Although people have seen the Brown Mountain Lights for hundreds of years, no one has figured out what they are only a few photos and videos exist of the mysteriously glowing orbs.  Theories have been passed around for as long as the lights have appeared but the actual origin has not been discovered.

Now, local tourism officials hope a new contest will bring more images to light.  Maybe you and your photo can help unravel the mystery of the Brown Mountain LIghts.

Burke County Tourism Development Authority has launched the “Brown Mountain Lights Photo and Video Contest” to let the general public to play a role in documenting this natural phenomenon.

The contest offers $1,000 in prizes – $500 for best photo and $500 for best video. It is broken down into monthly competitions for best photo and best video through September. In October, all monthly winners advance to a final round of competition, with the top overall photo and top overall video each receiving a $500 first prize.

The rules of the contest are simple. Entries must be actual photos or videos of the lights shot in Burke County. Entrants must be 18 years old and legal residents of the United States, or the parent/legal guardian submitting an entry for a minor who is a legal resident.

Photos and videos must be authentic, un-doctored shots of the Brown Mountain Lights. Participants may submit their entries in a variety of ways, with all acceptable entries posted on the Facebook page of Burke County TDA.

Monthly winners will be determined by the number of “likes” received that month on the Facebook page. Those receiving the most “likes” each month advance to the final round of competition, which will be judged by a panel assembled by Burke County TDA.

“For many years, the technology didn’t exist for the average person to capture a photo or video of the Brown Mountain Lights,” said Ed Phillips, director of Burke County TDA. “But with the technology available today, it’s much easier to get video and still images. Whether it be from a digital camera, smart phone or another device, we’re optimistic that people will be able to capture images of the unexplained lights and maybe help unlock the mystery.”

Contest entries may be submitted via email to ( They may also be submitted in person or via mail to: Brown Mountain Lights Photo Contest, Burke County Visitor Center, 110 East Meeting Street, Morganton, N.C. 28655. For more information, click to or call (828) 433-6793.

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