Search This Blog

Friday, October 9, 2020

Mystery: The Flannan Isles Lighthouse


This story is dedicated to my friend Jif. Thank you for being so supportive.

Lighthouses: they can tell you a thousand stories from the outside. Within their interiors, the number increases a thousandfold. They’re simplistic demeanor and lonesome, desolate atmosphere is a brilliant masquerade put on by the even more simplistic architectural structure. In simpler terms: lighthouses are unique. For something that ends up being a home for a man to help bring seafaring men and women back to shore, they end up telling you more stories than a war veteran can. Whether that be due to the isolatory nature (which is a case of depression waiting to happen) of them or because of sick sailors arriving back at shore to seek treatment.

Lighthouses also typically become secondary homes for their keepers; this in turn leads to them becoming haunted beyond belief. Big Bay Lighthouse and St. Augustine’s Lighthouse are two that come to mind when one thinks of a haunted cigarette-building (at least here in the United States). Though the haunted variety of these buildings will have to wait until December. For now, I want to shift the focus onto something a lot more unique.

As stated earlier: lighthouses are a case of depression waiting to happen and this is by no means hyperbole. They are, through and through, something that can drive a man insane. You needn’t look further than watching 2019’s The Lighthouse to feel like you’re going mad—especially if you thought that Robert “Battinson” Pattinson couldn’t act. Though really, can you blame anyone? Isolation from human contact—or being stuck in a building with other people you loathe—is bound to drive someone to lose their mind. So what do you do? Well, some may say you’d kill the people you don’t like, throw them to the waves, and then pretend that they “fell into the ocean”. Others may suggest you quit. Then some may say you jump into the ocean and become an ocean man.

Unlike most other times on this blog, that question is not something I will discard because it serves as a segway into another topic entirely. Rather, that question is part of today’s story through and through. The Flannan Isles Lighthouse is notorious for a great many reasons. Known as the location where three lighthouse keepers vanished, this guiding light for many a sailor was the inspiration for the aforementioned film The Lighthouse and conjures numerous images of lonesomeness and silence. So let us take a trip to over a century ago and seek out the truth to one of the world’s most maddening unsolved disappearance cases.

The Story

The first thing I would like to go over is that this story is, bizarrely, on the conspiracy iceberg. Why this is exactly, I’m sadly not entirely sure as my attempts to find anything ended up being all for naught. With that said, I believe there are a fair number of theories that I think explain it. Though for now, I want to stress that, while this write-up contains the conspiracy and conspiracy iceberg tags, I won’t be discussing those angles in this section whatsoever. With that out of the way, let’s really begin.

Our three main players in this story are Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald Macarthur. For the sake of simplicity though, I will be referring to them as the lighthouse keepers or simply the keepers. When necessary, I’ll use their real names, but I think to merge them into one entity will make this a lot easier to read.

Now then the story (gee, took a bit to get here). Located at the highest point of Eilean Mòr, the Flannan Isles Lighthouse story begins on December 15, 1900. It was on this day that a steamer vessel by the name of Archtor had been on a voyage from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Leith, which is near Edinburgh, Scotland. Insert Braveheart reference here. 

Well, the Archtor went on to note that, in spite of some less-than desirable weather, the lighthouse’s light wasn’t on. This was later reported to the Northern Lighthouse Board given, you know, bad weather generally calls for a lighthouse to have its light on. If you’re by some chance not familiar with why this is a bad idea (I know for a fact that some of my readers tend to be on the younger side as unsolved mysteries seem to be a magnet for young teens): a lighthouse acts as a guiding light to sailors. When the weather is bad and/or visibility is low, the light from one helps sailors to know when land is near. It’s very possible that the Archtor could have run aground and destroyed the vessel. That’s but one of a few possibilities though and I don’t wish to linger here for too long, so let’s move on.

Five days later, on December 20th, the vessel known as the Hesperus was set to arrive at Eilean Mòr to assist the trio; I should have mentioned earlier, but there was a fourth man who had been rotating in and out of the lighthouse periodically, but I’ve never found out what his name is and as such, I don’t think his presence is that important as he never vanished. Anyways, the Hesperus was unable to make it to the lighthouse until December 26 thanks to, once again, bad weather. Keep this note of bad weather in mind, by the way, it’s important for much later.

