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:

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