The Unexplained: The Mysterious Gurdon Light

The glow appears along the path of the old railroad track about four miles north of Gurdon. Photo: Only in Arkansas

The legends that go with the strange light are almost as spooky as the light itself. 

Mysterious spook lights have always drawn me in like a magnet.  There has to be more to them besides swamp gas, especially when there is not a swamp nearby.  Maybe they are foxfire, or phosphorus cloud-lets, but not likely, as scientific investigators have found no evidence of that.

In the past I have ventured into the legends behind the Marfa Ghost Lights, The Joplin Spook Lights, St. Elmo’s fire, and many other mysteries that glow in the dark.  I had not ever heard of The Gurdon Ghost Light, until a recent search accidentally revealed it.

Gurdon is in Arkansas and to make it a more mysterious place, it should be known that it sits on the New Madrid Fault Line.  It also sits on a huge underground expanse of quartz crystals.   It is located in Clark County in the lower half of the state.

What has become locally famous as The Gurdon Light has been described as blue, green, white, or orange—and it bobs all about.  It is like what you would see if you saw someone carrying a light at night…in the distance.  The light is usually nocturnal in its activity, but it has been known to put on a little show in daylight hours.

The legends that go with the light are almost as mysterious as the light itself.  They are spooky, to be sure.  There may be many other legends, that are whispered around campfires, but two legends get the most lip service and have been written down in folklore sources.

The first legend is about a railroad worker who fell into the path of a train.  His head was severed during the horrific accident and his spirit still roams near the tracks with a lantern, searching for the lost head.

The second legend is about a murderer and his victim.  Will McClain and Louis McBride had a deadly confrontation.  Two possible reasons are given for this confrontation.  One reason was a dispute over how many hours McClain was allowed to work on the railroad, due to The Great Depression.  McBride was not having it.

The other reason for the dispute was because McClain knew McBride was the fellow who removed two spikes from a section of track thinking it would derail The Sunshine Express passenger train—miscalculation, it derailed a freight train instead.  McClain confronted him and things got ugly real fast.  McBride killed McClain with a pickax—some say a railroad spike—in 1931 for one of these two reasons.

The light is said to be the lantern carried by McClain’s ghost walking the bank along the tracks—a lantern he was known to usually carry as the railway foreman.

McBride eventually confessed to the murder and was electrocuted by the state of Arkansas.

More scientific causes for The Gurdon Light have been offered up.  Some believe it is a refraction of passing car lights on a nearby highway.  This has also been cited as possible reasons for the appearance of The Marfa Lights and the Joplin Spooklight, though nothing has been proven.

A more interesting reason for The Gurdon Light has been suggested.  It is something called piezoelectricity.   The piezoelectricity is generated by stress on the bed of subterranean quartz crystals.  The town of Crossett, nearby, has similar ghost light activity with its own creepy legends.

If you do a little research you can find out how to get to Ghost Light Bluffs.  Be prepared with flashlights as some of the old railroad trestles are falling down and dangerous.   If you want to stay in that neck of the woods a little longer, you can swing by Crater of Diamonds State Park, only 45.9 miles away.

You just might find a diamond to go with your spook light.


Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Curious, Indeed, a collection of true stories about the bizarre and unexplained.  Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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