The Quest for a Photo Gets Spooky
Editor’s Note: It’s almost Halloween, and in the “spirit,” of the season, I thought about an event that occurred several years ago as I went to a nearby community to “eek” out a story about an eerie legend. It was just meant to be a tongue and cheek piece — all in fun— but my photographer and I got a little spooked in the process. Keep in mind that this is fact, not fiction.
On a cold, blustery afternoon in late October, my photographer and I headed to a community in Appling County where a lot of strange activity has been reported over the years. We wanted to get the “definitive” shot of a stretch of railroad tracks where the famous Surrency spook light has been sighted since the early 1900s. The photo was to accompany an article I had written about the famous phenomenon. It was scheduled to appear in the newspaper around Halloween.
We had arranged to meet the Surrency mayor at City Hall. The photo was to be shot at dusk with the mayor posing on the tracks and pointing in the direction of the area where the ghostly light has been observed. The mayor and her sons are among those who have witnessed the odd light and she still wonders about its origin.
When we made the trip to Surrency, Hurricane Sandy was pummeling the East Coast and causing windy conditions across the state. Dropping temperatures and gusting winds made being outside more and more uncomfortable. The photographer snapped several shots of the mayor on the tracks as the light began to fade, but we were all waiting for the sun to be at just the right angle for optimum conditions. As the sun began its descent, a rectangular, whitish shape became more visible near the vanishing point of the arrowstraight tracks. When the glint of sun on metal appeared above the shape, we were assured that we were seeing the new overpass east of Surrency and a vehicle passing over it. Ironically, the new overpass has been blamed for the cessation of the spook light.
The overpass became more and more visible as the sun dipped lower and the last rays of light reflected on the surface of the concrete; but, just when we were thinking we were going to have to use flashlights on tripods to recreate our own spook light, something amazing occurred. Almost at dark, a light appeared near the tracks.
At first we were not sure we were really seeing what we were seeing. I had left my glasses in the car and had to squint to make out the object at such a distance. I could tell that the light was definitely not rectangular in shape and was not part of the stationary overpass.
The light was moving, seeming to appear on one side of the tracks, then the other. It was not visible consistently; it appeared and disappeared. Even the mayor, who was very familiar with the activities around the track, was not sure about the light’s identity. She suggested it could be hunters traveling alongside the tracks on fourwheelers. Perhaps it was someone with flashlights moving around the tracks. Maybe it was a car crossing the tracks further down the rail line, since there were two more crossings from our vantage point. It might be activity around an asphalt plant down the way, or, it could be the train that was due about then.
We prided ourselves that we were basically skeptical beings in search of scientific solutions to the paranormal. There were several explanations for the spook light phenomenon including reflections, underground anomalies, even swamp gas, and some said, a haunting; but even though we knew there could be a natural cause, we grew a little less sure of ourselves as we watched the light coming closer.
The light kept edging toward us and growing larger. Once the mayor thought she detected a vibration on the tracks, so it must be a train. We soon realized, however, that the light was moving too slowly and was too close to the ground to be the headlight of a train. The wind was blowing hard, but not so loudly that we could not have heard a horn or the diesel engine of a train. Our excited anticipation grew and we wondered what we were observing when a set of electric crossing arms further down the tracks did not activate as the object passed by. It was past dusk and we were transfixed as the light bore down on us. By this time, we had moved to the right of way next to the tracks. As the object closed in on the crossing nearest us, again, nothing happened. The object was now so close that we could see its reflection on the rails ahead of it. It was only yards away. The light was shining directly in our eyes and was so bright it was almost blinding. We literally held our breath as the unknown object was almost on top of us. Amazingly, no one bolted. Imagine our surprise and relief when the object came into full view. There were two lights, not one. They were the headlights of a rail-based railroad inspection vehicle gliding almost silently along the tracks. We waved at the workers inside the vehicle as they passed by. No doubt they wondered what we were doing so close to the tracks.
Feeling a little silly and a little let down, we laughed at ourselves. It was funny to think we had considered ways to create a “spook light” effect for the photo, and as fate would have it, the perfect scenario presented itself. In the process, we had an entertaining encounter with our own “spook light.” We thanked the mayor for being gracious and producing the best possible photographic conditions—right on cue. The wind was still blowing fiercely and the night sky was brightened by a full moon as we made the drive home. Who knew taking a “staged” photograph could be so exciting?