Summerville Light (1)
While stationed at Charleston Air Force Base in 1969, a few of my fellow airmen were sitting around the barracks rec-room watching the local TV. There was a story broadcast about a strange occurrence being reported by some people in the nearby town of Summerville. The reporter called it the Summerville Light.
Five guys with nothing to do and all with a relatively normal sense of curiosity quickly decided to jump in one of the groups GTO and go to Summerville to check out what we all just heard about on the TV.
We followed the brief directions given by the reporter to a dirt logging road that ran parallel to interstate 26 through a stretch of partially cleared pulp wood (yellow Pine) stand. We drove about a half mile down the road (as reported by some of the people interviewed in the broadcast) and waited. We left the car running with the air conditioner blowing because it was still hot and humid. Our attempt to put the windows down while we waited was quickly thwarted by an onslaught of mosquitos.
We waited about 30 minutes but we didn't see a thing and our patience was running thin due to the boredom of just sitting on a dark dirt road in the middle of nowhere. We were about to turn around and leave when we spotted a small dot of light that seemed to be about a mile away.
To our surprise, the small dot rapidly got larger and larger as it appeared to approach our car. As it got closer we could tell it wasn't on the dirt road but seemed to be just off the roadway. We could also begin to distinguish the color as a greenish glow very similar to what you get if you activated one of those chemical light sticks.
Within a few seconds, the green ball of light had approached to about 100 feet of the front of the car. It hoovered off the ground about 3 feet or so and the light pulsated slowly at first, them began to increase the pulsing to 2 or 3 times a second. Suddenly it shot forward and stopped right at the front of the car. At that point we all were about to dirty our pants. I was sitting in the front passengers seat and one of the three in the back yelled to the driver to get the hell out of there now !
About the time my friend put his hand on the gear shift lever, the ball of light moved forward so that it looked as if it was embedded in the hood. Suddenly, the motor stopped running, I remember looking over and seeing the red alternator light on and the "CHECK ENGINE" light. It couldn't have been a half second later and all the electrical power in the car died. No dash lights, no engine warning lights and the radio went silent.
The light edged forward very slowly at first. As it got closer to all of us inside, the cars interior took on the color of the ball and the temperature inside the car began to get very cold. So cold that the moisture that had accumulated on the inside of the windows from having the A/C on began to freeze and within a blink of your eye, all the windows were completely covered over by frost. Not exactly what you'd expect on a hot, muggy South Carolina night in the middle of August.
The ball of light was nearly at the edge of the windshield and still moving forward towards us. I scooted out of it's apparent path down the middle of the car and watched scared stiff as the green pulsating light moved into the passenger compartment. It was extremely bright now that it was just inches from our horrified faces. I don't remember hearing anyone saying anything but I do remember that all my friends looked like they had been painted with glow in the dark paint. Also, it seemed funny that everyones breath was fogging as if we were sitting in the middle of a giant walk in freezer . The ball of light proceeded to pass through the car rather slowly at first. It stopped just aft of the front seat and directly in front of the back seat.
All most immediately after it passed through the car , the frost on the windows vanished and a full display of ignition warning lights and the dashboard lights illuminated. We saw the ball of light stop about three feet from the trunk, and reverse direction, heading right back toward us again. This time as it entered the passenger compartment, the temperature inside the car remained comfortable. The frost on the windows had disappeared and the cars headlights came back on.
As soon as the ball of light exited the car, The engine cranked up without anyone touching the ignition . The ball stopped directly in front of the car again and for no apparent reason, the pulsating light stopped as well. With one last blinding flash of light, the whole thing sped off in the same direction if first appeared from. As soon as it disappeared back into the distant darkness, the radio blared to life again.
It didn't take long for our driver to shift into gear and turn the car around to make a hasty exit! not a word was spoken between us for the entire ride back to the base. For that matter, we didn't tell anyone about our experience except to call that reporter who did the original story to report what we had experienced.
* * * * * * * *
About 3 years later, upon my returning from an assignment in Viet Nam, I had flown into Charleston AFB again. I happened to across paths again with two of the four buddies who were with 'the group' the night we went to see the Summerville light. Neither of them had ever returned and had only mentioned that experience to their wives and restricted their conversations about it to only between themselves. Back then, the military frowned upon people in their ranks talking about weird stuff like UFO's and that incident with the light. Right off, the brass would have ordered drug tests. :-) It would be all down hill from there, trust me on that!
We agreed to return again that evening (same day as our happenstance meeting) but as I remember it, that decision took several beers and a few slammers too. We took my rental car this time and found the place very much the same as we remembered it.
We parked for about an hour on that dirt road at about the same spot where we first witnessed the phenomena, however; this time we saw nothing. Of course, we spent about half the time there getting out of the car to irrigate the roadside weeds with recycled beer.
We encountered a local cop parked at the entrance to that dirt road on our way back out. I stopped and asked him if there had been any more "sightings", explaining that we had seen it once a few years back and this was our first return visit since. He informed me that shortly after that TV story broadcast, several University of South Carolina professor types showed up at the site with all kinds of technical gadgetry and cameras in an attempt to either discover a cause or at least document the phenomena officially for science. Whether or not they had actually seen the "light" we saw is unknown, but they announced an official ruling as to the circumstances and causes of the phenomena. Their findings stated that the "light" was caused by the headlights of the west bound traffic on the nearby interstate highway reflecting off swamp gas that was emitted by the rotting foliage felled by the pulp wood cutters in that area. That under ideal conditions, hot and humid weather with no wind, allowed the gas (which is heavier than air) to concentrate along the edges (slightly deeper ditches on either side to allow rain water to run off) of the dirt road. Two large bill boards located along side of the East bound interstate lanes actually reflected the West bound headlights at an angle low enough to reflect off the gas accumulated in the ditches. The illusion of movement was caused by the headlight angle change as the cars traveled West bound.
Ok, it sounds plausible. At least until you factor in what we experienced with the electrical power in the car quitting and the extreme cold upon the first pass through our vehicle, then the exact opposite upon "its" return pass through the vehicle.
I didn't bother to explain that to the cop. He said ever since the university's explanation came out, people didn't bother to visit as much.
About two years ago on a vacation trip to Sanibel Island in South Florida, I happened to meet a fellow vacationer who turned out to be from Summerville, S.C. Naturally, our conversation focused on that phenomena and as it turned out, they (he and his wife) had also experienced the same thing I did at my first visit. Our experiences matched exactly, as did our level of belief in the University Of South Carolina's 'official' study!
I felt better knowing that someone else experienced the Summerville Light just as I had. Even better when my wife relented that she now actually believed my quirky story! :-)