The Cohoke Light...Science Fair Project

West Point Elementary School (


Problem Based Learning @West Point Elementary A phantom light appears, advances over the railroad tracks like a locomotive headlamp, and vanishes without a trace. Discover how fifth grade scientists unravel this phenomenon, consider what eye witnesses say about the light's source, and review a collection of stories that radiate from the area. Over 100 mysterious lights in the United States remain unexplained. All these anomalies share attributes of the light observed near West Point, Virginia.

Scientific Probes:

The probe began by posing three questions: 1. What do we know? 2. What do we need to know? 3. How do we find out? Laboratory investigations stemmed from using this four-question strategy: (Responses generate experimental design diagrams). 1. What materials are readily available for conducting experiments on [light]? 2. How does [light] act? 3. How can we change the set of [light] materials to affect the action? 4. How can we measure or describe the response of [light] to the change?

Cohoke Light Tall Tails:

Afraid of the Light? by Meg and Ben Imaginative stories have lit up the mysteries of Cohoke in years past. Thrill seekers would wait to see a lantern they believed to be guiding a brakeman down the railway bed who's missing something, his head. Skeptics demystify the story by persuading others to remember what they learned about human anatomy in preschool. Walking will not take place if you loose your head. Another tale describes the beam of a locomotive. 16k Story tellers speak of a train transporting wounded soldiers that never reached its destination. Instead, the boys in gray battle worn uniforms endlessly ride the rails. Trains pass between West Point and points west, but not Civil War vintage. In the past, teenagers visited Cohoke following a ballgame and would wait for something mysterious to happen. Those who came to see the light may have been more interested in the social experience than in a science lesson. Storytelling after dark became the group pastime hoping to strike fear in one another. Today, thrill seekers stay clear of Cohoke when faced with the not so thrilling experience of telling their story to a judge. The Southern Railway right-of-way and surrounding property are private. Law enforcement officers frequently patrol the Cohoke area to preserve public safety, protect private property and prohibit loitering.

The Eyes Have It... A Cohoke Light Experience Fifth grade students in Room 118 at West Point Elementary School developed questions to ask those who claim to have witnessed seeing the mysterious Cohoke Light. The stories below are in response to e-mail and face to face interviews. Bob Turner, Electronics Technician J. Tyler Community College I first learned of the Cohoke Light 30 years ago from friends and newspaper articles. My interest was piqued by this mysterious phenomenon, so I organized several expeditions with friends to investigate it around 1965. The first time, we spent several hours looking without seeing anything. The most exciting thing that happened was that one of my friends ate my lunch. The second time, I did see the light once or twice as a very faint yellow glimmer far off in the distance. The third time we were chased off by Sheriff Dunn before we had a chance to see anything and I never returned. The only souvenirs I have of these expeditions are slides taken by my friend Jim Grainger. They disprove the notion that people only imagine that this thing exists. The slides show the light clearly centered over the track and its glare reflecting off the tops of the rails. Whatever it is, it seems very shy. I am no more sure today about an explanation than I was 30 years ago. I don't think anyone else is either. There are many things in nature that we still don't understand. Someday, we may learn who or what is behind the Cohoke light with curious and bright young students like you around. Mac McCloud I grew up in West Point and graduated from the high school in 1964. When I was a kid, we loved to go down to see the light. I'm not too certain I ever saw it. The main attraction was to park with your steady and keep an eye out for the dreaded light of the conductor. We sure had a good time. I have traveled all over the globe as an International Tour Guide and now live in Tucson, Arizona. I inevitably run into people that are familiar with the Tidewater region who have their own story about the Cohoke Light. It still sends chills and shivers up their spine. So it really has become part of American folklore and a famous legend. Kudos to West Point Elementary School for featuring the Cohoke Light on their site. I think it is great! Keep the legend ALIVE. Mac McCloud WPHS Class of '64 J. W. Dossett In 1968, my room mate, his girl friend and I drove from Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) to look for the light. Standing on the tracks for several minutes we got cold. The others went back to the car, but I remained standing out in the cold alone. I looked in the direction of West Point where I thought I had seen a faint light weeks before. Nothing was happening and I was also getting cold - I turned to go to the car and about 25 yards behind me was a LIGHT! I thought I was about to be hit (by a train), but the light scattered. It reformed on the other side of me and continued to move along the tracks. My friends saw the GLOW from the light, but not the light itself. I know what I saw, and it wasn't a bunch of fireflies. Sorry kids, but there IS a West Point ghost light!


No conclusiosn were identified in the web site!!!