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The Vander Light

If you happen to pay a visit to the quaint little town of Vander, located in Cumberland County, you may be welcomed with a well known ghost story. But if you're really lucky, you might actually get to witness the Vander Light, which appears on the train tracks in town, for yourselves.

The phenomenon, which has been observed since the 1800's, is thought to be the ghost of Author Matthews, a resident of Vander. Matthews was employed as a ticket master at the railroad, where he later met his untimely death.

One rainy night, as he sat waiting for the train, he noticed that the train was running behind by more than a half an hour. Concerned, he gathered his lantern and headed out to the tracks to take a look, hoping that he may either see or hear the approaching train. Unfortunately he could neither hear nor see anything in the thick darkness. As he turned to go back inside, however, a strange rattling noise coming from the other side of the tracks caught the ticket master's attention. No one knows what he saw or heard that night, and he didn't live long enough to find out himself. As he lifted his lantern to investigate, his foot slipped on the slick platform, and Matthews fell to the unforgiving tracks below, knocking himself unconscious on the steel.

As the train engineer approached the station, he noticed something out of the ordinary. His attention was drawn to a light shining brightly in the middle of the tracks. As the train grew closer, the light illuminated the face of Author Matthews, and the surprised engineer scrambled to apply the brakes as quickly as he could.

Though the wheels spit out sparks as it tried to come to a halt, the train inevitably continued on, right over Matthew's body, and past the Vander train station. When it finally rolled to a stop, the horrified engineer raced back down the tracks to the body, but it was too late. The train had crushed and mangled Author Matthew's body, leaving only his head and his lantern-still glowing-in tact.

Since that day, a mysterious light has been appearing to locals and visitors. The apparition begins as two balls of light, but one fades out rather quickly. Some say that the disappearing light is Matthew's cigarette, which he dropped as he leaned over the railing to investigate the noise. The other light is thought to be his lantern, which is reported to glow a yellowish brown in color.

Witnesses have reported seeing the “lantern” light from far away, and that it disappears as they get an arms length away, only to reappear right behind them when they turn around, and then “falls” to the ground and disappears completely.

Does the light at the Vander railroad tracks belong to the late Author Matthews? No one knows for sure. But the townsfolk have been telling this ghost story for years, and as long as the Vander Light keeps appearing, the story is sure to be told around the campfire for generations to come.


im calling bs

This story sounds alot like the hookerman legend in NJ. Turns out that the lights in NJ are nothing more than headlights and tail lights of cars crossing the tracks miles away. Gives the illusion of a swinging lantern coming toward you. But that don't stop the ghost stories and even HBO had a show saying it was real.

There are others...

There are no less that 4 ghost lights in North Carolina alone. While some(maybe this one) can be explained by headlights and such. Others like the Maco Light predate the automobile.

You call BS and that's cool. Everyone's got their opinion. I'm still not convinced yet ;-)


Vander light

I live 20 min from vander its a tiny town thats pretty much made up a single gas station and the spot where u see the light is in the woods theres barely any traffic as it is much less deep in the woods.. So to write it off as headlights its bs ive spent hours out there and never seen or heard one car

A Working Legend

My Brother, while stationed in Fort Bragg during the mid 1960's, was fortunate enough, along with another soldier, to view this. He was given a pretty precise location by a local, as where to look for it. The local also said that the Army had previously used infra-red equipment and other stuff in a futile attempt to identify the reason or source behind the light. My Brother said that they saw only one light, not the smaller one, and that it would stay in between the rails, and never move outside of them. He's never been a ghost believer, and wondered if there's some weird sort of energy that used the metal in the rails themselves, since the light would always stay inside of them. Anyway, it was a fairly popular attraction, at the time. I'm wondering if the sightings still continue these days? Also, if that's a picture of the actual track area, it looks pretty well maintained, as if it's still used.


I was with a bunch of friends when I was stationed at ft. Bragg 1977, And I don't care what people believe or think I saw it and so did my friends...

