About two months ago one of my friends and I rode around the lake to Nathaniel Macon’s grave. It is only about ten minutes from where I live. The grave, pictured here, is covered in a huge pile of rocks. They say that if you go there you need to throw a rock on the grave to keep him in it. I had been to the grave once before. It was with an older guy that had grown up in Littleton. We went during the day and we threw a rock on the grave for good measure. The second time I went, it was approaching two in the morning. We were so spooked we didn’t even leave the Jeep and we stayed there for maybe ten seconds.
We went to a couple of other places that night. My buddy asked me if I had heard about the Light of Ahoskie. He had been there once in high school. It is a bright light that hovers and flashes over the railroad tracks in the woods between Ahoskie and Aulander. He had seen it and I wanted to see it. We decided we would go before too long.
I have really had the light on my mind for the past week. I researched it some. You can find stories about it scattered around the internet. There are printed accounts of the light from the 1920’s on up to the present. Some stories even claim to go back to right after the Civil War. From my research I gathered that most people thought the light was either some sort of luminescent gas coming off of the swamp or else it was a decapitated railroad worker waving a lantern in search for his head.
I asked around a bit. As it turns out, a lot of people have seen the light at some point. Even more said that they had heard about it. Everyone’s story was the same.
Went at night to see it. Didn’t think it would really be there. Saw it. Ran.
So, I was determined to see it soon. Saturday afternoon I was hanging out with my buddy and we decided we would go that night after the NCAA basketball games. Before we left we were able to recruit three other guys who had come to work a retreat to go with us.
We left with flashlights, a map, and a couple of knives. Ahoskie is in bear country and we knew we would be out in the swamps and woods in the dark.
We determined that most people saw the light on the railroad between Ahoskie and Aulander. It was rumored that it could only be seen if you were walking from Ahoskie towards Aulander and not the other way around.
We went to Aulander and found the railroad tracks. We checked a couple of crossroads and didn’t see anything. Eventually we found a place called Early Station near Ahoskie. I knew from some of the accounts online that the light is referred to by some as the Early Station Light.
We had found the spot.
I pulled the truck off onto the side of the road. There were a few old houses around and the old abandoned Early Station was there. It was eerie.
We stood at the crossroads trying to figure out which direction the light was in. To the north a faint light could be seen, but it looked like artificial light. To the south was darkness. My buddy was sure that the light was to the south. We started walking down the track with our flashlights in hand, but off, and our knives in stow.
We walked two minutes and stopped. It was still nothing but darkness. We looked wondering if we had wasted our time coming out. A couple of the guys peered to the north.
The light was bright and unmistakable. It swayed from the right of the tracks to the left. The motion of it matched the chill that swept over my body. I was afraid that not everyone saw it, but it did not matter. It flashed again. This time it swooped in the other direction.
This was the point where everyone’s story became about a mad dash back to the road. I understood, but I wanted to go on.
One of the guys decided to go back to the truck. I was kind of grateful that he did because I did not like the thought of leaving my truck back on the side of the road unattended. He would end up waiting on us for somewhere between one and a half to two hours.
The remaining four of us walked towards where we saw the light. I wanted to be close enough to the light to touch it. I had already determined earlier in the week that I thought the light had to be either a phenomenal natural occurrence or the work of demons. Either way, I had decided that, as a Son of God and co-heir with Christ, I ought not to be concerned (Romans 8:15-17). If it was a natural occurrence then I wanted to enjoy it for the mysterious and wonderful gift that it was. If it was the work of the spirit world, then I decided that it would not be anything that the good Lord hadn’t encountered before. I was a little concerned about bears, but we had knives.
It was not clear how far away the light was. It was far for sure, but I figured we could get to it within twenty minutes. My intention was to trot ahead to the light, but the others thought it wiser to walk for a minute, stop, assess our current surroundings, and then continue. I am not sure if that was the better strategy, but it certainly spooked us out all the more.
The light continued to shine, flash and sway sporadically. Sometimes there would be several minutes between sightings, other times we would see it multiple times a minute. It was bright and sometimes it was faint. It swayed from side to side and sometimes it hovered in a still ball. It flashed quickly and sometimes it shone for a few seconds.
We went through a section where there were swamps on either side. To stumble off the tracks would mean a cold and murky mess. The swamp was frightening, but not nearly as frightening as what was ahead.
We could see the beginning of the woods. The tall pines were ominous and formed a much darker alley around the tracks. We hesitated for a few minutes before we entered the darkness.
Along the way, we heard occasional movement in the woods. While it could have been something as small as a squirrel, I always perceived that it was a bear preparing to attack... We would stop, wait, and then continue.
It got darker. I passed my flashlight off to one of the guys without one and kept one hand on my knife’s sheath and the other on the handle. Ready.
Again we stopped. We discussed if we should continue. The light appeared to be closer, but not quite close. One of the guys was ready to go back. The talk continued. I silently took to walking again. They then came too.
We made another stop. Watched the light. Guessed at how far away it was. Closer, but still not close.
It was dark and there was talk about what to do. We kept our eyes locked towards the south. Waiting and deliberating.
Then I noticed something.
The darkness was darker than it had been before. Previously, you lost sight of the tracks off in the distance. But then, as we stood, I noticed that I could not see further than maybe twenty yards down the track
Then, the light.
Brighter than it had been.
Closer than it had been.
It came from the right. It moved slowly in a bright haze to the left bar of the railroad track. It stopped and hovered there. Then, as my whole body tensed and I drew my knife, it moved slowly towards us. Then it disappeared.
No one was quick to speak. Though it was cold, I was sweating.
The talk resumed. Two flashlights were on and pointed at where we saw the light. Nothing but woods and railroad. The flashlights stayed on for a while. East of us we heard some dogs start barking.
The talking continued. Go forward or go back? Could it be caught or would it remain elusive? What was it? What about the dogs?
There were enough dogs that we could not tell how many there actually were. One of the guys remarked that he was not going to mess with a pack of wild dogs. I thought he was right, but couldn’t commit to going back quite yet. So, we stood.
Talking continued. A minute passed, and the dogs, like the light, were clearly getting closer but were not quite yet close.
We started the walk north. We had walked more than an hour chasing the elusive light. My buddy and I talked about turning around and pursuing the light further and letting the other two go back to the truck on their own. We talked about how we had already gone so far and the light did seem closer. We talked about it, but our feet never stopped carrying us northward down the tracks.
It took us 26 minutes to get back to the truck. It was about 1 in the morning.
There was a little talk once we got back on the road, but overall things were pretty quiet.
It didn’t take ten minutes of driving before I regretted not running towards the light. We were close, but not there. I didn’t touch the light.
But I did see it. It was definitely there.
Student Ministry and Church Planting
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