Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Carl White’s syndicated column features stories about his journey as a TV producer and host. Carl says “I am writing about the people I meet as I travel and the interesting places visited. They do not all end up on TV, but a lot do and everyone becomes a friends. It’s a wonderful journey”

Below you will find a sampling of Carl’s columns. To read them in a paper nearest you, please subscribe to:


Greenwood, SC: Index Journal
Cheraw, SC: The Link
Lenoir, NC: The News Topic
Wilkes County, NC: The Record
Alleghany, NC: Alleghany News
Spruce Pines, NC: Mitchell News

Mysteries In The Sky

There is no shortage of mysterious things in the Carolinas.  The Brown Mountain Lights in Burke County have offered many years of intrigue for countless numbers of curious and concerned people. I was pleased to work on the broadcast special over a two-year period which was very interesting to say the least. The history as well as current observations and theories keep this mystery alive.  

Folklore and many stories have been written over the years about these elusive illuminations which predate the Civil War. In 1913, an official investigation was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey at the request of Congressman E.Y. Web, the results were that the lights were train lights. The problem with this report was that after the flood of 1916, when the train was not running and the reports of seeing the lights continued.

Senators F.M. Simmons and L.S. Overman then lead the charge for a more extensive investigation, George R. Mansfield was commissioned to conduct the survey. His report attributed the lights to headlights, stationary lights and brush fires.

I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about the Brown Mountain Lights, both in the development of the broadcast special and after it aired.  I have attended two symposiums and interviewed many people about their encounters and thoughts about what the lights are.

I spoke with C.W. Smith and Les Burrill, who were both retired from the U.S. Forest Service and both of them reported that they had in fact seen the lights.  Burrill, said about one close encounter, that they looked like candles, then diminished. He also said that he had the seen the lights many times. Smith said that he had seen the lights twice.

The writer and paranormal guru Joshua P. Warren said that Brown Mountain is a geological conduit for massive amounts of electricity that can trigger paranormal activities. 

Daniel B. Caton PhD is a professor with the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University, he leads a team that have installed cameras overlooking areas of Brown Mountain. By sequencing digital images taken, the individual frames are built into time lapse videos. Caton’s team rules out possible misidentifications such as ATV’s, military aircraft, or other manmade sources of the lights.

I remember receiving a call from a lady that told me the lights were actually the energy that comes from the crystal caverns when the fairies go in and out. I ask if she knew the leader of the fairies, she confirmed that indeed she did. I ask if she thought she could arrange an interview for me. She said she would try; I am still waiting for clearance. I understand that things take time.

However, I may need to rethink my request to interview the fairies’ leader, even when I am cleared, and this is why. In talking with a Cherokee elder and story teller, the Brown Mountain Light story came up in conversation and I mentioned the Fairies interview possibility. I was told that they are not actually fairies but rather the Little People and I should by no means go, because if they like you they will keep you, you will not be able to escape, he said.

Charles Braswell, Jr., a professional photographer has invested several years in investigating the lights and on Oct. 15, 2001, he captured what is considered by many to be the best known pictures of the Brown Mountain Lights.  Braswell, captured both video and an impressive still image.

So, are the Brown Mountain Lights real?

One thing is for sure, the stories of the lights are very real and this mystery continues to captivate the minds and imaginations of many.  If I go missing, I’ll likely be with the Little People. 

CHARLOTTE WEATHER