The Gurdon Lights

Located in Gurdon, Arkansas, the legend of the light visible on an old stretch of railroad track is similar to the story of the Moonville Ghost here in Ohio. The story goes that a conductor was shoved in front of the tracks and had his head cut off. Since he was murdered, he wanders the tracks searching for his head. The major difference between this and Moonville is that apparently this ghost is pretty reliable; for the locals, he is just a part of life. Many people go out to visit and are rarely let down. Unsolved Mysteries even did a story on the ghost of Gurdon.

The following letters relate people's experiences when trying to track down the ghostly train conductor at Gurdon.

First Account

I have a ghost sighting to tell you about. While I was doing college in Searcy, Arkansas I saw an Unsolved Mysteries show about "The Gurden Lights", a ghost in the town of Gurden, Arkansas. One of the things that amazed me about the story was the fact that EVERYBODY in this town had seen "the lights". The story was pretty well documented in old newspapers, and all the witnesses say very similar things about what they saw. Normally you expect legends to lose story integrity the more they are shared, but the aura surrounding the whole story/sighting area is incredibly consistent no matter who you talk to. The light was supposedly the lamp of a railroad worker who had been murdered back in like the late 1800ís. I canít remember much of the story now, although I donít expect Iíll ever forget what I saw.

A friend and I decided to go down and check it out, a couple hours drive away. We used an atlas to get down to this small, backwater area where the town was located. All we found were a few buildings, probably on the edge of a town of approximately 3,000, although I can't really say because it was nighttime. We find a gas station and pull over. I walk inside and up to the counter and say, "I want to see the lights, how do I get there?" The girl casually says, "Back down that road 2 miles, pull over by the railroad tracks, walk down the railroad tracks south until you go over three trestles, be as quiet as you can or you might scare it off." You'd have thought I was getting directions to Wal-Mart, the girl was totally casual about it, just like everyone who had been interviewed on the Unsolved Mysteries episode. So we go down there and head out on the tracks. Itís pitch black, and neither of us have ever been in this area before so weíre doing everything we can to keep our cool- I slipped a nightstick in the sleeve of my coat just in case. We walk maybe 100 yards down the train tracks and come to the first trestle, and there's a light about a half-mile away dancing around. It's flashing sometimes, sometimes it changes colors a little bit, sometimes it's a couple of feet off the ground, and other times it's maybe 20-30 feet up in the air. It disappears and reappears about 300 yards closer, disappears and reappears moments later back further away. The closest it got to us was maybe 100 yards. It was VERY active. It mostly looked like the tip of a road flare, moving around, flashing. Sometimes it looked more like a flashlight spotting on and off in a rapid Morse code. Color variations included, white, light yellow, light red, and there may have been a light green in there too sometimes; my memory of the colors isnít so good. At one point there were two different lights, one flashing about 200 yards away about 10 feet in the air and another light that we guessed was about _ mile away and about 50 yards high in the air. We both noticed it, I at first thought it was a star, and then we got to talking about it and decided it wasnít a star because it was flashing too much and it couldnít be a plane or helicopter because it wasnít moving like one. After about 20 minutes we felt comfortable enough with the situation that we decided to walk down further to the second trestle to get a closer look. As we moved forward, the light moved further down the tracks away from us. It wasnít like an actual, consistent retreat; it was still moving around and changing its location. But the lights werenít going to let us get too close for comfort. It was fascinating. It didn't give me a creepy feeling, like you get when you're scared to death; we were just watching this light and trying to figure out what the heck it was.

After a while another party of people approached down the tracks behind us, and they were making a lot of noise; smoking and partying it up. Sure enough, the light was dying down as they approached, and after they had hung out for 10 minutes the lights died out completely. We probably spent about an hour total from leaving the parked car to returning to it. I know why everybody in Gurden has seen these lights; theyíre pathetically easy to locate. I went out there once and saw these lights on my very first try.

