QUICK FACTS:

Location: West Point, Virginia

Appearance: Yellow, white, or red light that sways and/or moves down the railroad tracks towards the observer. Light may break up in front of the observer and reform behind them, or skim the hoods of cars.

Folklore:

  1. The light is said to be that of a railroad worker who was decapitated in an accident.
  2. The light is a phantom train that disappeared during the Civil War while carrying wounded soldiers.
  3. A plane crashed on the tracks, and all bodies were recovered except for a mother and daughter. The light is the mother looking for her daughter.

Other explanations: None.

Additional notes: The Cohoke Light was popular from the 1950s through the 1970s. Sightings have either halted or dropped off dramatically since that time.

MORE INFORMATION:

The Cohoke light appears in rural West Point, Virginia along the railroad tracks at a place called the Cohoke (Road) Crossroads. Observers have described it as a yellow or white light, sometimes red. In a typical sighting, the light appears far down the tracks at first, and then moves towards the observer. If the observer remains in one spot long enough, the light may approach and pass them. The light has been known to break up in front of a person or car and reform behind them, or skim the hoods of cars. Some encounters are less dramatic, with the light simply swaying several feet above the railroad tracks before disappearing.

There are several different legends about the light. One claims that the light is from the lantern of a headless railway worker who was killed along the tracks. The other story centers around a phantom train that apparently disappeared during the Civil War while carrying wounded soldiers. A third explanation involves a plane crashing into a train on the tracks. None of these stories check out historically, but this is typical for a spooklight location.

It is difficult to track down additional documentation on this particular ghost light, as many of the articles I found while researching have merely lifted their information from ghosts.org. It does seem that the Cohoke Light’s heyday was from the 1950s through the 1970s, when it was a popular spot for teenagers to go and park, and the firsthand stories I received from readers are from that time period. Since that time, sightings have dropped off dramatically.

READER EXPERIENCES:

(1) Date received: Wed, 5 Aug 2009

I remembered this from a long time ago, about 35 years. I was about six to seven years old; my aunt lived there, and we were visiting when my mother and father were told the story of a plane crashing into a train. Story has it that everyone was found dead except a woman and her daughter, and the light is the mother looking for the daughter. Story also has it that the two bodies were never found and that the seats where the two were sitting had no trace of blood.

I went to this site with my mom and dad and other adults. They parked on the tracks with two cars front end to front end blocking the tracks. After a while the light appeared and disappeared several times. At this point I remember watching the light go over the cars hoods and continue down the tracks. My father never believed the story until he saw the light that night. I remember him saying, “It’s time to get out of here,” and we never went back.

My mom has since told me that the tracks have been removed and there is no access to the site. Is there any proof of this accident? I was told it was sometime in the 1930s. Thank you.

(2) Date received: Wed, 9 Dec 1998

This is really not a story as much as it is a comment on the Joe Baldwin/Maco, North Carolina story. An almost identical story is told about a site at Cohoke, near the town of West Point, Virginia. The ghostly character at Cohoke was a supposedly decapitated brakeman. I have been to the Cohoke site, have seen the ghostly light, and have pictures of it taken by a friend when I wasn’t present. Descriptions I have heard of the Cohoke phenomenon are virtually identical to the Maco stories, although Cohoke isn’t quite as lively as old Joe. I saw it only for one brief moment as a faint, distant glimmer.

My visits to Cohoke were 30 years ago. Subsequently, I visited Maco about 25 years ago and, although I didn’t see old Joe, I did talk to a former local person who had seen the phenomenon and was very impressed with it. Then, a few years later, I became acquainted with persons in the Nashville, Tennessee area who knew about an identical phenomenon at a nearby site called Chapel Hill.

Subsequently, I have learned through research that there are perhaps a score or more sites around the US where the similar apparition occurs, generally with the same explanation of a decapitated railway worker or passenger searching for his head. In no case has documentation of the veracity of the tale been forthcoming. In a number of cases, I think Maco included, the railroad is a thing of the past and the tracks have even been removed, but the light still appears at the site. I have one photo of the Cohoke light off in the woods beside the track.

There is a web site for Cohoke, although I haven’t checked to see if it’s still active. I don’t have the URL but the title is “The Light at Cohoke” if you want to search for it.

(3) Date received: Sun, 26 Oct 2003

Obiwan,

I ran across your website after doing some searching last night. Myself, my wife and family had an encounter with the West Point Ghost Light late yesterday. I wanted to ask if you knew of any stories or talk about the possibilities of what that thing could be? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, accounts or explanations that aren’t on your site? Ever since seeing it I have been trying to find out more. I am a rational and skeptical person, but I can’t deny what we all witnessed.

