Gurdon, Arkansas. Population 2212. Clark County. Destination zero… most of the time. It’s a tiny town with a small downtown, and local last names that dot the industry in the area. It’s almost like any other small town in Arkansas, except in this one, a legend lives…
In 1880, the town was established and like many small towns, had a railroad depot. Most of the locals were employed with the railroads or timber industry at the time. Gurdon flourished as best a small town could. Fast forward 50 years to 1931. Our story begins with a Missouri Pacific rail road foreman by the name of William McClain.
There are several versions of how McClain lost his head that day. Lover’s triangle, jealous husband, accidental death, coworker skirmish, or even murder and disposing of the body on the tracks. The one that has the best traction involves a long time resident of Gurdon who worked directly under McClain.
Enter Louis McBride. McClain’s wife alerted authorities that her husband did not come home from his shift from the previous night. No one could find him, nor had they seen him. Louie McBride was acting strange that day. Being that he worked under McClain, he was brought in for questioning to help find McClain. McBride immediately admitted to murdering McClain. McBride claims the he murdered McClain over seniority rights and issues with pay and hours due to the Great Depression. There are other accounts that McBride had tampered with the rail spikes in order to derail a Sunshine Special passenger train traveling from St. Louis to San Antonio. Though none of this could be proven.
McBride took the authorities to the scene to find McClain’s body. There are tales of a blood trail over a quarter mile long. McClain had been beaten in the head with a railroad spike maul and left for dead. He didn’t die right away. He tried to crawl out of the forested area but did not make it. He was found still clutching his lantern.
McBride was sentenced to death by electrocution. Despite appeals, he died strapped to the electrocution chair in Little Rock on July 8th, 1932.
Legend has it that McClain is still looking for his head today. His lantern appears as a bluish, white orb that floats in and around the forest next to the tracks. You can chase his ghost as he walks the tracks searching for his lost head…
The popularity of the Gurdon Light has caught a lot of attention. Each year paranormal investigators return to do research and see the light. Unsolved Mysteries (yes, that one) did a episode on the light. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drzj1Ij46X4
THV 11 has gotten in on the fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8CtROtk3f4
Now we at Arkansas To Do love a good adventure, and that’s what our page is all about. We think this is a perfect Halloween trip to make. Here’s how to find the light, per https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/gurdon-light
About 75 miles south of Little Rock, down Interstate 30, just east of Interstate 67, pull over at the railroad tracks, and walk down the tracks about two miles, crossing four creek bridges. Alternative: It may be difficult to find from I-67. The better way may be to get off I-30 at state road 53 and turn right on a dirt road just before where the tracks cross 53, about half-way from I-30 to down-town Gurdon. The only way to find this spot is to look for the unlabeled tracks crossing 53 on Google maps. There’s also a small pull-over on the left (if you’re coming from I-30) close to where the tracks used to cross the road (which are now invisible from 53).
(I-67 is Hwy 67, btw)
GET OUT AND EXPLORE!
The Arkansas To Do Team
– Phil and Jess