On December 26, 1990, three lighthouse keepers from the largest of the Scottish Flannan Islands disappeared without a trace. A bizarre log entry was found as a result of the inquiry that ultimately brought in more mystery than clarification.
When a supply ship reached the shores of Flannan Islands to deliver goods and personnel, nothing but a desolate lighthouse was found where three lighthouse keepers were supposed to be staying guard. Captain James Harvey, who was in charge of the supply ship blew his horn repeatedly upon reaching Eilean Mor, but there was no living soul to greet his call. At that point, the alarm bell was triggered as Captain Thomas Marshall who was in charge of the lighthouse was nowhere to be seen, and neither were his other two subordinates, James Ducat and Donald McArthur.
The ship’s crew set foot to investigate, but there was nothing unusual inside the lighthouse except for two missing oilskins – the protective clothing used by the lighthouse keepers. At first sight, there was nothing more out of the ordinary; the oil lamps were waiting to be lit and ashes inside the fireplace.
One set of clothing was found intact near the table. It belonged to Donald McArthur and the fact that it was left there was not only unusual but also against the law, as the Northern Lighthouse Board ruled that someone must stay inside the lighthouse at all times. So why would three seasoned lighthouse keepers go against the rules? And most importantly, where and why they’ve disappeared?
After this quick inquiry, Captain James Harvey sent a telegram to the mainland that was forwarded to the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters in Edinburgh. The telegram stated the following:
“A dreadful accident has happened at Flannans. The three Keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the occasional have disappeared from the island. On our arrival there this afternoon no sign of life was to be seen on the island. Fired a rocket but, as no response was made, managed to land Moore, who went up to the Station but found no Keepers there. The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.
Night coming on, we could not wait to make something as to their fate.
I have lfet Moore, MacDonald, Buoymaster and two seamen on the island to keep the light burning until you make other arrangements. Will not return to Oban until I hear from you. I have repeated this wire to Muirhead in case you are not at home. I will remain at the telegraph office tonight until it closes, if you wish to wire me.“
After a few days, Robert Muirhead, the board’s supernatant who personally knew the three missing men, departed for the island hoping to shed light into this case. He found nothing unusual after arriving but, after a closer examination of the lighthouse’s log, he discovered something truly bizarre.
The Mystery Unfolds:
On the 12st of December, Thomas Marshall who was the second assistant, wrote of ‘severe winds the likes of which I have never seen before in twenty years.’ Also mentioned in the log was the peculiar behavior of James Ducat, the Principal Keeper, who seemed ‘very quiet’ the last couple of days and William McArthur who had been surprised crying. The odd thing about it was that McArthur was a reputed mariner known on the Scottish mainland as a sturdy fighter, so why would a regular storm squeeze the tears out of him?
Further on, the log entries revealed that the storm was still going on 13th of December, and all three men started praying for it to stop. Why would three seasoned lighthouse keepers be praying for a storm to end when they were sitting safely in their newly built lighthouse, some 150 feet above sea level?
Robert Muirhead soon realized that there were no storms reported in the area on 12th, 13th and 14th of December. Even more, the weather was serene, and the storms that were to trouble the island didn’t hit until December 17th. There was something really bizarre going on and at the same time terrifying.
December 15 was the last date from the entry log and all that it read was ‘Storm ended, see calm. God is over all.’ The details gathered from the island only helped the investigators speculate on what could had been the cause of death (or disappearance) of the three lighthouse keepers. They concluded that two of the men were swallowed by the waves, and when Donald McArthur responded to their desperate call for help, the storm claimed his life as well. However, this hypothesis wasn’t enough to convince the board of the Northern Lighthouse, and is probably not enough to convince us either…
How come none of the bodies washed ashore somewhere? And what was that last log entry all about?
In the years that followed, lighthouse keepers at Eilean Mor subsequently reported strange voices in the wind, and some have ventured as far as stating that the howling wind was sometimes whispering the voices of the three dead men. There have been many speculations regarding this case and we can also interpret it in many ways, but only one thing remains certain – the disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers remains unsolved, and it continues to baffle researchers even today.