The Gurdon Light always seems to get illuminated during Halloween. It's not the light that's really disputed, as too many people have seen and recorded it. It’s the questions over what's creating it.
According to legend, someone died there, but there are so many versions of the story what's true.
We went to the source to ask. The Arkansas Department of Correction, an Ouachita Baptist University historian and a man who saw it and documented his experience.
"Since I was a kid, it's been part of the fabric of the folklore and local family stories, since I can remember," said Marcus Lowe. Lowe was a UA-Little Rock Mass Communications student in 2012 when he was assigned a documentary.
"Down there on the tracks, that there is this light some people call it a ghost’s light, a mysterious light, it floats about this high," he said. So, it seems natural he picked the Gurdon Light as his topic. "Everyone I talked to just had this attitude of yeah, it's there, you can take it or leave it."
First Lowe had to get there, not to prove it was there, but to hear the lore behind it. When he was done with his interviews, he made a last-minute decision to go there himself, at dusk.
"In between where I parked the car and where I was sitting, it appeared, there it was," Lowe explained. He started taking pictures and video but it was extremely dark.
“The first five minutes was just trying to figure out ok, what is it really? What is it that I'm seeing that is giving the impression that I'm seeing this floating orb of light," he added.
OBU historian Dr. Wendy Richter asked the same question in an article written for the Clark County Historical Association.
She wrote, "Several plausible explanations exist, but none can be proven." One of them, that the light is coming from headlights along I-30, a couple miles away. Problem is, people saw the light in the 1930’s when there was no interstate. She also wrote swamp gas is another possibility, but the problem with that is, the light appears in all types of weather and retains its shape.
In the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History, there's a story of a rail worker who fell into the path of a train, his head severed and the "light is the lantern his ghost uses to look for his head."
Lowe has heard them all. "There are events that happened in that spot that I definitely think are attached to this phenomenon, whether that's what it is or not." What can be verified is this in 1931 a railroad foreman, Will McClain, was murdered by a member of his crew, Louie McBryde. Richter confirmed it in her article, which included transcripts from the murder trial.
In July 1932, the Arkansas Department of Correction executed McBryde for the crime, a fact well documented on its website. Dr. Richter wrote according to legend the Gurdon Light is the railroad lantern swinging from the hand of the deceased man's ghost.
As for Marcus Lowe, what does he believe it is? "I wasn't scared because obviously at that point if it wanted to scare me if it wanted to devour my soul, it would've done it at that point,” he said jokingly. “It had every opportunity to freak me out or to harm me or whatever, it had every opportunity to do that at that point."
Lowe said it's definitely something supernatural and that it had a purpose, it had some intelligence. But beyond that, he doesn’t know. He just said, “It’s the Gurdon Light, that’s all!”
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