Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Chapel Hill Ghost Light

On January 23, myself, Todd, and Stefanie left Knoxville to visit one of my favorite haunted sites of all: the Chapel Hill railroad. The legend goes like this:

...long ago an aging signal man along the tracks was killed during a dark and rainy night. He had carried a bright lantern which could be seen for miles up the tracks. As he walked the tracks, he accidently tripped. His head hit the rail, and he was knocked uncouncious. He lay on the track for a few minutes, until along came a train. Unable to stop in time, the train ran over the man, decapitating him.

When they found his body, they say, it was still mostly intact. Except for one part, that is: his head. It was never found. To this day, according to legend, he still walks the tracks, carrying his lantern, as he searches for his lost head.

The validity of this tale is unknown. However, hundreds have witnessed the light. This was my third trip to the town of Chapel Hill (the previous two being about three years ago while I was living in Lebanon). During both these visits, I was able to catch a glimpse of the phantom light. Again this time, the light failed to disapoint.

We rolled into Chapel Hill around 8:15 CST. It was not dark enough then, so we killed a little time by visiting the Nathan Bedford Forrest memorial and exploring town (which didn't take long). Around 8:50, we returned to the railroad crossing. After waiting a few minutes, we saw the light. It appeared low, close to the track, and then high above it. It seemed to cross the track, then reappeared and seemed to move towards us. What it is, I do not know. Other than orbs and "bad vibes," this is the only real experience I've had with an "actual ghost." After about 15 minutes or so, we moved on. About two hours later, we returned again, and caught a few sightinngs of it, but it was not nearly as spectacular as before.

I used my digital camera to videotape the area, but unfortunately I was unable to get the light on film. It was too far down the track and would require a more powerful camera than I have. I did take these pictures, which do not show the light, but do give a gooid feel of the area it "inhabits."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have a picture also of the man on
the tracks and the children

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is April and I live in Chapel Hill. I have been to the tracks several times. Yes I have seen the light and colud not stay very long, because it scared me.A friend of mine her daughter and I also saw and orb. It came out of the bushes that used to be there.You could see the tail of it when it went back into the bushes.A man that lived next to the tracks said it was just gasses. I find that hard to believe.I've also went with other people and sat at the tracks.When it got cold at the tracks I would move away from the tracks. It was warm were I went, then that spot became cold.People may say we are weird or crazy, but have they ever been to the tracks, if not they need to go their and see for thier self.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have been to the tracks...
but no i didnt see the light! so maybe this year!...but i did go last year and its still scary even being their and it being dark out!!
...and i go to the school nathan bedford forest!..just thought i would add that..

8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd diddnt seee anything i dont know what they are talking about

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'd diddnt see anything i'd donnt no what they are talking aobut

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been to the light and it is scary as FUCK!
me and some friends went and parked our car out their last halloween and it was so foggy out. and we were there for like 15 minutes and we were about to leave. until we heard a creaking noise like a gate was opening and closing so we looked down the tracks and their it was!! the ghost light!!!! i swear to god it was one of the mopst scariest things i had ever seen! i suggest you check it out for a scare!

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been to the light and it is scary as FUCK!
me and some friends went and parked our car out their last halloween and it was so foggy out. and we were there for like 15 minutes and we were about to leave. until we heard a creaking noise like a gate was opening and closing so we looked down the tracks and their it was!! the ghost light!!!! i swear to god it was one of the mopst scariest things i had ever seen! i suggest you check it out for a scare!

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'd diddnt see anything i'd donnt no what they are talking aobut

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ya right yall are losers! u didnt see nothing

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Bob and I am a previous resident of Chapel Hill. For starters, anyone who knows the legend knows that the pictures on this website are taken at the wrong spot. Go down to the north end of town and view the ghost light at the crossing at Feedmill Road. That's where it is, that's where it was when my parents were in high school and where my grandparents saw it 50 years or so ago. Give your facts straight or meet me at the town's shell station. I have and will gladly give a tour down on Feedmill road to anyone with enough nerve

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went to see it and i got scared as fuck because i kept saying it was fake and all of a suden it got cold and i saw it from far away, and tore the hell out and i wont be back i didnt believe in anything like that but i do now so if u people who say its fake ... GET IT STRAIT.... because its NOT!!!!!!! i am a christian and thats just not something to mess with ... IT IS REAL !!!!! I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO SCARED ... JUST A LITTLE HINT... IF U DO GO ... PARK AWAY FROM THE TRACKS :0

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been to the tracks many times I have family all over the central Tenn. area we use to go there when I would come from Kansas to visit. i've seen the lantern several times on one visit we were hanging out waiting for the lantern when a local police man showed up we visited for a while then noticed the lantern circling around his patrol car there were 6 of us and we all saw it. when we approached the patrol car the temp. fell 30 degrees when we reached the car it dissapeared. then reappeared 30 or 40 yards down the tracks. I don't think the photos are correct thou. we were in a different location.

