CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — A tiny town with a tall tale makes claim to having one of Tennessee’s most haunted legends.
The train tracks that run through Chapel Hill have attracted those looking for a thrill for decades.
“The Chapel Hill Ghost Light has been part of our DNA you might say over here for a long time,” said local songwriter John Rickman.
The tale has lots of versions, but for Rickman it’s the local one that counts.
On June 8th, 1942, a man named Skip Adjent was walking on the tracks and was hit by a train.
“From that point on the light was seen here out from that time,” said Rickman.
The notoriety of the tale hit a peak in the 60s and 70s. Rickman said groups of people would come to the tracks to get a glimpse of the light for themselves.
“The light was a destination back in the day,” he said. “Some came for adventure, or excitement, or nothing better to do.”
Rickman said some even brought guns to shoot at the light to see if it would go away, which was a problem.
“There was one person killed from Bedford County out on the railroad tracks. He was so enamored by the light that he came out here and got too close to the track and got hit by a train.”
That practice stopped when law enforcement started making arrests.
Rickman said he has seen the light for himself, “I’ve seen it where it didn’t scare me so much. But, people have reported where they would get in their car and take off.”
It’s not uncommon for lights to be seen on train tracks, so how is this one different? “It goes across the tracks sometimes, sways back and forth. Sometimes it comes up, and sometimes it goes back. And you’re looking for it, and then it falls over behind you some way, it goes behind you.”
Rickman said some speculate the light is formed because of swamp gas or phosphorous. “It’s a mystery. It’s uncommon.”
While less people have reported sightings of the light in recent years, this town’s most popular folklore will live on with Rickman’s song “The Chapel Hill Ghost Light.”
It was released on vinyl in 1977 as part of the album “The Chapel Hill Pickers” by Us Two and Him.
Many years ago along the railroad track one night, A man was walking home and held a lantern for his light. He never heard the whistle scream or the mighty engine pound, He never even knew it, when the freight train ran him down. The engineer ran back in time to see the poor man die, But as he neared the tragic spot a light rose in the sky. The lamp the man carried was never found that night. Now the old folks say above the track, His lantern shining bright. And still, his lantern hangs over the railroad, watching every freight train go by. There’s a Ghost Light over the railroad shining in the Chapel Hill sky.Partial lyrics from “The Chapel Hill Ghost Light” written by John Rickman