The Chapel Hill Ghost Light

The Chapel Hill Ghost Lights are probably the most well known ghost lights in Tennessee, and perhaps second in the South only to the Brown Mountain Lights of North Carolina. They appear along the rail road tracks of Chapel Hill, TN which is located south of Nashville, and is also noted as the burial place of Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Many of the residence of Chapel Hill have seen them, and no one really knows what causes this bizarre phenomena

The legend is that 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.

Some facts though suggest that there may be more at work here than simply this. Some people have reported UFOs in the sky, and others have seen "phantom trains," which roar up and down the tracks at night. No one knows exactly what causes these.

I personally visited Chapel Hill on February 27, 2002. Myself and a friend arrived in town during full daylight hours, so I proceeded to take pictures around town and we located the railroad crossing. We then travel to nearby Lewisburg and had dinner before returning after dark. When we returned, we drove back to the railroad crossing. We had heard that local law enforcement had understandably taken a dim view on people searching for the lights, so we did not get out of the car, we simply drove back and forth across the tracks about eight times. If there were no cars behind us, we would stop and gaze up and down them for a few minutes.

On about the fifth trip across, we did indeed see some strange lights. The were down the side of the tracks which the water tower is located at. We saw three of them, though they each only lasted a few seconds. It was as if they appeared on one side of the tracks, crossed them, and then disappeared. My friend later remarked that she thought they looked like a lantern. We sat for about thirty seconds to a minute when a car appeared and we had to go. We came back across a few times, but we didn't see them again.

I don't know what we saw. It was a long ways down the tracks. It probably had a logical explanation, but who knows. Perhaps it didn't. In any event, it did serve to surprise us. It was right after I had said "we probably won't see the light" that it appeared. This is the only instance of what could possibly (I stress possibly) be ghost light that I have seen so far.

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©2002-2005 John Norris Brown. Part of John Norris