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did find an account about a Mary Ketchum. She was murdered in the town of Chapel Hill back in the 1940s. The man accused of murdering her killed himself shortly after the athorities found her body not too far from the spot that the light is seen. There is no real account of a man killed in that area. Do you think that the light might come from the murderer searching for her body? According to the report Mary had two childeren who were left in her house unattended.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live nearby Chapel Hill, but I haven't gone to see the light yet. A teacher of mine in school claims to have seen it. I will have to go down and see it sometime.

Is it visible year round, or just certain times?

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I visited Chapel Hill with a few of my friends. We all saw the light and decided to go closer. When we did we could see the ghost then shortly after a train came up right behind us.After the train was gone the tracks were ice cold and the animal carcus was still in one piece...this led us to believe it was a ghost train. Then we noticed the ghost again except this time it kept getting closer. Needless to say we ran as fast as we could. One of my friends heard something in the bushes chasing after us.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is May and me and my sister, April S. visited the tracks. We live in Chapel Hill like April did when she posted hers. I actually came from Tallahassee and me and my family moved to Chapel Hill. I saw the tail of it when it went back to the bushes. A friend of mine, Mr. Jake who is old told me that it was only gas fume from his huge truck. I saw the lights beaming down. It's frightening. I saw the orb, too. Visitors to Chapel Hill should watch out. All the folks in Tallahasee said I was stupid telling them this. They have to see it for themselves!

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya....I grew up in Chapel Hill, Tennessee and still live in Marshall County till this very day. Small towns known for rumors and scarey stories. Although tha "LIGHT" is very much real I might say.....been there plenty of times and yes have seen it as well pictured it, but you have to be close enough to do so. There is so many stories to tha tale, but if you must and want tha real one then there is an old couple that can give you tha insight of tha whole ordeal, but mine you it may take some time for they are in there late 90's, but still kickin it like tha rest of us. So if anyone would like to know then post a message and I will be sure to check on here as much as possible and leave a reply and addy if ya wanna visit them....I know them it is ok....*smiles*

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Rusty and I grew up in Chapel Hill. I thought the ghost light was bullshit for a long time until one night when we had nothing better to do, my friends and I went to the tracks with some girls we wanted to scare. It was between the water tower and an old feed store. we were walking on the tracks when someone saw it. A faint greenish yellow light on one side of the tracks. Then it came closer on the other side of the tracks. By then everyone saw it. all of a sudden it was right in front of us. We all ran the other way. It was very cool. I think we got lucky that night being able to see it so clear. I know lots of people who have seen it. My sister also saw it on a different night. Check it out its something I will never forget.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Scott. I'm a videographer. I live in Huntsville Alabama. I first heard about the Chapel Hill Ghost Light when I was 12 years old from the book "13 Tennessee Ghosts & Jeffrey" by Kathryn Tucker Windham. Many, many years later I went to Chapel Hill with a small camera crew. We did see some lights in the area. The photo of the water tower is the direction where we saw these lights. The lights would dart back and forth over the railroad tracks. The light was very dim and we couldn't pick it up on our video cameras. I told most of the crew to get back in their cars and to get out of there before the police came. My friend Josh and I stayed on the tracks and kept in contact by using our cell phones. We walked past the big water tower and past the last house which both would be to our right. I told Josh to hang out on the tracks near the beginning edge of the woods while I (carefully) jogged for nearly 2 1/2 miles down the tracks. I noticed the tracks ran through a very thick big bog or swamp. It was very very humid in that area. The air felt sticky. Once I went past the swamp area the light source (which we saw earlier) was coming into focus. The track on that stretch is perfectly straight. And if you look at a map of the area you'll notice that when the track starts to change angles that right next to the train track is a highway. It's a curved section of the highway. I cellphoned Josh and asked him if he could see the light crossing the track and he said "Yes it is" and I told him that I could see lights coming from 18 wheeler trucks and other traffic brightly shining down the tracks. I believe that the very thick moist air in the swamp does mess with this light, like a magnifing glass, as the light travels through the water rich air it helps it bend and streak.
Later that night we were told that we were in the wrong area.
I do have to say that people seeing lights in this direction and area that we looked at are really looking at car and truck lights beaming through water rich swamp air that can cause optical illusions of darting lights.
I'm not saying that the Chapel Hill Lights are not real, but I am saying that there is a perfectly good explaination for the lights in THIS certain area and direction.
I want to go back to Chapel Hill and find the real ghost lights that haunt the tracks! :)

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, I have lived in Chapel Hill nearly my entire life and I have even seen the "ghost" light from time to time. First of all the tower is in the oppositedirection and having lived in the general vicinity of which you talk about jogging there sure as hell isn't any marsh or bog!