Moving on, the crew of the Hesperus rolled for initiation and scored a 20 on perception. This allowed them to realize that there wasn’t something right when they finally docked. None of the keepers were there to greet them. Adding to the peculiarities was that none of the provision boxes had been prepared for loading, nor was the flag flying on its flagstaff.

In an effort to perhaps try and get the attention of the keepers, Jim Harvile—the captain of the Hesperus—blew the ship’s whistle. Alas, he got no response. After this, Plan B was activated in defiance of standard protocol of The A-Team and a flare was launched.

Still, there was no response.

It was at this time that, if you’re to go by the standard telling of this story, Captain Harvile sensed that something was wrong. I don’t know why, but the idea that it’s only at this point that one could sense something was wrong when you don’t get a response from a ship’s whistle being blown. While I’m no sailor, I imagine those things are pretty loud. I mean, the ocean alone is by no means silent, so one would imagine that thing would be ear-splitting. As a side note, I live a fair distance from where train tracks are and I can hear the train’s whistle, even if I blast Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” at max volume. My point is: stop saying that he only detected something was wrong after the flare. That’s nonsense. He likely sensed something was wrong when nobody greeted his ship and her crew.

Moving on, Captain Harvile opted to have one of his ship’s relief keepers—a man by the name of Joseph Moore—take a boat over to the lighthouse to check out what exactly was going on. It was here that Moore would discover a sight most unsettling and perplexing.

For starters: the gates were shut. Upon getting through this obstacle, Moore found that the door was locked. After getting through this and gaining a two star wanted level, he discovered that the keepers were nowhere to be found. There was, however, a chair that had been overturned by the kitchen table and beds that were unmade. Such a level of unkemptness would’ve made the queen weep. Wait, this is Scotland.

My heretical comments aside, that wasn’t the only peculiarity within the confines of the lighthouse. The clock had also stopped—something that strikes me as far more bizarre than anything else in this story, but I digress. Moore immediately went back to the Hesperus and conveyed what he’d found. A report was immediately filed, but not before two of the ship’s crew volunteered to stay on the island in order to aid the investigation.

It was during this investigation that even more oddities would be found. For starters, the lamps had all been cleaned and refilled. A rock weighing a ton had also been moved, but that’s a detail that I’ve never found much of anything on and it’s possible it was merely dislodged during a storm.

Oh yeah, a storm. Well, golly, I should get to this detail because the inconsistencies here are flabbergasted. You see, while Moore was snooping around the lighthouse, he came across the journal entries (or logs, whatever you wish to call them). All of these were penned by Thomas Marshall as a little side note.

Dec. 12: Gale, north by north-west. Sea lashed to fury.

Stormbound 9pm. Never seen such a storm. Everything shipshape. Ducat irritable.

12pm. Storm still raging. Wind steady.Stormbound. Cannot go out. Ship passed sounding foghorn. Could see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. McArthur crying.

Dec. 13: Storm continued through night.Wind shifted west by north. Ducat quiet. McArthur praying

12 noon. Grey daylight. Me, Ducat, and McArthur prayed.

Dec. 15: 1pm. Storm ended. Sea calm. God isover all.

Strange, right? I mean, these men were seasoned lighthouse keepers and no storms were reported on any of these days. Sure, there was some bad weather, but that doesn’t immediately equate to a storm.

Or does it?

Truth is: I have no idea. Some sources say there were storms that battered the area while others say no such storms were recorded in the time between December 12 and December 15. Others claim that some did on the 15th and after December 21. I have absolutely no idea what the truth is, but the most contemporary accounts of the Flannan Isles story is that, no, there were no storms around the time. As for the aforementioned rock, I stand by it probably being dislodged.

So getting back on track, one question remains:  what exactly happened here? Well, that’s something I’d like to address.

You see, an investigation was launched by Mike Dash for the Fortean Times which revealed that the final entry made on December 15 was, in fact, fake. Though if you go by Wikipedia’s citation of this, then it reads like all of them are fake. Never change, Wikipedia. Anyways, if you want to read the entire citation, click here. It’s a PDF file, but the entry itself is very early on. Now whether or not this is 100% true or not, I don’t know. This is the one and only place I’ve ever heard anyone ever state that any of the logs were fake, but I feel it’s necessary to at least make a note of it because it struck me as quite interesting.

