In December of 1900, the lighthouse keepers of Eilean Mor disappeared without a trace. When they were reported missing and then nowhere to be found, rumors started swirling among the locals. Some believed that they were taken by aliens, and others believed that fairies were involved. Many believed that something supernatural had occurred, causing their disappearance. Finally, a man named John Love stepped in. He was a naturalist and made it his mission to solve the puzzle and find out what happened to the lighthouse keepers.
You might believe that the men who disappeared and worked as a lighthouse keeper had easy jobs. Many people think that they get to sit in the lighthouse all day, staring into the horizon, reflecting on their lives. This isn’t the case at all. Working at a lighthouse is a 24/7 job. The accommodations often didn’t have electricity or plumbing, and they still don’t today. Back when the men disappeared, manning a lighthouse was like holding down a fort. They would each work a shift from 4 pm until dawn on a good day. If there were a storm, they would have to remain at their stations and watch the light until the storm passed. Uniforms were also required.
Keeping the Light On
The most important job of a lighthouse keeper is to climb the stairway to keep the light on. It would need to be filled with oil, and the clock mechanism would need to be also winded. Finally, the lens had to be clean at all times. There was a duplex attached to the lighthouse for the keepers’ families, but most families didn’t want to be stranded on the island. If they wanted more than was in the lighthouse, they would have to order it. Most lighthouse keepers were isolated all the time.
Eilean More Island
The island dates back to the 7th century. The locals believe the legend that St. Flannan build a chapel on the island where his followers could all live and worship together. This is why the seven islands around the lighthouse are called the Flannan Isles. The congregation believed in superstitions surrounding the island and believed that it was inhabited by fairies. The locals really believed in the fairies, so they would perform rituals like circling the church on their knees. Finally, everyone was tired of the fairy folk, so the saint and his congregation decided that it was time to leave. They would leave behind the church and the sheep. Fortunately, there was enough grass for the sheep to graze on.
How It All Began
It all began on December 26, 1900. A ship called the Hesperus was crossing the chilly ocean in the early morning hours. The ship’s captain, Captain James Harvey, was crossing the Atlantic to the isolated islands known as Flannan Isles. The locals of Eilean Mor referred to one of the islands as Seven Hunters, and it is located northwest of Scotland. James Moore was also on board. He was on his way to the lighthouse to relieve the lighthouse keepers who were already there. Unfortunately, the weather bad, and the men weren’t able to reach the lighthouse on schedule. They didn’t arrive until three days later. Since bad water commonly delayed lighthouse keepers, the men did panic over their tardiness.
Captain Harvey often sailed back and forth from the mainland to Eilean Mor. Whenever he arrived on the island, there would always be someone there greeting him at the dock. On this day, there was nobody there. Also, there was no flag on the pole. The captain slowly moved the ship to the dock’s landing, but still, there was nobody there. Captain Harvey was very confused, so he sent James Moore to look around. The captain assumed that because they were so late that the crew wasn’t expecting them. When Moore stepped off the ship onto the island, he got a bad feeling. He knew that something was wrong because it was too quiet. All he could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves.
Out Of Place
As more approached the lighthouse, he noticed that several things were off and out of place. First, the front gate wasn’t locked, so he went right in and called out to the crew. He got no answer, so he called again. This time, he heard only the sound of the gulls. His feelings of dread began to increase, and his palms were sweating, and his heart was racing. He walked into the mess hall and noticed that the clock had stopped. The table was set, and the plates were full of meat, potatoes, and pickles, but none of the food had been touched. He found something else troubling. He noticed that two of the three oil coats were missing from their places in the entryway. James thought that it was odd that only two of the three men would take their coats outside.
Manning the Lighthouse
The men who were marring the lighthouse were James Ducat, who was 43 years old, Thomas Marshall, who was 40 years old, and Donald McArthur, who was 28 years old. James couldn’t figure out why nobody was there. Lighthouse protocols require that at least one person man the lighthouse at all times. He knew that it wasn’t right that nobody was there. He decided to return to the ship to tell the captain what he had found. When word of their disappearance reached the mainland, the locals all had theories of what happened to the men. The logical people assumed that they had all drowned, which was not uncommon for a lighthouse keeper. Others believed that something supernatural had happened to them, and they had been taken off to another world.