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, you're right. I was going towards the tower, which you and other residents have told me later that I was going in the wrong direction.

Wouldn't it be safe to say that since I was going in the wrong direction where there aren't any ghost lights, that any lights I did see couldn't be the ghost?
Since I was in the wrong area with no ghost lights?

It had been raining for the past couple of days so we had to delay going up there. Maybe the pool in that area I was in is just a depression in the landscape next to the railroad bed that collects water just when it rains? It had a bit of a strong oder. That's why I thought it might be a swamp or a bog, because there was some water.

I never said that there wasn't a ghost light or it wasn't real. I had just gone to the wrong area where I could see car lights. And since I had gone to the wrong place, wouldn't it be possible for others from out-of-town to make the same mistake I made?

As a matter of fact I want to see the real ghost lights! I think that would be THE coolest thing ever!
I'm afraid of the police more than anything. I heard that they can be pretty nasty about dealing with the people who want to see the ghost light. Has anyone here been harrassed by the local police or residents when going to see the ghost light?

1:45 PM  
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6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been to the site in Chapel Hill many times(I'd say 30 or more) and more times than not seen the light. This one night 3 friends and myself went like we had many times before and saw an amazingly unbelieveable event! This was in the late 80's, we lived in Murfreesboro and drove through Eagleville and on to Chapel Hill. Turned right onto the road that takes you to the tracks, went over the tracks and turned around to park on the tracks. To the left of us is the direction you can see the light and we were all watching as we always did before. You must constantly watch for the light is fast moving and may not appear for some time, always a bummer to miss it. Anyway, while we were all waiting for the light to appear we started to hear what sounded like a train in the distance, minutes later it was louder and we could feel the train vibrating the ground and began to see a light comming in the distance. This was all to the right of us as we sat in the car straddleing the tracks. I was in the back passenger seat and began to ask my friend who was driving to start the car and move off the tracks. He tried but the car would not start(just kept turning over). As the train got louder, vibrations stronger and the light brighter we started to panic. I had opened my door in case I had to bail out fast and then all of the sudden it all went away, disappeared- the light was gone, no sound or vibrations and at that very moment he was able to start the car. Needless to say we got the heck outta there but I have been back, just not straddeling the tracks. This story is 100% true but I don't expect you to believe me because I probably would not if I had not of been there.

4:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Norman and I posted the last message above. If anyone would like to share info about mine or their experiances please let me know. I will check back here often. I often think of that night I saw the train disappear and want to learn more and wondered if anyone else had seen this.

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My brother is an engineer for CSX and runs a train from Nashville, TN to Birmingham, AL through Chapel Hill. On one trip headed to B'ham, he and the conductor both saw a light in the distance that kept getting closer. They radioed to their dispatcher in Pensacola to see if they or another train had somehow missed a signal but they said no other trains were on that section and they were cleared to proceed. As the other light got closer my brother began blowing the horn and finally put the train in "emergency stop". As he and the conductor were getting ready to jump, the other light just disappeared. Freaked them both out.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i used to live in chapel,tn but i moved.i go there every now and then.i have seen the ghost light a couple of times.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in spring hill and go to chapel hill all the time cause my cousin lives there but weve never seen the light simply cause weve never been theres so many crossings we dont know which one it is but from the pictures i might be able to find it and get back to ya on whether we see it or not

3:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish Chapel Hill had public places set up near the train track so that the public can spot the famous ghost light. Has the town of Chapel Hill ever considered the possible revenue generated by this supernatural phenomena? The town of Chapel Hill could make money. Tourism is always a money maker.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay this is a very long story to tell so it will take some time to read as well.i live in chapel hill.i have been to thetracks and experienced a very scary event!!okay it all started out with me,my mom,sister and about 5 friends.we were standing on the tracks and i noticed a bright light up ahead,told everyone and they noticed it too...well everyone but my was up ahead beside one of those electric box things and it started coming towards us blinking about every 5feet.everytime it blinked we all screamed!!all but my mom because she didnt see a when it got about 15feet away everyone but my mom ran into the truck!!my mom just stood there like an idiot so we thought it was gonna chopher head off!!!we yelled for her to come to the truck and she finally came when the light was 5 feet away...the thing is when she stepped off the tracks,the light turned away and left!!!freaky huh?its not a lie either!!