Vander Light

I've been several times and seen the light 4 or 5 times. However, there was just one light each time I seen it. Just as it says, it appears, gets closer and then reappears behind you. There is def a light but I am not sure if it's a ghost or spirit. I'm not really a beleiver in such things. I have often wondered if there is a scientific explanation for it all. There is no possibility that it could be cars because it does come closer and closer til it is almost within reach. The picture provided does not look accurate to me, but I've only been at night. There is certainly something to be seen here, but I am not sure what it is.

I can vouch for the photo

I took that photo the week before posting the story. I asked several people where the light appeared (And found only one person who tried to help me). This was where she pointed me. It has to be around there somewhere because the town of Vander is VERY small.


Re:The Photo

When my Brother was directed to it, decades ago, there was a boxcar along the side, and that was given as the general vicinity. That's probably long gone, and he only remembers that the track area seemed like it was in a tunnel because of the heavy woods on both sides.
By the way, I like that picture you took, and have it presently as my computer wallpaper.
Excellent site, Jason, and the others, too!

Vander Light

A few quick comments.
- The picture is from the correct location.
- The light is still seen today.
- Looking down that crossing there are no streets that cross the tracks for at least seven miles. The tracks run through woods and farmland.
- Do a search at the Fayetteville Observer's web page for stories about the light.
- Numerous scientific studies have attempted to explain the origin and cause of the lights without success. (Check the newspaper accounts for more information.)
- At least one other death, in 2002, has occurred in the area whereby a migrant worker was killed by a train. Why he didn't get off the tracks when the train was coming is unknown.
- I've personally seen the light on one occassion. I have no explaination for it. It was not moving at a speed that would register on the Pro 1000 radar unit in my car. (Which I had positioned so has to cover the vicinity of the tracks where I was seeing the light. Yes, I'm a sworn officer.)

Vander Light legal?

Im also a sworn officer, I also am a ghost hunter. Ive been ghost hunting now for about 15 years. I have interest in doing an investigation at this location. But have legal questions. Any No Trespassing signs or No Parking signs or anything else I may need to be aware of before going to this location. A (M)charge is all it takes to loose everything. Please email me back with info 10-14

Vander Light

To the 'BS' commentor, yes you have your right to disbelieve just as much as those who do believe. I am from the Vander area but yet to have gone to see the light, but it is on my "bucket list" of things to do. As was stated in previous note, there is only one road that crosses the railroad track near the lights and you have to park at this road and walk down the track, next possible road is too far for head lights to come that near to you, so it is not car lights. My Mom & her brothers saw it in the early 70s, they had to drag one of her brothers to the car, it scared him so bad and he was not the type to be easily scared. And many other people I know have seen it and then again, some have gone and never have seen it. So another point, if it is cars, then it should be seen at least every night at some point, but it isn't.

This from what I saw was pretty darn real

I don't lie and I don't intend too, some have beliefs and I have a belief that it is real. What I saw not to long ago going along that railroad track vander in the car with my mom it was dusk probably sevenish, odd for a ghost to come out at the time yes it seems. Not normally am I scared by such things but what I saw was an apparition, tall figure, totally white, 2 lights from the cigeratte and the latern, and headless. The apparition was walking towards the car when we went over the railroad track. I was the only one to pay attention to it because my mom was driving and I was passenger seeing it. It was fairly close not even three yards away. As I said belief lies in the readers hands of this but if you must see this look for your selves.
Here is my email if you need more info or if you see the same thing


this is cool i would love to visit here and hear more ab out this story

I saw it.

In the mid nineties, myself and and at least 50 other people saw a UFO one night fly over the house by the tracks on top of the trees and hover for a few minutes then it took off. It was not a plane nor a helicopter.The vander light is also real. I have seen it it several times it appears as a white light way down the tracks and it comes up the tracks rapidly with thin reach. The light really messes up your eyes you have to look away just to get focus back on it to make sure its not a train. I have seen a yellow to white light also swing up and down both sides of the tracks along the trees from the top to bottom. Also sometime a shadow appears walking along and across the tracks. Good luck with your viewing. The area is now over grown with pines so viewing may be limited but I still think you can see something.

rattling noise?