One final detail I would like to make note of are the oil-skins in the lighthouse. Despite the keepers having vanished, none of the keepers took them to remain warm. This has generally been agreed upon as a sign that the men all left in a hurry without a second thought. Certainly odd for seasoned veterans, but I guess we all act irrationally at times like that.

And with that, the story of the infamous Flannan Isles Lighthouse disappearance comes to an end. A little under 120 years and the fate of the three keepers remains as mysterious as ever. Personally, I think it’s a great story that’s atmospheric and worthy of its recognition. Though what’s the truth behind it? Well, let’s just jump into the theories because there are a fair number that we must go over.


1. Aliens

Starting things off, I want to go over the two theories that I believe lead to this story being on the conspiracy iceberg. The first is that the keepers were abducted by aliens—because when in doubt, ET phoned home so he could probe your anus—or go onto Omegle and use you as a puppet to try and get some poor woman to strip nude.

What? I can be edgy too.

Ahem, anyways: given that there was next to sign of a struggle inside the lighthouse and there wasn’t a single trace to be found of the men, one can easily point to aliens having abducted them and used them for some twisted experiment. One can also pass off the terrible storm that was said to have taken place as the fury of a large UFO being nearby or over the lighthouse as the aliens tormented them. Exactly why the aliens would do this isn’t clear—it never has been. Some speculate it’s to demoralize them or break them to where they won’t resist. Others say that the aliens are just demented and love to inflict pain of any sort onto their victims. Whatever the case may be, the thing that’s the most clear in the theory is that the aliens took the men away and never returned them.

However, on the flip side, UFOs are said to be very quiet and seldom make any noticeable noise. The description also doesn’t really fit that of an alien spacecraft. There wasn’t any talk of terrifyingly bright lights or any sort of intrusion from any sort of beings. It was merely a storm of terrible proportions and then it suddenly ended. So exactly what was described would have to be one heck of a UFO if it were to cause that level of chaos. This was some Roland Emmerich level stuff and Jeff Goldblum wasn’t around to save us with a Trojan Horse virus.

With that said, it’s worth mentioning that, naturally, this is but a theory and given that it involves aliens, one can’t really prove or disprove it without first cementing that extraterrestrials exist. So if you want to debate this theory in any meaningful capacity, you’d have to unfortunately cement the existence—or lack thereof—of our grey, cosmic friends.

2. They slipped into another dimension

The second theory that is the one that I’m almost certain is the reason the Flannan Isles story is on the conspiracy iceberg. While aliens are certainly a possibility, the idea that the lighthouse keepers ended up in another dimension or universe screams “conspiracy iceberg”. When you look at stories like the Man From Taured, Jophar Vorin of Laxaria, Doveland, Wisconsin, Langville, Montana, and Urkhammer, Iowa.

With this theory, the lighthouse keepers ended up falling prey to our universe/dimension/reality/peanut butter sandwich overlapping with another one. A hole in reality or something akin to that ended up taking them into that universe and in the process, they experienced some sort of ripple in reality that was similar in fashion to a horrific storm that likely lasted only a few seconds, but felt like an eternity. When all was said and done, they ended up in that reality, but the journal was left behind and served as documentation of the event. Alas, the keepers were trapped in that universe, never to return.

So is there any proof of this? Well, some say that there is proof of other universes, but the governments of the world are covering it up because reasons (I genuinely don’t know why, so if anyone can fill me in on this, do tell me). If I had to hazard a guess, I would assume it’s due to the instability of traveling to them, whether due to someone meeting themselves or the risks of becoming trapped or outright killed while in the process of traveling to said alternate universe. Whatever the case may be, the theory is as simple as three men becoming trapped in another reality.

On one final note: stories like this aren’t too uncommon, but they’re often nonsensical works of fiction. In spite of that, a lot of people are adamant that some folks have either visited alternate realities or have outright become trapped there. I’m sure you can find a few stories if you search for them on Bing; Google sure as heck won’t index them. Sorry, Google. Bing is my new best friend.

