Ghost Light / Fireball of Rattlesnake Knob (Swain County)

Fire isolated on a black background.

Most people in North Carolina know about the Brown Mountain Lights, which is probably one of the most famous examples of the “ghost light” phenomenon in the world. Of course, there is good reason that that is the case – the Brown Mountain Lights are notoriously reliable and have been spotted consistently for centuries.  There are other ghost light legends that time has forgotten, however.

The Cherokee gave a mountain peak in Swain County the name “Atsi’la-wa’i”, which translates to mean “Fire’s Relative”. The mountain was given that name because a fireball had been known to fly in from the north and hover over the peak on a nightly basis for some time. Whether sightings ever still continue today, I am not sure. According to James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokees (1902), the area, which now seems to be one of several places in the area named Rattlesnake Knob, is:

…east of Oconaluftee river and about 2 miles northeast of Cherokee or Yellow Hill, in Swain County.

 The mountain is located between Kirklands Creek Road [1162] on the west, and Odear Cove on the east, which is located at the south end of Sam Dills Road [1178].  Its GPS coordinates are Latitude: 35°33’5.37″ and Longitude: -83°23’54.57″ (you should verify this before setting out). If anyone knows of the area, I would appreciate it if you let me know if it’s accessible to out-of-towners and whether or not the light has been active in the past century.