How did the rattling noise get into the legend? I've always been curious how certain details get into the story of ghost tales. It seems like if Matthews went back out to see what the rattling noise was, then lost his life, how could anyone know he went looking for a rattling noise?
I may be reading into the legend too much,I know. I guess, if this happened at the depot, Matthews might have mentioned the noise to someone else that was there, but then why didn't they help him off the tracks? Is this part of the legend that most people hear?
Most of the reports of the legend are anectdotal; they only mention a man getting his head knocked off, and then haunting the tracks. This one seems more thorough. Is that the correct spelling for his name, Author, not Arthur? And the tracks are still active, right?

Something IS there

I just found this article and it appears no one has written in lately but I wanted to chime in on the subject. I was raised near the same railroad in question here and since I was very young I have seen this light (or some such light) several times over the years. I was living on a farm near the town of Stedman which is about 5 miles east of Vander. From there you would look up the tracks west toward Fayetteville to see the light. About 3 miles or half way from Stedman to Vander there was a little path road going into some swamp area which is now cleared and farmed. Back in the 60's it was all grown up with briars and bushes but the road did cross the tracks on it's way to other people's property and we would sometimes drive into that area to look for the light. From that point we would look east toward Stedman and see it. I have seen it from that loction 2 or 3 times over the years and it appears to be maybe the size of a basketball hovering about 3 or 4 feet above the ground but I didn't ever see it moving or appearing to get closer to me. Weather never seemed to be a factor as I have seen it on clear and cloudy nights. The strangest thing I have ever seen on that same stretch of tracks was one Sunday night when I was driving back to my house just west of Stedman. When I crossed the tracks which are about 1/2 mile from my house I saw what I can only describe as Christmas lights. There were many small colored lights that ranged from ground level to tree-top high. White, red, green, blue, yellow, and orange lights filled the area between the trees on either side of the tracks. They appeared to be about a mile or so away and were west of me in the direction of Vander. The lights were moving around and had the appearance of a swarm of bees around a hive but they moved much slower and kinda mingled with each other...some rising from the ground to the trees, some moving side to side, but all moving around. I had ice cream and had to get to the house to put it away but I went right back out in about 10 minutes to look again and they were still there. I tried to get my wife to go with me but she wouldn't so I had no witness but I did sit there and watch the show for about 30 minutes. I finally left and the lights were still there. I was 22 at the time which would have been 1979 and I haven't seen this since nor did I see or hear anything on the news the next few days about anything like that being seen by anyone else that night. I also have not seen the original light since then either. Ocassionally the military will drop yellow flares out at Fort Bragg for night maneuvers and these flares can be seen clearly from my location and appear to be right down the center of the tracks but this is ABSOLUTELY NOT the "Vander Light" We locals all know the difference in those flares and the real thing! Something is there.


6 drunk teenagers and 1 light

I lived in Fayetteville, NC for 5 years. I went to see the lights with some friends in the summer of 1988. We were all hammered on cheap wine and beer. We proceeded down the tracks at around 10:30-11pm. It was so dark it made it hard to walk. We only had one flashlight and didn't want to use it because we thought it might scare off anything that was out there. I'd say we ventured into the unknown for about a mile and a half until we decided to turn around. Everybody was tired and ate up by mosquitoes. Then out of nowhere off in the distance we saw it! It was the Vander light. It did swing in an awkward side to side movement yet kind of all over. We decided to chase the mysterious light but it seem to run from us. We quickly gave up due to we were banging our feet on the tracks when we gave chase. As we took a moment to catch or breath, it appeared again! This time not swinging but pulsing. We all stood in amazement and in awe as the light seemed to wait for us to leave. Then it made a sudden movement toward us. We all screamed and ran back towards our cars. As I said earlier we had been drinking and running a mile and a half is no easy feat in that condition. Soon enough we stopped to catch our breath and enjoy some nervous laughter with one another. Then it appeared again! This time going in and out of the woods. It was moving closer and closer and closer. We were all so scared that my friends and I became paralyzed by this sight. It got about 50 feet away and then vanished into thin air. As we stood with our hearts in our throats hoping that the worst was over, the woods became deathly silent. Every insect and creature seem to cower at the exact same moment. Someone said, "Is it gone??" Before anyone could answer the light bursted on right in front of all of us!!! This time in total terror we ran non stop until we reached the safety of our rides. This light, ghost, specter or whatever you want to call it does exist. This is a night I will never forget and still gives me the chills up and down my spine when I think back on this incredibly frightening evening.

