Note: For more information about this and other ghost lights, check out my book The True Ghost Stories Archive: Spooklights, available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. Below is a condensed version of the chapter in the book.
Location: Maco, North Carolina
Appearance: White or yellow light that bobbed along the railroad tracks near Maco Station. The light would disappear when approached and reappear behind the observer.
- A train conductor named Joe Baldwin was decapitated after trying to prevent an oncoming train from crashing into his uncoupled car by waving his lantern. The light is Joe’s lantern.
Other explanations: Perhaps car headlights or swamp gas.
Additional notes: In the 1850s, a real person named Charles Baldwin was killed on the tracks near Maco. This may be the basis for the legend, and in fact may be the prototype for all other similar tales of railroad ghost lights. In the 1970s, the road next to the tracks was widened and the tracks were torn up, and the light hasn’t been seen since then.
“I vividly remember my first trip to Maco Station to see the infamous Maco Light. I was three or four at the time. Soon the fun began when the light made its appearance. For those of you swamp gas enthusiasts, I can tell you one thing, gases do not behave in specific patterns when unconfined. The light would come up the track dead center at an adult’s eye level, at a slow speed, with an apparent swinging motion, then it would go out, or it would “flip” end over end into the wooded area and go out after apparently hitting the ground. I read a story that said the Maco Light was only white, which is not true. The Maco Light changed from white to green to red, just like any standard railroad signalman’s lantern. Over the next few years, my family made many visits to the tracks to see this phenomenon without being disappointed. We usually made the trip when relatives were visiting from out of town. After what seemed like an eternity without going, I asked my mother if we could go see it. She then informed me that since the state had widened Highway 74/76 that the light was now rarely seen. – Stephen, March 1999
“My parents also saw the light when they were dating, I’ve gotten the same story from both of them independently. It had been the thing to do for young couples. It than appeared at a distance down the track, flickering as if a match was just struck, then began to methodically swing back and forth about 5 feet above the track. It then starts to speed up as it swings wilder and wilder as if you can almost sense the doomed conductor getting more and more frantic, finally after repeating this silent bobbing. weaving dance for a few hundred yard it seemed to be flung violently off to the side. There it sat flickering in the swamp off to the side of the old Atlantic Coast line till moments later it faded away.” – Jynxx, April 1999