Exploring Wilcox Column – Oct. 19, 2016
It’s often been said that if you visit the Gees Bend Ferry landing near Camden on the right sort of night, you might be able to see the mysterious “Light in the Water.”
Paranormal explanations for this ghostly light vary. Some say it is the ghost of someone who drowned near the landing many years ago. Others say that the light is caused by the spirts of those who lost their lives in a steamboat accident over a century ago.
Others have offered more mundane explanations. Some say that this eerie light is the merely the reflection of a distant signal light or perhaps the moon. Others have suggested that it’s some type of luminescent algae while some say that it’s some unusual mix of “swamp gas” bubbling up from the river bottom.
The first time that I ever heard of the “Light in the Water” was several years ago when the good folks at Alabama’s Front Porches published a tri-fold brochure called “The Ghosts of Alabama’s Black Belt.” According to that brochure, under the heading “The Light in the Water at the Gees Bend Ferry,” road signs “clearly mark the way to the ferry on the Camden side where the lights can be seen at night. The ferry only runs in the daylight hours, but visitors can come to the site to see if the light is showing at night.”
I decided to check out this story for myself one night a few weeks ago and headed out to the old ferry landing around 9:30 p.m. I turned off of State Highway 28 and eased down Ellis Island Road as a bright half moon hung high in the cloudless sky overhead. I crept along in the dark until the silent, pale hulk of the ferryboat hove into view at the end of the road.
I continued along as far as possible, switched off my headlights and stepped out of my truck. I stood there for a few minutes, letting my eyes and ears adjust to my surroundings. The drone of insects filled the night, and a deep breath brought to my nose the smell of fishy, brown mud and jungle-like greenery.
I walked closer to the ferry and stood there for what seemed like a long time, straining my eyes toward the river. In the darkness, I couldn’t see it, but I could sense its black presence, like a blind man standing at the mouth of a cave. Minute upon minute flowed by as I looked for any sign of the mysterious “Light in the Water.”
As things go, luck wasn’t on my side. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to see the “Light in the Water,” and on the walk back to the truck, I was left to wonder if perhaps the conditions weren’t right on this warm fall night. Perhaps the best time to see it is later or earlier in the night or maybe it’s only seen at certain times of the year. In any case, as I drove home in the dark, I promised myself to return on some other night. Maybe then luck will be on my side, and I’ll get the chance to see the mysterious “Light in the Water.”
In the end, I’d like to hear from anyone in the reading audience who has seen the “Light in the Water” at the Gee’s Bend Ferry landing. What did it look like? When did you see it? Were there any other witnesses with you? What do you think causes the “Light in the Water”? Let me know by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.