Vander light EXACT Location

So I have a paranormal team and we are all stationed here on ft Bragg and have wandered out to Vander to see where exactly this spectra would be and we have been told man different locations but the main one being where the old train depot is but we couldn't find anyone who knew where it was or anything that resembled a train depot so if u have any information that could help me and my team please contact me at

I didn't see it

I'm from Fay. N.C In the late 70's me and some friends went to Vander to see the light. We walked the tracks a couple of miles and never saw the light. It was fun anyway.

the vander light.

i've been a lot, the first time i thought it was a buncha of bs, until i seen what appeared to be a man walking down the tracks. it almost looked like he was walking in place then just disapeared. never saw a light that night but then the second time i went i seen a light. my friend shined her flashlights down the tracks, turned it on and off real fast and it appeared far off, went away, and then came back a little closer. every time i've went back i've seen it. it's never really gotten close to me, but honestly i wouldn't want it too, it scares the shit out of me being far away, i would hate to see what i would do if it came up on us.

vander light

Can you tell me which road to take that will cross the tracks!

Scared the hell out of me

In 1969 I was visiting Fort Bragg and the Fayetville area at the Navy,s request. At that time, my Father was active duty Army, living in town and I was staying at his house rather than on post during my Fort Bragg deployment. My sister mentioned the story of the light and that she and her friends from FHS would go over there to see the light frequently. She insisted that it was real. I wanted to see for myself, but it took some pestering to get her to take me over there. I had just returned from a deployment in Viet Nam where I had experienced several frightining moments, so I wasnt aprehensive of anything that could happen. After we left the car and made our way to the area where she had seen the lights which was about a mile west of vander. It was around 2200 when we parked and it took about 15 min trudging thru the blackberry brambles to reach the tracks. We were there for about 10 min and saw a glow from the east that appeared pulsating. Shortly it became apparent that it was the ocelating headlight of a westbound train. After it passed, I decided to leave. As we started back into the briers, my sister squeeled, and I looked and there was light suspended in the air about 4 ft above the ground between the tracks, that were about 20 meters away. It was about the size of a greapfruit and low magnitude and amber and defused. Sort of like head lights in the fog, but the air was clear. Before I realised it my sister was half way to the car. The light appeared to be hovering with slight movement. I tried to approach it and its magnitude appeared to fade and retreat. If I tried to flank it to get a better perspective It would stay at the relitive bearing. When I stepped back it would move closer and increase its briteness. This gave me the chills After "dancing" with the light for about 5 min, it just dissapeared in an instant. I always wanted to go back and check it out again over the years, but forgot about it completly til today when I heard the word "Vander" on TV and googgled the legeond and found this forum

Saw it in the 60's

1965, I was just a kid. My father was a fan of the occult and drove us to the spot. I brought binoculars. We walked down the tracks through the trees and the light appeared suddenly, about 50 meters away, and seemed to be approaching us slowly. Through the binoculars, it appeared a little fuzzy, but it was definitely a solitary solid light source (not a group of smaller lights). It was also undulating or vibrating slightly. At first I felt it was my hands shaking, but when I steadied them up against a tree the motion was still there. It approached to within about 40-50 feet, then suddenly disappeared, then that was it.