1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

High my name is Brandy and i uste to live in Chapel Hill. Its a good town. As a matter of fact my step mom owns property right by the tracks on tha road by BP yaw know where that is. And i have seen the light. It just swings and keeps moving on. Yeah its freaky but its also neat at the same time.And i can honestly say that yeah ive seen tha light.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Police will no longer let you park by the tracks.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 12 years old

I have something to tell you the

ghost light ONE is not in holts corner two me and my friend saw the light we thought it was a train but trains light don't go up and down do they so we sepd of relly fast

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Hannah. I went to see the "Light", one night. I swear my mommys new pair of shoes that its reel. My dadda told me it was a hoax and that kids in chapel hill sit on the tracks and spotlight so that people think that um there is uh light. Now I aint no expert on ghosts and things you know but I do know it made me scared and I pooped my britches. Its there. Come waste your money in Chapel Hill tneeessee. so that we can maybe get runnin wata. Thankyas

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You dumb chapel hillian. I am from farmington, just a pickle south of you. You aint no smarter than mine cow bessie. The light is not reel. You mor-ron.

10:24 AM  
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6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Lewisburg and I saw the light in 1983 with my husband and 2 friends. It was around 2am and the tracks were located on Feedmill road. We saw the light several minutes after a train went through. It started way down the track. It was a round light that bounced up and down, back and forth across the track as if someone was walking with a lantern. It came closer and closer. I was sent to the car when the light was around 700 feet away. Soon after my husband and friends came running to the car. They said they waited til it got right in front of them. There is definitely something there! Would love to see it again but the police will lock you up for sitting by the tracks.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant seem to get the correct information for the intersection. I do not see feedmill Rd crossing the tracks anywhere. I see it go 90* just prior to the tracks on the east side. I would love to go see it. I live in Chapel Hill as of 3 days ago. Just bought a house there.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hah. the bible is stolen!!! =]

3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you get there exactly .
I tried to find the railroad tracks and could not find it . I went down a road called Feedmill, and went past a bunch of houses,but i could not find it anywhere . Can anyone give me the right directions ?

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived in Chapel Hill for over fifty years and have seen the light at the railroad. It usually appears when the train has passed and the air is damp after a rain. The real story is one Skip Agent was murdered and the murderer placed his body on the railroad so that it would appear an accident. There are two crossings that can be used to view the light. I assume the body was placed somewhere between these crossings. The two roads are Logue Street and Winn's Crossing Rd. There is another crossing that sometimes is used but I don't recommend using it.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been accidents on the railroad in Chapel Hill. Trains have hit cars and lives have been lost. The police are trying to protect rather that harrass.

9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was sittin in my truck one night at feedmill rd and the light came down the tracks. IT actually came off the tracks and into my truck with me. The light raped me. NOw I go back every chance I get. I want more.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

okay i used to live in chapel hill my name is sheree and we have searched that railroad for years there is no ghost trust me i lived there for a long time there was a man who lived there as a mater ofact my house was very close almost right behind there plz just talke my advise there is no ghost

10:55 PM  
Blogger hamilton said...

There was a woman by the name of Mary Ketchum that was murdered there back in the 40s along with her children. There was a search party in that area where they found her along the tracks. One of the men in the search committed suicide after she was found.He was the main suspect. Look it up in the library but alot of people in the town know you think that this has something to do with them? I have only seen the light once out of four trips...very strange. Hamilton, Mboro

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12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to see the light better go to the north end of town where there is less traffic and sit there. If you go to the feed store you are at the wrong area/crossing. However if you are at the feed store you can look north (if there early enough) and you can see the two other crossings. Go to that one and you have a better chance to see the light there and it will appear even closer to you.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Ashley and my cousin just got a house in Chapel Hill and we drove to see the lights one night. I didnt know about the cops being strict about that so im glad we didnt get in trouble. we parked in a field and walked the tracks and didnt see anything. so my question is, is there a certain time or day youre suppose to go, and hat is the correct location because we dont know all of the slang like by the feed place?