3. They went mad and were swept away

Like being swept off your feet when you meet someone you fall in love with, this theory posits that the keepers were swept away by the ferocious sea and drowned. Glub glub, bubbles, death.

How the theory goes varies depending on who you ask, though the version I’m the most familiar with is that one of the keepers went outside when a wave struck and took the man out to sea. The other two keepers rushed to try and save him, but were ultimately met with an untimely, watery grave.

A tragic tale, this theory is arguably the most depressing, but the most popular too. Though is there anything to back it up? Well, to some degree yes. Most signs point to the men disappearing outside of the lighthouse itself (which is to say: no struggle—if there was one—took place inside). Also, given the proximity to the sea (which is rather obvious given it’s a lighthouse), there’s always the danger of a large wave striking and dragging someone out to sea.

So case close, right? Well, not quite. There’s one more theory we must go over and it’s quite peculiar. So enough dilly-dallying, let’s move on.

4. Murder

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me thrice, I’m burying you in Atlantis.

The fourth theory is that the keepers vanished thanks to a murder. One of them snapped, whether it be due to a dispute or something, and murdered the others (or murdered one and the other as they attempted to intervene). To dispose of the bodies, the killer would have likely dumped them into the ocean in the dead of night before cleaning up the crime scene to the best of their ability. As for the murderer himself, one can only assume that he either committed suicide afterwards or fled into the night, never to be seen or heard from again.

Now what’s the likelihood of such a scenario happening? Well, crazier things have happened—we needn’t look further than me not being ridiculed for writing. Okay, poor jokes aside, this theory is more speculative. While most would undoubtedly say the keepers were swept away by the fury of the ocean, I would argue that it’s very much possible that a serious dispute broke out in the lighthouse and tensions boiled over into physical aggression. Such events have happened before (albeit outside of a lighthouse) and they’ll continue to happen as humans are complex creatures.

The best piece of evidence for this theory, however, comes in the form of William MacArthur’s personality. He was supposedly known for being a “volatile character”. Because of this, the main idea here is that a fight broke out near or on the edge of the cliff and during it, all three men ended up falling into the sea where they died. I know, real shocker.

On the other hand: it’s also possible that this wasn’t a deliberately act of murder, but more accidential; a case of manslaughter. A brawl could have broken out and two of them could have been beaten and ultimately died. This may have also led the unfortunate culprit to commit suicide out of shame and guilt. Though that’s more speculatory on my part.

5. A sea serpent

Sssserpentine vengeance rises from the water to consume you whole!

These next four theories were referenced on a website called ufoinsight. The murder theory was also mentioned there, but given I had heard it outside of the website, I’m excluding it from this group.

Now, as a major disclaimer: I did what I could to find information on them, but I ultimately had to go off of my own educated guessing. It doesn’t take a whole lot to really make heads or tails of what the theories likely entailed though, so do keep that in mind as you read them.

This theory is extremely simplistic: the three men were devoured by a sea serpent. Presumably, the thunderous presence of the serpent was what caused the supposed “storm” that was recorded in the journal and when they went to check on what was going on, they were devoured by something from the darkest depths of the ocean.

In simpler terms; om nom nom, here’s Julia! That’s all she wrote, next!

6. A giant bird

Squawk! Polly wants your innards!

The sixth theory posits that a giant bird—perhaps a thunderbird, pterodactyl, or roc—decided that the keepers were violating the law of eminent domain and taught them a lesson by eating them and flew back to its nest to feed its young their heads. Chomp chomp, next theory.

7. Spies, Spies, SPIES!

I spy with my little eye three dead men, James Cameron filming Avatar 2, and a Rammstein album.

This theory is easily the most interesting and yet, I unfortunately couldn’t find jack squat on it. As ufoinsight states: there were rumors and conspiracies that the three lighthouse keepers were either killed by spies (from where, I don’t know) or were spies themselves. Exactly what they were going to find at this one lighthouse, I don’t know. Maybe timetables for ships that were meant to come in? Again, I don’t know, so I’m inclined to doubt this theory heavily, but I’d be damned if I didn’t make note of it.