Brave Fools

In 1970 went there with friends several times. Always saw the light comming towards us, got chicken and we all ran away. Until the one time I and my friends brother got brave and decided to see what would happen if we just stayed where we were on the tracks. Everyone else was off to the side. The light came right at us and appeared to get bigger as it approached, then seemed to go right through us and appear on the other side of us. We felt frozen and unable to move for about 2 minutes afterwards. We were told by our observers that it appeared to pass right through us while glowing a wierd light and then dim as it got to the other side, then it simply dissapeared. No drinking involved in this experience! Skeptics beware.....

I saw Arthur Matthews ghost

While attending Fayetteville Senior High, about 1965, two friends and I drove to Vander to see what all the talk was about. We did not drink (just to clarify that) and we got there about 8:00 PM. Walked about half a mile due east on the tracks and saw the distant light, but was not sure that was what we were seeking. Getting bored, we sat on the tracks and started tapping on the steel rails with rocks. All of a sudden, we saw the lantern glow appear several yards to the east and moving slowly towards us. We thought it was some jokesters, so we quickly hid in the brush alongside the tracks thinking they would pass us. Well, pass us it did. The glow got eerily strange looking as it passed by and I looked up and saw a tall headless person walk past holding the lantern. My mind went blank with fear as I jumped and ran full speed the half mile back to our car. When I got there, my two friends were right behind me and we excitedly compared notes. Seems we all saw the same thing. Funny thing was they remembered seeing the lantern glow moving away from us as they ran, but it was in the opposite direction back to the east, so whatever it was, had to pass right by us (or through us) as we ran to the west where the parked car was. Needless to say, we never went back again. I count this as my one and only supernatural experience.

I went to vander and we did

I went to vander and we did not see any lights. But we were walking the tracks me and some friends. All of a sudden we see this big black figure come out from trees on left side and my friend is first to notice she yells oh sh*t and we all take off. Next thing we know she's on the ground and looked like she had been smacked and knocked over. She was only like 100 lbs if that and two guys could not pick her up and they are both pretty strong. It was like something was holding her down. We went another time and before we got to light by tracks we saw this light way down the road and when we got a lot closer it zoomed to the right.


I'd like to say that I'm a little disappointed. I lived in Vander for some time, literally across the street from the train tracks. Every friend that came over wanted to go look for the light. As a result, I've spent quit a bit of time walking those tracks and never experienced anything like any of these stories. I left Fayetteville for 10 years. Maybe its time I make another attempt at seeing this "light". None the less, I'll bet I've walked those tracks no less than 50 times. I still have a friend close to there. I might go park at his house pretty soon and try again.

Vander Lights...

I live here now and have been here for about 8 years (literally right across the street from the tracks). Never seen anything strange on those tracks and I've been across them dozens of times. I think it's just people scaring themselves. If there is a light I'm sure there is a rational explanation for it. I'd like to know just how true the story behind this actually is or if it's just a story that someone made up. There are many stories very similar to this in other parts of the country about a guy walking the tracks looking for his head. This is probably where this story originated from.


Just went last night and saw the light in front of us and behind us on MORE than one occasion. I took pictures of my camera and you can see unexplained lights in the corners of the pictures and one image has a hazy face in it.... Really creepy but absolutely awesome!!

what time?

when did you catch it and where should I look to park and watch?

As Vander is a REALLY small

As Vander is a REALLY small place, it shouldn't be too hard to find someone who can tell you better than I. However, I was told that near the 'Vander light internet cafe' was a good place to see it.

Good luck!

Something is DEFINITELY there!

our team went out to investigate to see if we found anything, we captured a VERY clear EVP of someone saying, "Come Here" In a pretty forceful way......none of us heard this until later review of our recording of the trip.
Two team members actually saw the light.
So to the skeptics, you are wrong. To those who have seen it...we agree.
Something or someone is at the Vander tracks.

