One of the greatest adventures I had in college was being a member of my fraternity. Brotherhood meant everything to me. It was the brotherhood that helped me get through some of the toughest moments in my time at East Carolina University. To this day, my brothers are still a part of my life; though we all came from so many different backgrounds, our experiences in music brought us together. However, there was another experience that brought us together.
The legend of “Pactolus Light.”
While I cannot divulge the details of the pledge nights, I can tell you about the experiences I have had with this legend.
According to the “North Carolina Ghost Guide”, the legend goes:
Sometime around 1910, Edwin Cox rode his horse out past the small community of Pactolus to meet the train his fiancee’ had taken down from Richmond; they had met and fallen in love while she was a student at the teacher training school in Greenville that had just started up the year before (that is today, of course, East Carolina University). Unfortunately, her train was much later than expected, and Edwin, a Greenville native, found himself out at dusk in unfamiliar countryside. He realized that soon enough it would be dark, and the young woman in question wouldn’t even know he had ridden all the way out to Pactolus to meet her train. But Edwin’s horse had drawn the attention of some local ne’er do wells who were walking down the tracks that night, and they saw an opportunity to get a quick ride.
Hiding near the side of the tracks, they ambushed Edwin Cox as he rode past, killed him and stuffed his body in the thick undergrowth. But they spooked the horse in the process, and the animal showed up back in Greenville a few days later, exhausted and riderless. By that time Edwin’s family had already realized that something was amiss, and now the appearance of his horse confirmed their worst fears, but a search of the terrain turned up nothing. Today, they say you’ll see a light out where the tracks used to run to Pactolus, the light of the murdered young man trying to show his true love that he had, indeed, been there to meet her train.“The Pactolus Light.” Ncghostguide.byethost12.Com, http://www.ncghostguide.byethost12.com/pactolus.htm.
What this narrative leaves out is that is that if you make Edwin Cox angry, the light would turn red; he especially did not like foul language.
The year before I pledged, the pledge class at the time was completing their exercise. They claim to have seen the light of Edwin Cox, but one of the pledges thought it was one of the brothers and exclaimed something profane in response. The light turned red, and they ran away.
During my pledge night at Pactolus, we had no experiences until the very end of the evening. We gathered near the cars ready to head out. I was talking to one of the brothers, and all of a sudden he started counting people. He stops everyone’s conversation and asks, “Hey guys, are we all accounted for?” Another brother replies, “Yes.” He responds, “Then who is that?” He points in the distance; we see the light of Edwin Cox swaying in the background. Without hesitation, we all rush to our vehicles and drive quickly away.
My third experience with Pactolus Light occurred when I was a brother participating in the pledge night. Several of us were stationed along the track line; we settled in our spots, alone, and waited for the pledges to arrive at our location. While I sat in my spot, I had the chance to let my eyes adjust and listened to all of the night time sounds. It was….eerily quiet. Then about 10 feet to the right of me, I heard footsteps run across the track line, perpendicular to the path. The closest brother was about 200 feet away. I knew I was alone. I knew what I heard could not have been a brother. And yes, they were definitely footsteps of a person: a heavy, two-footed rhythm. I called out, “Hello?” No response. “Hello??” No response.
I freaked out a little and began making my way back to the entrance of the path. The brother that was 200 feet away stops me and asks what I was doing. I told him what I heard and asked if any of the brothers were out my way.
“No one has come by here.”
I told myself that I was just imagining it so I could get through the night, even though I knew exactly what I heard. 20 years later, I do not falter on my belief on what I heard.
Paranormal or Not?
Is this paranormal? Technically, no. There are logical explanations for each of these incidents. This could have been brothers playing a part in the night that we were not aware of: some deep-seated tradition that only a few brothers were privy to. The footsteps could have been further away and the sound could have bounced off the trees to make it sound closer; a natural ventriloquist, if you will.
But paranormal or not, this experience was real to me.