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Encyclopedia Of Arkansas Minute: The Gurdon Light

Since the 1930s, a mysterious floating light above the railroad tracks near Gurdon has fostered a number of theories, some of them supernatural.

Some feel that the Gurdon Light comes from reflection of headlights on I-30, though the light is seen two miles away and was known for decades before the interstate was built. Others maintain it comes from swamp gases, or from electrical charges generated by quartz crystals in the area. One popular theory says a railroad worker fell in front of a train and the light is his lantern as he searches for his severed head. Another speculation, based on an actual incident, is that Missouri-Pacific Railroad foreman William McClain, who was murdered in December 1931 by irate worker Louis McBride, roams the tracks near Gurdon carrying a ghostly lantern.

The popularity of the Gurdon Light was so widespread that in October 1994 NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries came to Arkansas to film a reenactment of McClain’s murder. The episode aired on December 16, 1994.

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