As easy as the lights are to witness, explaining them has been a little more difficult. If this thing is a hoax it is a damn good one. Witnesses have sighted the lights for decades. There is a well-documented story of whose spirit is supposedly floating around out there. Attempts to record the lights on various media have all met with limited success. Yet, the storyline and behavior of the lights are consistent with the legend. Even if I completely throw out the history of the story, I must say that if I was going to fake a ghost like this I have no idea how I would make a light do the things I was seeing. As active as this ghost is I would think that if it were a hoax eventually the con-artists would slip up and get caught, especially after decades of work.

The Unsolved Mysteries episode had offered several scientific explanations for the lights. In my opinion most of the theories have serious holes in them, and after seeing the lights in person for even a few minutes I had completely discounted all of them but one. There is a fault line running through that area of Arkansas and one theory has it that quartz rocks underneath the ground are being compressed by plate shifting, and then shooting sparks/gases/energy up through the ground and into the air. Although I personally feel this is the most believable ďnon-ghostĒ explanation for the lights, I must also say that maybe the reason I would believe it the most is because I understand it the least. While I was watching the lights I was trying to figure up other theories myself, and the only explanation my limited scientific knowledge could come up with was that it was a ghost. My friend with me agreed; he couldn't come up with a probable explanation that didn't concede the existence of a ghost. Although I donít know factually know whether or not I have witnessed a physical manifestation of the spirit world just outside of Gurden, Arkansas, I can say that the Gurden Lights are a famous ghost story, and Iíve ďseen the lightĒ. I can also say that the most believable explanations for what I saw all involve some intelligent control over the lights; whether itís a dead personís soul or an elaborate fraud, I genuinely believe that the Gurden lights are not some randomly occurring event of nature. To keep things simple in my own head and to keep from boring people at parties, I simply tell them, ďIíve seen a ghost.Ē

If youíre ever going to be traveling on I-30 between Texarkana and Little Rock, I highly recommend getting off at Exit 63 and heading on over to Gurden. Gurden is maybe 10 miles off the freeway and you only cross one set of railroad tracks before you get to town-and thatís the tracks. Iíll be more than happy to share my experience and advice with anyone on how to witness the Gurden lights. I donít know much more than you can find out from the Unsolved Mysteries episode I saw, except that I would recommend:

1. Go on a weekday night when the local teenagers are less likely to be out there drinking and making noise.
2. Keep quiet, and go when the moon is giving off light so you donít need a flashlight. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep quiet. As soon as you see the lights donít move any closer, just stay there, shut up, and enjoy the show.

Damon B. 11-2-1999

Second Account

In August of 2001 I witnessed the lights for the first time. I am from Illinois and I have a friend who lives in Malvern which is to the north of Gurdon, he told me the story of the light and on a visit he took me to see it. It was my second time to see the light that I actually got to really see it in all its glory. I took my husband a true non believer with me on August 5, 2002. We parked our car on the side of hwy 53 next to the tracks and hiked in about 2 miles, we crossed seven tressels and came to a clearing with power lines overhead. We sat on the tracks and after only a few moments we got our first sighting. The light bounced around from side to side and changed colors from white to yellow to blue and red. We got up and decided to try and get closer to it , but as we moved in closer just up to the 8th tressel the light disappeared. we backed up to our previous spot and the light appeared again. I would recommend for anyone visiting this part of Arkansas they have to take a trip to see the light in Gurdon , it was well worth the walk, and I plan on making another trip in the fall. A few tips to would be visiters, take water, a flashlight and a wear good walking shoes.

Cathy E. 8-9-2002

Third Account

I live in Benton, Arkansas, and I made one trip to Gurdon last weekend - October 5, 2002 (actually it was the EARLY morning of the 6th, but that's not important). I'd like to stress my clear head here; I had not drunk or smoked anything and I was completely clean, and I'm so glad for this.

We started out and drove an hour to Gurdon, about 5 of us in a minivan, and we arrived at about 11. For about an hour, we searched the WRONG train tracks only to find disappointment and failure, and finally pulled into a Sonic to ask a local (who, like in the other accounts, was quite calm and normal in telling us the directions). We found the tracks, and took a small side road I recommend off of highway 53 - it is right next to the tracks. Unfortunately we were in a minivan so the slightly potholed road was a little tough, but it saves you a bit of time and comes right up next to the tracks and conceals your vehicle. (Some drunk guys followed us out there and told us people like to steal things from stopping tourists. No need to tell you, we locked our van BECAUSE of the drunk informants.)

