In the days when lighthouses were “manned” it was looked on as a solitary and lonely existence even if there were three keepers working the same lighthouse to keep the lamp in good order. One such lighthouse was located on Flannan Isle, in the Outer Hebrides off Scotland. It was built in 1899. But a year later, it would become the centre of a mystery; one that has never been fully answered.
It began on the evening of the 15th December 1900 when a passing ship, the Archtor, noticed that the light on Flannan Isle was not working. They sent a report in and a relief ship, the Hesperus, was sent to investigate. One of the crew, an experienced lighthouse keeper, went ashore and found the place deserted. There was no sign of the three-man crew. When he checked the living quarters, he found the beds were unmade, the table had been laid out ready for a meal and that one chair was overturned. The only sign of life was a caged budgie. Finally, there was a stopped clock which indicated it had not worked for a week.
A further search of the whole area revealed no real evidence of what had happened to the keepers. However, there was evidence that a huge storm had passed through about a week earlier. So, it was eventually decided that all three men had been swept away by the sea. But no bodies were ever washed up.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with this theory. The lighthouse log book was found and the last entry about a week before stated that the storm had passed through and that now the sea and weather was calm. There was no mention of any problem or loss of anyone. So, what could have happened to them?
Firstly, let’s forget the rather outlandish theories such as they were taken by a giant seabirds, demons or some other creature. Also, the idea that they were kidnapped by a foreign power makes no real sense. It has a also been put forward that all three faked their own deaths so that they could live a life free of any outstanding debts. Other theories include one of the men going mad and murdering the others before killing himself. But there is no evidence of a struggle except of the one upturned chair.
A more recent theory has emerged which says that two of the keepers went down to secure a box containing ropes and that a giant wave swept them away. It goes on to say that the third keeper went to their aid but suffered the same fate. That is probably, in my estimation, the best explanation but we will never know for sure what happened to them.