20th Century, Supernatural

The Strange Occurrence at Eilean Mór

What would a strange history blog be if it didn’t talk about the strange occurrence at Eilean Mór? It would be lacking, I tell you, LACKING, so I’m going to remedy the situation. Pour your cuppa and read on.

If you’re wondering where Eilean Mór is, and what it is, you’re probably not alone. Eilean Mór, or for the purposes of this story the LIGHTHOUSE on Eilean Mór, is located on the Flannan Isles, which are part of the Outer Hebrides. St. Flannan is said to have built a church on the isle in the 7th century, but when it was abandoned, the only human occupants were the keepers of the lighthouse on the island. The waters around the Isles are difficult to navigate at the best of times, and a 74 foot lighthouse was built to help keep sailors out of trouble. It was completed in 1899.

Eilean Mór and the Flannan Islands
Yeah, it’s WAY out there

How things worked

The lighthouse was staffed with a rotating roster of four men. They worked six weeks on/two weeks off, three at a time. A relief keeper would then arrive to begin his 6 weeks on, and the keeper who had been there the longest would return home for his two weeks off. The weather was rough, the seas were rougher, and the lighthouse, perched on a high point, was difficult to reach. It had taken four years to build, with construction often delayed by weather and impassable seas.

In December of 1900, the men who were charged with keeping the all-important light burning were James Ducat, Donald Macarthur, Thomas Marshall, and Joseph Moore.

Lighthouse keepers
Eilean Mór Lighthouse Keepers. Before three of them vanished, obvs.

What went down

Joseph Moore was enjoying his two weeks off, and was due to replace one of the keepers on December 20th; rough weather kept him ashore until December 26th. There had been a report from Captain Holman of the steamer Archtor, who passed the island on December 15th and noticed the light was out. He duly reported the outage, but it appears that his headquarters, Cosmopolitan Line Steamers, failed to notify the Northern Lighthouse Board. I guess they had more pressing matters to attend to.

At any rate, on Boxing Day 1900, Joseph Moore was carried by the steamer Hesperaus, under the capable command of Captain Jim Harvie, and arrived to relieve one of the other keepers and begin his own six week shift. What they found was – disturbing.

What they found

Their first clue that something was wrong as they arrived at the island was that there was no flag flying, and no one was waiting at the docks for them with the boxes that would be used to ferry supplies up to the keepers’ quarters. Captain Harvie blew the whistle, and even set off a flare: nothing. Not a sausage.

Joseph Moore was sent to investigate, and what he found raised a ton of questions, and zero answers. The lighthouse was unlocked. No fire burned in the hearth to ward off the damp cold. The beds were unmade, and the clocks had stopped. The light itself was out, but in working order. The keepers’ personal lamps were cleaned and ready, but they were THERE, and the keepers weren’t. In addition, only two sets of oilskins were missing; that means that if all three had gone out, one went out without any protection from the cold and wet.

The dishes were washed, the kitchen cleaned – and the men were just GONE.

It gets a little weirder

You might think that’s enough weird for the strange occurrence at Eilean Mór, but you’d be mistaken. There was more.

The keepers kept a log of their time on the lighthouse. Starting December 12th, they noted a horrible storm. I mean HORRIBLE; so bad that the log noted one, a seasoned seaman, was in tears, and another was on his knees in prayer. The last entry would be on December 15th, that the storm was over and “God was over all”. This was the same day that the lighthouse light was seen to be unlit.

But A.L., you say. The island was famous for its storms, you say, and you would be correct. The eerie thing is that no one from the nearby isles in the group noted a storm. At all. Nothing was noted until the storm that BEGAN on the 15th. It was obvious something massive had hit the island, as the rails that were used to transport items from the dock to the lighthouse were mangled, and there was other evidence of a big blow. So – what caused the strange occurrence at Eilean Mór?

Did the keepers get swept off the island? Spirited away by fairies? Kidnapped by aliens?

Your guess is as good as mine.

The lighthouse today
The lighthouse today – it’s been automated since 1971.

What I’m drinking:

Mug of the day:

For further research:

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