From there we took our time walking, easing the fears of our one female companion who was a bit eased when we flashed our "beating sticks" and our one butterfly knife, our only protection against the drunkards if they were to come back (although they didn't, and I now am glad they stopped, they were helpful). After about an hour and 45 minutes of walking, we had seen a few lights, what we assumed were other people coming towards us, but I never noticed them getting much closer.

Finally, after about 4-5 tressels (watch out for the first, it's a suprise that will break your toe), we saw an insanely bright light. It shined from 2 sources, on and off, not too fast but in a constant pattern. When we looked back, it covered a HUGE area behind us, lit up the woods for 1/2 a mile back, something amazing to me considering 1/2 a mile back I hadn't seen ANY light but the dim yellow from our ghetto flashlights.

After a while we moved forward, and the same event happened several times, but it never got any closer. Then we met some people coming from the other direction. They had seen the exact same thing as us, but we determined there was NO WAY it could have been our flashlights they saw, considering they were too dim, WAY too dim. After that we hung out with them for awhile and talked about what we saw. They saw colored lights behind them in addition to the bright lights in front that we shared. After that, and attempted scaring of other passersby, we headed home. By the way, it was so great, i'm going back next weekend.

Anonymous 10-12-2002

Fourth Account

I have a first person account of the lights. Actually, I've seen them four times and every time, I have witnessed something different. My story is as follows.

Me and my best friend made the drive from Malvern to Gurdon to see them out of curiosity. When we arrived, after the whole gas station deal, we parked. He was freaking out with last minute jitters. I went alone first. As I narrowed down to the first trestle, lo and behold the light began to dance. I ran back to get Andrew, told him it was true. We made our journey together. After the third trestle, it began to show for us, white flickers this way and that. If it died down, we would get frustrated and either hit the track with a rock or yell obsenities, as immature as that sounds, and the lights would appear again. We were stunned, to say the least. We would gather our wits and begin the journey again. We reached the fourth and stopped. The lights became more frequent, varying in color. As I was about to put my foot on the track, the sound of a tree cracking and plunging into the water was all that we could hear and a huge blue light appeared as if from nowhere. We lost our wits and ran in the opposite direction, scared to death. Our voice recorder picked up all of our pants and cries of "Goddamn!" We would stop to catch our breath, turn around, and see the lights taunting us again. We would walk towards the car, turn and see the huge blue light again, prompting us to flee. We did just that, reached the car, passing another curious group, and we drove to the gas station to calm down.

I called my brother, told him of our account. Me and Andrew joked a bit, cooling our nerves. We decided, for some reason, to go back, which we did. We caught up to the group we had past and made it past the seventh trestle after telling them of our experience. We saw lights of blue/white/yellow in front of us and bright, large red ones behind. That was all though, as we soon headed back. Those were my first two experiences.

The third time, I was with a large group which ended up divided in two. My brother, Andrew, and his two cousins were with us, the other group far behind. We saw the flickers, but not as much. The cousins were afraid, but they were a lot younger. Jon, me, and Andrew were fascinated and entertained, of course. Then, behind us, there appeared a green ball that was about ten feet away; it began to bounce along the tracks. The group ahead of us called our cell phone, told us they had seen it too, and that the woods were very active with massive flickers of light. Their group decided to go back, so the third venture wasn't as impressive.

The fourth journey I was with a group of three other people. We saw the lights, but nothing major. There was one thing of interest, though: after the seventh tressle, we heard tapping on the tracks, very loud. That started our exodus out of there to the car.

I hope my story entertains and intrigues some thrillseekers out there. Be it a ghost or not, something is definitely in Gurdon. I've seen it every time, all four trips.

Anonymous 1-31-2003

I find these interesting because they are first-person accounts; people actually see the Gurdon Lights--apparently anyone can. This is something I'd love to see.