look like a very bright star but was not, as it did not continue to rise with other stars/planets. I would say that these were the same brightness as Jupiter and even Venus is in a clear sky.

    After seeing all of this, I’ve become very interested in the BML and am planning on taking a couple of more trips to see them in 2014. I’m surprised to see that there isn’t much interest (from what I can tell on the internet) in the BML. Everyone I tell at home thinks I’m crazy, or thinks that I’m just seeing reflections or something. I remind them that I am a huge skeptic, and that I doubt these are reflections.

    Anyway, after reviewing your blog, I wanted to reach out to you. I guess this may be just a message of encouragement – that even though you have not seen them yet, to please keep trying and catch these on film and to help figure out what this phenomenon is.



  3. Brian, thanks for sharing your sightings. Just to be certain I understand what you saw, did you also see the 1,000s of manmade city/town lights off in the distance? Since you didn't mention seeing any of those, you didn't mistake them for mystery lights did you? The lights you describe seeing from Wiseman's View are quite interesting. Almost everytime I'm at WV, I see lights from back country users down in the Gorge, on Table Rock, Hawksbill, & Shortoff. Many of these back country users play BMLs every night with their lights---I've done it myself many times. In addition, lights from cars on NC highway 105 are commonly seen on Dogback Mtn from WV.

    I hope you will stay in touch & maybe we can meet at one of the overlooks some night for some serious light hunting.....Ed

  4. Anytime Ed. Yes, we did see the many city lights in the background, I think the majority of those lights are from Lenoir if I'm not mistaken? I remember seeing blinking lights on towers as well that we dismissed immediately. We saw a few aircraft flying over as well. The lights we saw were much closer, mostly on that immediate side of the mountain facing us. The lights we saw could very well have been hikers. I've considered that the "flipping / whirling" of the light that we saw could have been 2 hikers walking side by side toward the river, and flipping their light around just before turning it off - but I'm still bewildered at the rate of speed they traveled toward the river. I've also considered that the flame we saw on top of Table Rock could have been just that - 2 hikers having trouble starting a fire after the heavy rain. When I returned home the day after from my trip, I wrote everything down in my journal. I just read it again and left something out in my original post. With the exception of the "camp fire light", we noticed that every other light we saw (moving and stationary) on the mountain did not seem to light up the surrounding area, and none of them flickered as would a light being blocked by tree limbs. Some lights did dim a bit and gradually brighten up, so perhaps this was the blocking of the trees, but in most cases it was a gradual transition of brightness, not a flicker. It was almost as if the lights were above the tree tops - but I'm not sure that's possible.

    I have not camped in the gorge yet, but plan to this year. I must say I may be tempted to play BMLs myself! Thanks for responding, and that'd be great to meet up sometime this year for some hunting. After reading about other sightings and possibilities, I'm very anxious to get back up there and see these lights again, so I can start ruling things out for myself.