Saw it in the late 80s and early 90s

Saw the light with my daf, brother and cousin early on a clear, random night. We must have walked a mile and a half from the Old Vande railroad intersection. We were resting when it appeared to the east. It seemed to flicker and dim out several times. We were convinced it was a train and my brother even had a nasty fall on the tracks as we ran. Eerily, we realized there was no sound of a train. It never came closer than 100 yards. It dimmed out a final time and stayed out. We watched for it on the way out but there was no sign of it. To this day, we all tell the same description of what we saw. Her's the thing. We searched more recently and saw nothing. It appears to correspond with land clearing in the area around Cape Fear High School.

Similar Story

Sounds like the "Gourdon lights" featured on Unsolved Mysteries

I've lived here my whole life

I've lived here my whole life, but never seen the light. I've seen silhouettes of disfigured humans, weird insects,seen UFOs, but never this. I know when I do see the light, it won't be the creepiest thing I've seen here.

vander light

i am 57 now but i saw this light when i was 16 years old when i went to visit my father and his family in fayetteville. there were about 6 of us and it started far away down the tracks and you could see it coming closer and got brighter. this light would switch from one side of the track to the other like it was looking for something. at one time it wandered to the edge of the trees and back to the center of the tracks where it continued to move closer to us. all of us were unaminous with what we saw and i swear it got about 50 ft away from us and this girl screamed and it disappeared right in front of us. i hope to visit the vander light again. but that area has grown so much with the interstate and all i would have a hard time finding it and afraid to ask for i dont want people thinking i am nuts

similarities between 2 stories

i didnt read all posts to this story and scrolled up after i wrote my comment and saw "6 drunk teens and 1 light" had the same sightings we had and experiences, except for the running, lol. and so coincidental there were 6 of them, like us. maybe you will get the best experience with the light with a crowd of 6 people? see we are not lying, 2 crowds of 6 experienced almost the same exact thing, with the light wandering off the track and all

West Point Light

My friends and me went to the tracks regulary to look for the light.After several weekends of seing nothing it finally hppened!
A police car pulled up behind us. We explained we came to see the light.He turned his light on, shined it on the track and said now you have seen it.

Vander Light

I have seen the Vander light as well as the Maco light near Wilmington. There is lots of light even when darkness falls. This phenomenon always seems to be where it is dark down a long stretch of railroad. My theory is than light comes to the rails from far away and bounces from one track to another. There is no track at Maco now AND no light. Does anyone see the light during the day? I do not think so. There must be a logical explanation.
No Ghosts. This is a true light, and the closer I got to the lights they faded out. Perhaps the rails at Maco were parallel to the rails at Vander. Or perhaps it only takes a long stretch of railway.


i heard a story just like this exept the guy was a robber trying to catch the train this story's way sadder though cus the robber guy deserved it and this poor fella was innocent

Vander light

You know, every area I have ever known has had a story like this one, very similar. The light might exist but it is odd that so many claim to see things on railroad tracks.

Vander Light

I am originally from Fayetteville, NC. I am 52 years old. My mother was raised in Vander, NC not to far from the railroad where the light would appear. We visited our grandparents regularly. My father would stop near the railroad on our way back to Fayetteville so we could see the light. My family has seen the light many times. The light was stationary between the rail road tracks. I have never seen the light move, so when I hear stories of the light moving and ending up on the opposite end of the tracks it makes me wonder of the authenticity of the account. it has been over 30 years since I have seen that light on those railroad tracks. I assure you that no matter what the cause of the light whether natural or supernatural phenomenon, the light was there on those tracks for years.

Vander light

I am the signal maintainer in that area of the tracks, I have heard of the light my entire life but since working with the railroad I have never seen any light at all. Maybe it is more the fun of taking your friends there than actually finding the "light".

The ghost tracks and remants

The ghost tracks and remants of the depot are still there. I live here.Most people look down the active tracks. This is not the correct spot. The crossing is on Old Vander road about one mile from the vander town limits behind cape fear high school.


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