The Most Famous 'Ghost Light' Sightings In North America

People familiar with the theater may see the phrase "ghost light" and immediately think of the single bulb kept burning on an otherwise dark and empty stage. Said to keep the ghosts of a particular theater appeased, these lights are nevertheless an understood tradition.

Then there are the ghost lights found out in the world, away from the confines of a theater and its superstitions.

These ghost lights are said to appear in situations where they shouldn't exist, such as over bogs or swamps, and they may even move of their own accord. These shining orbs of light are also called "will o' the wisps," "spook lights," and "corpse candles" by believers who witness them. Like most supernatural phenomena, ghost lights remain an enigma to the scientific world but appear in legends all over the planet. From rail worker lanterns to actual ghosts to UFOs, the true purpose and identity of ghost lights are unknown.

  • The Gurdon Light Of Arkansas

    In Gurdon, AR, 75 miles south of Little Rock, a set of train tracks is the setting for a popular local ghost story. Visitors can park close to the tracks located near Interstate 30 and walk them for about 2 miles to reach the site of the area's famous ghost light.

    Supposedly the lantern of a rail worker who lost their life - and head - after falling on the train tracks, a whitish blue or orange light allegedly floats through the trees nearby. Others who have seen the ghost lights say they are the manifestation of another railroad worker who met his end fighting on the tracks. Either way, the ever-present lights are odd and seem to have no discernable source since the area is far from the cars driving on the interstate.

    However, some scientists point to piezoelectricity as a possible explanation for the mysterious light. Piezoelectricity is the creation of electricity or sparks when ceramics or crystals are manipulated a certain way. There may be a deposit of quartz beneath the tracks that is being compressed and creating the infamous Gurdon Lights that captivate locals and tourists alike.

  • The Marfa Lights Of Texas

    The town of Marfa is located in the West Texas desert and is home to ghost lights that people describe as basketball-sized. These large lights come in an array of colors, including blue, yellow, red, and white. Since their first sighting in 1883, witnesses have described the lights as flickering, hovering, splitting into multiple orbs, floating, and speeding across an area known as Mitchell Flat outside of Marfa.

    Unlike the ghost lights of Gurdon, the Marfa Lights are rarely seen and don't coincide with any specific weather events that might explain their appearance. Research into their origin ruled out campfires, but physics students from the University of Texas at Dallas found that some of the lights were car headlights from the nearby US Highway 67. Less academic guesses include the lights being a mirage created by warm air sitting atop cooler air.

    Still others believe that phosphine and methane gases found in swamps are possibly igniting and creating the display. James Bunnel, a retired aerospace engineer, believes piezoelectricity is the source of the ghost lights. However, nothing has been proven or disproven as the impetus for the infamous lights.

  • The Bingham Light Of South Carolina

    Legend has it that a farmer named John or Bill Bingham met his untimely demise on railroad tracks when a train cut him down. Another version of the tale paints Bingham as a murderer who used a lantern to dig graves and bury his victims in the night. These are the supposed origins of the ghost lights one can see in Dillon, SC. However, those who see the lights are considered very lucky, as their location is difficult to find.

    The blue or white light swings like an arm carrying a lantern as someone walks through the woods and past the creeks in the area. Witnesses claim they've seen the creepy illuminations and felt a sinister presence and a drop in temperature. One even claimed they became physically ill after encountering the Bingham Light of South Carolina.

  • The Brown Mountain Lights Of North Carolina

    Brown Mountain is located in Linville Gorge, NC, and has been the location of strange ghost lights for a very long time. Native Americans in the area believe the orbs of light are their female ancestors searching for their dead from a battle between the Cherokee and Catawba tribes in 1200 AD. Since then, many have attempted to provide different answers for their appearance, but none of those have been accepted or proven. Nitrous vapors, train lights, and aliens are all proposed theories for the multicolored lights that float around the mountain and are dismissed in kind. 

    Some witnesses who say they've encountered the lights described them as small, candle-like flickers, while others say they are large and fiery. Regardless of their appearance, the town of Morganton in Burke County is happy to provide nightly tours to visitors intrigued by the Brown Mountain Lights.

  • The Light Of Saratoga, Texas

    If you're ever in Saratoga, TX, drive to the intersection of Bragg Road and FM 783, a dirt road, and wait for the early evening hours to catch a glimpse of the Light of Saratoga. Supposedly, the creepy ghost light here is the lantern of a railroad employee decapitated in a car wreck in the area. He now walks the roads with his eerie light, on the lookout for his missing head. 

    Nonbelievers say the lights seen by visitors are actually from vehicles on a highway situated in just the right way to create the bouncing, disappearing lights.

  • The St. Louis Ghost Train Of Saskatchewan, Canada

    St. Louis is a small Canadian town of around 450 people. Residents claim their local ghost lights are tied to train tracks that formerly ran to the north of their location. Supposedly, a Canadian National Railway conductor walked the tracks during his job before being brutally decapitated by a train in the 1920s. Edward Lussier, a resident who claims to have seen the lights over 50 times, subscribes to this legend and describes the phenomenon as a red or white light.

    Lussier claims he's seen the mysterious light in bushes only to have it disappear when he got close. Another resident, Les Rancourt, says the light resembles a car headlight with a smaller red light moving all around it.