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a conductor for CSX railroad, and work through the area of Chapel
Hill daily. I've always heard the tales of the ghost light. And, I have to honestly say, I that always try to catch something any time thru that area. Yes, there have been two wierd experiences. The light which I saw didn't last but a few seconds. Thinking that the glow was that of the eyes/eye of a deer,which glow, it seemed to bounce as it crossed the mainline. I was convinced it was not animal but something else. It crossed from east to west as we were headed north towards Nshvl. There is a small bluff/hill on the west side,where the light disappeared into woods. I tried to rationalize it as a deer but an animal would not have been able to look towards
the train and make up the bluff without looking where it was going.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CSX coductor; The second instance, the train had to stop at Chapel Hill due to some problems with a hot bearing that was detected.So, its early morning, and I've gotta get off and walk to investigate the source of the problem. I didn't have a choice, so I'm walking along the east side of the train headed south and it felt as though someone was walking behind me just several feet away. Like, I know the engineer is still on the engine,but it felt really weird. At, the time I'd turn quickly and shine my lantern after short distances. When returning to the engine I walked thru several cold spots that were not there before. I definetly am not comfortable in that area, and know that I was not alone! Just be safe everyone, and stay a safe distance from tracks! These events truly happened and I would love to capture something on film/video for everyone to experience!

11:29 PM  
Blogger Kevin Egan said...

In the late 70's, a few friends and I drove from Nashville to Chapel Hill, TN. We had never been there before but we were determined to see the ghost we had heard about from my older brothers. We drove for sometime around some very dark back roads. We finally found a spot that my brother had described from years before. It was a crossing at the RXR tracks that had an underpass for auto traffic but a side road next to the underpass that crossed over the tracks. The underpass would occasionally flood as indicated by a posted sign next to the underpass. It was a cold December night near Christmas. It was wet and drizzling rain, so cold it was about to snow. I drove the car up the side road that crossed over the tracks where I parked directly on the crossing. I turned off the engine and killed the lights. It was so silent you could here the drizzling rain falling on the car. Though it was dark and rainy, we had a very good view of either direction down the railroad tracks. After about thirty minutes of sitting and waiting, wiping the condensation off of the windows we finally saw something. To our left we saw a light. It was like a round orange colored light that swept across the tracks from left to right. At this point our full attention was on the tracks. We waited for a few minutes longer, right to the point where we were about to dismiss the sighting to a trick of light or our over active imaginations. Then again just as suddenly the orange globe of light swept back across the tracks from right to left this time. It was different. Not only did the orange glow move in the opposite direction, it now appeared larger. At the time, we speculated that the light was closer on this 2nd pass. Again, 15 to 20 minutes passed and being young we started to get anxious and bored. Suddenly there it was again, crossing from left to right but now without a doubt much closer. The first sighting seemed to be at least 150 to 200 yards away. The 2nd time maybe 75 to a 100 yards. Again we sat and waited. Without fail about 15 minutes later it appeard again. It crossed from right to left and now about 50 yards away. It had grown from an orange glow about the size of a softball from the original sighting to the size of a very large basketball, almost beachball sized. The color always remained a hazy orange (it was raining) but as it grew larger it was also brighter. After 30 or so years to think about the events of that night, I am secure in my belief that the orange light was moving not only across the tracks but up the tracks, getting closer to us. This dismisses critics claims that the lights are only cars passing over the tracks at crossings further down. After that last sighting we were on the edge of becoming slightly concerned. What started out as a night of excitement and adventure quickly turned into, shall I say, serious concern. During the next 15 minute countdown someone in the car mentioned that we should be getting on back home-a concerned passenger expressing his level headed assessment of the late hour (SCARED). He was quickly chastised as being a woosy by the rest of us and he slumped back into the seat resigned to his fate. After 20 minutes, nothing. I felt disappointed and a little let down. Mr. Woosy seemed relieved. Then suddenly someone yelled out, there it is! This time though it was about 50 yards down the tracks but on the other side of the car. It moved from right to left. A shiver crept up my spine as I realized that it must have passed right by us. I didn't ask and I didn't tell, but I believe the feeling was mutual among us. We waited, then one last time we saw a glimpse of the orange light crossing from left to right. That was the last time we saw the ghost of Chapel Hill. Though many trips were talked about and planned they never were to be. The weight of the world and our worldly responsibilities soon put an end of our care free adventurous journeys and the friends of so long ago have now gone down different paths. Maybe some day I'll go back. This time with state of the art cameras and such. Well so much for my tale of the Chapel Hill Ghost. A railroad brakeman that was decapitated in an accident is the story that I grew up hearing. It was told that his head was never found and that each night you can see the brakeman's lantern crossing back and forth across the tracks as he searches through time for his severed head.

9:06 PM  

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