An Extensive Search
Captain Harvey left the light keeper’s replacements on the island. Even though something strange had happened there, the lighthouse had to be operated. When Harvey went to the mainland, he tried to find some answers. Unfortunately, he was left with more questions than answers. When a search was launched on the island, the lighthouse logbook left everyone perplexed and worried. The keepers had written about their fears, and they wrote down their prayers regarding that frightening day.
Thomas Marshall’s Log
When the search party checked the logbook, they checked the last entry in the logbook. He wrote about the major storm that kept James and the captain from getting to the lighthouse on time. He wrote, “Severe winds, the likes of which I have never seen before in 20 years.” This led all of the men to pray. In a later entry, he mentioned that the oldest man on the crew, Ducat, remained quiet. The youngest man was brought to tears despite the fact that he had a reputation of being a hardened and experienced seafarer.
A Phantom Storm
The logbook mentioned that the men were surprised by the sudden storm. The book said that there were no reported storms in the area on December 12th, 13th, or 14th. According to Thomas’ log, everything should have been quiet up until December 17th. The final entry was written on December 15th. In it, he wrote, Storm ended, sea calm God is all over.” The search team was shocked by what was written. They weren’t sure why the men were so frightened by the storm, and if it even occurred.
The sudden disappearance of the men was odd. The Superintendent of the Commissioners of the Northern Lights, Robert Muirhead, believed that the men had died on Saturday, December 15th. He thought that the men were down by the water when a huge wave came down upon them and swept them into the ocean. All three of the men were declared dead.
Over 120 Years Later
It has been over 120 years since the men disappeared, and there has been no trace of them anywhere. If they went into the water, wouldn’t they have eventually washed up on shore? Some thought that maybe it was a homicide. Spending such long periods of time, being isolated can drive anyone mad, but if one man did kill the rest, where is he? Was it fairies? Was it aliens? Where these men went is one of the most significant unsolved mysteries. Many historians have been trying to figure out what happened to the men since for years. John Love is one of the men who have been doing their research, and he has finally come to a conclusion regarding what happened.
John believes that it wasn’t only a tragic accident that took the lives of the men. After some serious digging, John discovered that tow of the keepers had been fined for the improper storage of supplies. He believes that when the storm hit that the men went to double-check everything to avoid further punishment. If they found any equipment, tools, or supplies out of place, they could have lost their jobs. John believes that this urgency is what drew them out into the storm. John thinks that two of the men ventured into the storm with their raincoats, and were likely flushed away. He put his whole theory down on paper in his book, “A Natural History of Lighthouses.”
Ending the Superstitions
John believes that the details of the tipped chair and the abandoned meals were all made up. These rumors didn’t begin until after 1912, when English poet, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson published Flannan Isle, which mentioned these details. Love is sure that the details in the poem were made up to make it more interesting and mysterious. John is confident that it was the water that took the men into the water. John says that there was nothing sinister involved, nor did the supernatural have anything to do with the men’s disappearance. He believes that they were just swept away by the abnormally rough sea.
A Plausible Theory
Through his research, John came up with a plausible theory. On a previous occasion, Thomas Marshall was negligent, and some equipment was lost at sea during a storm. He had to pay to replace it, which cost him five shillings. When the storm hit, two of the three men grabbed their coats and went to make sure that everything was in its place. When they didn’t come back, the third man went out looking for them. He was breaking the lighthouse protocol to go out there and didn’t bother to grab his jacket because he was so worried.
John believes that Donald McArthur was the man who went out into the storm to look for the other two. When he got outside, John thinks that he was swallowed up by the sea, just like the others. He would have had no idea that his friends had already been swallowed up by the sea, so he thought that he could help out. He had no idea what fate lied ahead.
Another reason why John was so sure that this was what happened to the crew was that there were no animals on the island. When it was abandoned by the saint, and his congregation, the sheep and other animals were left behind. When crews came in to start manning the lighthouse, there was no sign of any animals anywhere.
The Legend Continues
Even though John believed he had solved the mystery and also published it in a book, the locals still believe that fairies were involved. These people don’t believe John’s findings, and they are sure that the men were taken by fairies, and taken to another world. Some believe that they may still be living in that world. John’s theory makes sense, but it is boring. The fairy theory is much more exciting and exciting. The mysterious story of how the keepers of Eilean Mor Lighthouse disappeared is not possible, but the locals strongly believe it.