Thursday, September 30, 2010


Grandmother Tells About Mysterious Cherokee Lights
By Mary Joyce

For years she’s collected wisdom stories directly from the elders of many tribes. Now, like those elders, she sometimes is mocked for her beliefs. Consequently, she only agreed to talk to me about the mysterious “Cherokee Lights” on January 31, 2009 if I referred to her simply as “Grandmother.”

“I haven’t always lived in North Carolina,” Grandmother explained, “so I didn’t see the Cherokee Lights until the early 1990s. Nine of us went up to Thomas Knob overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway one Saturday evening in late May. It’s a place where many people have seen the Lights. We waited and waited. It got to be 8 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock and nothing happened.

“Finally we started singing. Well, we hadn’t been singing more than five minutes when we saw some small lights across the valley that made us think of fireflies. The patterns of the lights were erratic, but then they started to get closer and bigger. Then they just disappeared.

“Next we looked directly down into the valley and saw baseball-size lights that were about a football field away from us. There were seven and they just started moving up toward us. Of course our singing kind of got raggedy and faded away when that happened. As our singing faded so did the Lights.

“According to Old Ones” she explained, “The Lights are not coming from out there but are from here. We believe the Cherokee Lights at Thomas Knob are spirits that have dropped the robe or have left the body.

“It’s important that people know the Cherokee Lights are not anything new,” Grandmother added. “The elderly residents at the Tsali Care Center in Cherokee and some of their visitors have told me about seeing The Lights and even recall their grandparents talking about The Lights.

“You’ve got to figure that people in their 80s would have been born in the 1920s and their grandparents would have been born 40, 50 or 60 years before that. That means people in Cherokee were seeing The Lights in the 1800s before real roads and cars were in the area.

“Before they built the Blue Ridge Parkway,” Grandmother said, “the Cherokees would go up to the ridge from Big Cove after sprout time began to search for ramps and healing herbs. That might explain why so many of the Lights have been seen in early spring.

“There was one particularly strong story that a Tsali resident told me,” Grandmother continued. “She was at least in her 70s. She told me that when she was a girl a group of young people drove up to look for The Lights. At first they saw only pin pricks of light across the valley but then they came closer and closer. She said they were balls of soft light that didn’t have hard edges. She said The Lights didn’t move in straight lines but in different patterns.

“The elderly woman said one girl got out of the car and just stood there as the lights came toward her. One ball of light, as big as a basketball, came right up next to her. At that point the girl freaked out, jumped back into the car and they quickly drove down the mountain.”

Almost as a footnote, Grandmother added “You don’t just walk in and shove a microphone in front of elderly residents at Tsali Care Center. They only opened up with me because I visited someone there daily for several years. One old grandmother once told me ‘until you can get close enough to me to feel my breath and smell my body, I’m not going to talk to you.’ There has to be respect, trust and an energy connection before they will share their stories.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read another testimony about the Cherokee Lights in the Sky Ship Testimony section. It’s from David Pannell and was received at this website on October 12, 2008.


Mary Joyce is a former newspaper writer, columnist and editor who has worked for The Oakland Press in suburban Detroit and The Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Florida. (

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