Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Rich Mountain Light

Booger Lights: The Rich Mountain Light - Mena, Arkansas
Rich Mountain watches over the quiet town of Mena, Arkansas and extends west into Oklahoma where springs form the headwaters of the Kiamichi River.  The mountain is rich not only in name but mountain pioneer heritage.  From the time before the War of Northern Aggression, subsistence farmers scraped a living from the slopes of Rich Mountain and its surrounding valleys.  On the summit, Arkansas’s Queen Wilhelmina State Park offers excellent lodging  at its Castle in the Clouds, as well as breath-taking views of the Ouachita Mountains.  It is a beautiful island in the Ouachita wilderness.  And of course, Rich Mountain is haunted.
Rich Mountain looms over Mena, Ark. and extends into Oklahoma
(c)2010 Thornton Austen
Tales of strange occurrences on Rich Mountain have circulated around Mena for generations.  The mountain is by nature a strange bastion that bristles with raw power and served as a landmark used by Indians, early French explorers, Spanish prospectors, and later American pioneers.  Rich Mountain’s history may twist even further into the bizarre due to discoveries across the line in Oklahoma.  The nearby settlement of Heaverner, Oklahoma is home to strange markings found chiseled into stone slabs.  These glyphs were later determined to be Viking Runes and stake a Norse claim to the surrounding valley. 
The Rich Mt. Pioneer cemetery, (c)2010 Thornton Austen
The ghost light that haunts Rich Mountain has been officially reported since the turn of the century, but may go back even further.  In the 1860’s, settlers fled to the summit’s safety to avoid the redlegs and jayhawkers that marauded this part of the state during yankee occupation.  In the exceptionally cold winter of 1863-64, one whole family of refugees fell ill with fever, leaving a small girl as the only one to care for her family as best she could.  One evening as the girl gathered firewood to heat the cabin, she was attacked by an unknown assailant, perhaps a malevolent blue clad predator, perhaps an animal such as a razorback boar or panther.  The girl fled toward the safety of the cabin, but realizing the hopelessness of flight, climbed a tree to safety.  Apparently the threat continued to bar her way home as night fell.  
Later, a member of the family, his fever having broken, searched for the girl until he found her body still perched in the tree, a victim of the cold.  The girl now rests in the pioneer cemetery just west of the state park, except on certain nights.  Then, she rises and roams the mountain in search of her loved ones, manifesting as the Rich Mountain Light.
Talimena Sceneic Byway, (c)2010 Thornton Austen
The Rich Mountain Light appears infrequently on the slopes near the pioneer cemetery and descends the slopes and traverses terrain that would bewilder a mountain goat.  Witnesses describe the light as an intense glow similar to an old coal-oil lamp and some report coming within a few yards of the light before it scurries away over the rough countryside much as the girl must have fled her pursuer on that fateful night.  There is no rime or reason to the light’s appearance and must sightings are by just plain luck.  The light can be seen on the slopes and from the valleys below Rich Mountain and has also been known to cross the Talamena Scenic Byway that follows the summit from Arkansas to Oklahoma.



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