As a side note: I don’t think this theory is one that puts it on the conspiracy iceberg as I cannot find anything on it. Though if you want, you’re always free to believe such a thing. Not like I can do anything about it.

8. A ghost ship

A pirate’s life is the life for me. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.

The eighth and final theory is that a ghost ship arrived at the isle and the three keepers were either forced—or were foolish enough—to board it. From there, they were damned to an eternity to sail the ocean as slaves or prisoners to this terrible ship and her crew. At least, this is what I assume was what happened. Stories like this aren’t entirely uncommon; just read last year’s Decemystery entry on the Phantom Fleet of the Great Lakes. Beyond that, there’s little more to this theory. So let’s move onto my personal take on this crazy mystery!

My Take

I love this story a great deal. It’s creepy, atmospheric, and intriguing. It’s one of the few very well-known stories that I believe has rightfully earned its reputation as being one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In the way of aliens: I’m not convinced that ET decided to go ahead and probe the lighthouse keepers. It feels like it would be a waste of time to pick three folks up and then take them on an intergalactic journey before either killing them or using them as guinea pigs. At the same time, given the popular lore of Greys being sadistic monsters, I don’t want to rule out the possibility given the possible backlash I’d get from the UFOlogy community (fight me, I don’t like upsetting people).

As for an interdimensional journey of the “we’re never coming back, bros” kind, I’m exceedingly doubtful. While I think it’s very much possible that there are other universes, I’m doubtful that our three intrepid lighthouse keeper friends were the victims over a trans dimensional trip. Does that make it impossible? Probably not—weird as it may be to say that. I think it’s more plausible than aliens though, so make of that what you will.

The theory of murder is honestly one that I think is possible—certainly more possible than the other two. While I’m skeptical of such a thing being likely given the lack of any signs of a struggle, I would still hazard a guess and say it’s probable. I mean, c’mon, it’s more likely than aliens coming down, yeeting them aboard their craft, probing their orifices alongside the local female population of Finland, and then ejecting them into the vacuum of space as they party it up with a group of acapella singers they got from the southern United States.

The theories of a sea serpent or giant bird are both laughable in my eyes. While I believe such creatures exist, I’m extremely doubtful that anything like this would leave no trace. What, no rocks were displaced? No drops of blood? Nothing? If that’s what happened, then Shangri-La is also under my bed.

The theory is spies is absolute nonsense. While certainly cool, I’d sooner believe that Shangri-La is actually under my bed. With that said, I wish I could have found information on this theory beyond the one article. Alas, my efforts were fruitless and I could only find one piece of documentation on it.

Now as for the theory of a ghost ship—that’s something that I genuinely wanted to entertain, but I have no idea what ship would have taken these three men away, so I’m inclined to believe that is, in fact, tomfoolery.

So that brings me to my personal take on this. I’m firmly of the opinion our friends were swept away by the fury of the ocean and drowned out at sea. I would hazard to say that one of them was pulled out by a wave and the other two went after them and they all died. A burial at sea—though not the BioShock kind.

In my eyes: this theory is the most likely because it’s the only one that’s both the simplest and, admittedly, most likely. Though one thing remains unexplained and it’s something I cannot answer in any meaningful capacity: the journal citing a terrible storm when there wasn’t one. While yes, the weather was bad, I’ve never found anything to indicate that it was something akin to that of a hurricane. As such, the best I can personally do is believe that this was possibly caused by either a collective delusion or something else along those lines. I personally leave this one more up to you guys than anyone else.

Though yeah, that’s my theory on what happened. I know, I’m very boring when it comes to the realm of theories. Most would probably like to believe something a lot more sinister or supernatural took place, but honestly: why should it be that way? There’s nothing that points us in the direction of that and, truthfully, I think it’s more likely that everything was down-to-earth.


So in conclusion, what is there that we can learn from this story? Well, if you ask me, it’s that anything can end up on the conspiracy iceberg and that even the quaintest of buildings can house the most unusual of mysteries. So I ask you, dear reader: what do you believe the truth behind the Flannan Isles Lighthouse is? Was this a case of something supernatural, extraterrestrial, homicidal, or something tragic? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, and stay safe

No comments:

Post a Comment