Some explanations sound plausible, but searching the net finds all sorts of the same lore about a deceased railway worker of some kind searching with a lantern for a missing head, etc. These lights seem to all appear near railway beds. I mean, how many deceased and headless railway workers are there in the US? My skeptical and scientific side tells me it has to have something to do with the fact that if you stand on railroad tracks, you can see very far with an unobstructed view. Presumably you can see railroad crossings literally miles upon miles away. In the blackness of night, a single car passing across may appear as a slight glimmering light.

All of us went to the railroad crossing about ten or so miles past the West Point Paper Mill. We were only there about 45 minutes and we were able to see the light six times. All five of us saw it at the same instant. Everyone gasped in shock at the exact same moment, which tells me it wasn’t any kind of figment of our imagination or our eyes playing tricks on us.

That location is so remote from any civilization or traffic that it is pitch black and silent. Just being there is unsettling enough because it is so in the middle of nowhere. I could barely see my own hand in front of my face. It was overcast with very little moonlight.

We all sat down and stared down the track and after about 15 minutes the first glimmer appeared. It looked like a welding arc. It was bright and shimmered for about three or four seconds and vanished. It appeared very far away. The second time it appeared as red, moving from left to right, and it illuminated the tops of the rails so it was easy to gauge its distance. The light appeared to turn into several lights and they again vanished after about four seconds. It then appeared randomly four more times, each time moving closer to our location.

The last two appearances were in quick succession about ten seconds apart and they very clearly illuminated the ground underneath. That blew away my theory of a distant car crossing the tracks because it was so much closer. I didn’t know what to look for the first time, but after the first couple of times I was able to hone in on where to look. The ground begins to illuminate like the light is shining in the other direction and then points towards you. It was actually quite amazing. My family all bolted to the car on the last time. They were genuinely spooked I guess. I left too but only because they threatened to leave.

I wanted to pass this all on to you for what it’s worth and ask your advice on any other accounts, etc.

(4) Date received: Sat, 19 Mar 2005

I can personally attest that the train lights in West Point, Virginia are very real, and were seen by six of us. This all took place years and years ago when I was in high school in Newport News, Virginia.

I was working as a bagger at a local grocery store, and six of us wanted to drive up to West Point after work, about 12:00 AM on a Friday night in early October. It was a very cool night, and I drove three girl cashiers and my two buds up to the railroad tracks. We didn’t get there until after 1:00 AM.

I parked right after crossing the tracks to the right. The story was told to me that you walked about 300 to 400 yards down the tracks towards the long bend in the tracks and sit and wait. We had taken some beer from work so we started drinking part of the case of beer. We were there about 45 to 50 minutes when I saw a white light slowly turn on and then off way, way down the tracks, about one to two miles down. The light almost looked like the size of a white lighting bug going off. Only myself and my girlfriend saw it at first.

I immediately shouted there it is, not really believing myself what I saw. About 45 seconds later, the light came on, and went off again. This time it was closer, but still way down the tracks. At this time everyone ran over to me and stood bunched up all starring down the tracks.

The night was very clear and calm, no noise whatsoever, and then the light came on a third time. This time it was so close that the woods and trees glowed where the white light slowly turned on, then turned off. Everyone at this time freaked. Two of my buddies ran down off the tracks into a patch of hook briars, and the girls ran back towards the car. I stood there in awe, never scared but just in awe.

As I turned to run back, the light glowed behind us right over my car. The entire intersection, railroad crossing, car, and road lit completely up like daytime. The guys that ran into the ditch full of briars really got cut up bad and saw the light from the woods too.

I was really concerned that we all had to run to my car where that light was. The girls were freaking out and crying, the whole thing. I was pissed off because everyone got in except the guys in the woods. They were still deep in the briars. I almost left them, but continued honking my horn with the girls screaming out their names through the car windows.

Finally, everyone got in and we all had a very long ride home. The funny thing about all of this once I looked back on it is that we never went to school and bragged about what had happened. It was all kind of kept silent among the six of us.

That’s my story. This took place back in 1975.

3 Replies to “Cohoke Light”

  1. I have been trying for several years to find the Magazine Article on the Cohoke Light (West Point Va Train Light). I believe it was either Post / Look / or Life Magazine which carried the story of the Train Light in West Point Va. ( Circa mid 60’s / Does anyone know which Magazine and which issue carried the story ? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Dennis,

      This magazine article doesn’t appear to exist. It is fairly common for part of the lore of ghost lights to refer to magazine or television pieces that never existed as “evidence” of their fame.

      -Obiwan

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