The Flannan Isles of Scotland have always been one of the most desolate places on earth. No one lives on the rocky island now that the lighthouse has been automated, but back in the 1900s, it was a temporary home to three lighthouse keepers.
Imagine living in such a dark, cold, deserted place, with only your two fellow lighthouse keepers and maybe the occasional ghost ship for company. Such a job would challenge anyone’s resolve.
And on December 15th, 1900, things got even worse.
The steamer Archtor passed the lighthouse during a terrible storm, and reported that all was dark. This was a serious dereliction of duty, as ships could be irrevocably damaged and lives lost because of such a transgression.
The three-man team responsible for the lighthouse (Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald MacArthur) were known to be conscientious. This blunder would have been out of character for them, but no action was taken until their relief keeper arrived on December 26th. Due to the storm, he was six days late.
He immediately knew something was wrong. There was no flag on the flagstaff, no supply boxes waiting to be restocked, and none of the lighthouse keepers were there to greet them.
When he went ashore, he found the entrance gate to the compound and main door were both closed. The beds were unmade, and the clock stopped. A further search revealed that the lamps had been cleaned and refilled. One of the men had left his waterproof oilskins behind, which was surprising, considering the severity of the storm.
The only sign that something untoward might have happened was an overturned chair by the kitchen table.
When the island was searched, no sign was found of the three keepers, but the west landing had been badly damaged by the storm. The men had kept a log book until 9 a.m. on December 15th, and their notes made it clear that the damage had occurred before the keepers vanished.
Leaving the lighthouse unattended was a serious breech of industry rules. That these three men would ignore this safeguard was difficult for many to accept.
Their bodies have never been found.
What happened to the Scottish lighthouse keepers? Some believe they were washed into the ocean by the storm. Others believe it was a Lord-of-the-Flies situation–that one of the men went crazy and killed the others.
And still others think it was an alien abduction or a murderous sea monster.
What do you think happened? Have you ever visited the Flannan Isles? Could you work in a lighthouse?