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The Thomas Divide

By Margaret Hester
On November 10, 2006

The mountains for North Carolina are filled with great stories and many mysteries only known to locals. However, one great mystery of the Blue Ridge Mountains has managed to stay one of the well-kept secrets today. That mystery is the one of the Thomas Divide.The Thomas Divide is located off of 441 in Cherokee, on the parkway. During the day the Thomas Divide is a great overlook spot for parkway travelers to take a rest and enjoy the great views of the mountains. However, at night, the Thomas Divide becomes more. Across the valley and on the mountain range, lights began to appear, flicker, burn, and fade throughout the façade of the mountain. The lights appear as white lights, but then change to blue, or even blood red. But the biggest mystery is why the lights are there in the first place. Since this is nationally protected land, no one is allowed to set foot on the mountain ranges, much less set up camp. So what could be causing these mysterious lights?Many years ago, when the Cherokee were forced to move from the mountains of North Carolina, soldiers were sent into the area in order to enforce the new regulations. A group of rebellious Native Americans, led by a "witch doctor", tried to resist the movement and stay on their land. Nonetheless, the soldiers captured the "witch doctor's" family and instructed him to turn himself in order to save his family, himself, and the others. The "witch doctor" did as he was told in hopes of a saving his family and the others, however, he was tricked. Not only was the "witch doctor's" family killed, the "witch doctor" himself was killed, dismembered and spread all across the area as a warning to all of the others that chose to defy the soldiers. The legend goes: the lights are the "witch doctor's" parts trying to find themselves. Of course, there are the usual skeptics that make up stories about natural gases reacting, or some other natural phenomenon. However, my first experience at the Thomas Divide ruled out all of these "natural" reasons."We arrived around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24. The overlooks were just like any other, and so we began the ritual of flashing the lights, and honking the horn in order to provoke the lights. Stepping out of the car, I realized that I was in the middle of no where, surrounded by nothing but trees and wildlife. The cells phones had no service and as far as a help goes, it was at least 20 minutes away if something were to go wrong. In spite of these eerie feelings, it was all forgotten when the lights began to become active. The lights started off bright, and scattered throughout the range. They would flicker up, stay bright, change to blue, fade, and repeat this same pattern. Some lights would appear as a blood red color. This was no eye trick, nor could these lights have been a reflection of something else. You are completely alone on this mountain, viewing an even more desolate mountain range. The most active light of our visit came around 9:30 p.m. when a blue light appeared just below the tree line and began to dart back and forth creating a small blue streak. After this, the lights began to die down and become less active. Finally around 11:30 p.m., we decided to call it a night.I made this trip with a veteran of the Thomas Divide adventures. He mentioned that at times he had experienced the lights coming closer to the overlook location, as well as experiencing more lively lights.To some, this may seem like a scary adventure, however, I have to admit that there was something peaceful about being surrounded by nature and enjoying something inexplicable, and unique to our area.When visiting the Thomas Divide, there are a few things that one must keep in mind. The lights of the Thomas Divide are nothing like the "Brown Mountain Lights." This is a totally separate occurrence that will make you wonder. There are also some tips that can make the Thomas Divide experience more interesting. Upon arrival, flash your headlights and honk your horn. Also, while viewing the lights, many people like to yell at the lights. For some reason, they seem to enjoy interaction. It is best to go on clear, fall/winter nights. Although it will be colder, it makes for better viewing of the lights. However, one of the most important things, and it may sound silly, is to keep an open mind and to send out positive thoughts. This seemed to make a world of difference.Safety is always a concern, so here are some other things to keep in mind when visiting the Thomas Divide. Wear many layers, and bring an extra blanket. Also, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back, since most cell phones do not work in the area. Bring a flashlight, so you can see where you are going and it can be used to provoke the lights some. Always keep the doors to your car unlocked. With all of the wildlife around, it is best to be able to get into an enclosed place quickly, if necessary or if you feel the need to leave.The Thomas Divide is an experience that one can only encounter in the mountains of North Carolina. I urge everyone to visit the Thomas Divide at least once before leaving Western. It's just one more reason that the mountains of North Carolina are distinguished.


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