Local legends and superstition claim the island has a long history of being connected to the world of the supernatural.
An Eerie Reputation
Eilean Mor has for centuries had an eerie reputation, for people living on the nearby larger island of Lewis would tell tales of a group of "little people" whom resided there, said to possess strange magical powers. It was also said to be the home of giant birds, and islanders travelling to Eilean Mor were said to use a strange dialect to communicate with the beings living there, and obeyed rules and laws in their dealings with them.
It is claimed that many since the disappearances have sighted both these strange beings and the birds, but most, if not all, of them also vanish. What these "beings" are is not known, although many believe they are either aliens or "Fey" folk, fairies, pixies, elves etc. It is said that they don't ever willingly allow themselves to be seen, and are wary of humans.
The Mystery Begins
A year after its beacon begun flashing to help light the way for passing ships it was the scene for a mystery to unfold, as three men situated at the lighthouse near Christmas 1900 were discovered missing. The light usually flashed twice every 30 seconds, and on the night of the 15th of December 1900 a passing American steamer heading to Edinburgh noticed the light was not flashing,and upon arriving 3 days later reported the mystery to port authorities. For some reason, however, the report was not given to the Northern Lighthouse Board, the public authority responsible for all of the lighthouses in the islands.
A man responsible for watching the light from the mainland also failed to report any disruption in the lights repetition.
The men who regularly resided and worked on the island all undertook two week shifts, and it was their jobs to not only maintain the lighthouse and polish its lenses every day, but also maintain their living quarters. It was a lonely existence on an isolated island, with no radio communication to the nearby islands. Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur were the three men on shift in late December 1900.
Thinking the men may be in the kitchen area, he found a clock that had stopped, a meal that had been half consumed and an overturned chair, suggesting perhaps someone had left in a hurry. None of the beds were made, and after making contact with the relief vessel, Moore and two other men further inspected the lighthouse. Lamps were clean and had been re-filled, a set of oilskins were found and a half-starved canary was the only sign of life discovered. The oilskins indicated that one of the men had been outside without them, which was unusual given the recent weather.
Moore and three sailors were left to man the lighthouse, and they searched all over the island, finding no trace of the missing keepers or clues to their fates. The last entry into the lighthouse log was made on the morning of the 15th December and indicated nothing out of the ordinary.
A few days after the discovery the Northern Lighthouse Board launched an investigation, and found rope strewn about on crevices and rocks below, a wooden box that they were contained in was missing. Iron railings around the landing area were bent and twisted and a large block of stone had been displaced from the cliff face and had smashed all over the landing area also. It had weighed at least a ton.
It was concluded that the three men had left the lighthouse together, disregarding rules stating that the three were never to be outside in a group, possibly to secure the missing box that had been "threatened" by bad weather. While working, they had become victims of a freak wave and had been swept out to sea, perishing in the Atlantic waters. However, many were not convinced with this "easy" conclusion and many felt questions still remained.
What Happened to These Men?
It's long been speculated that perhaps one of the men went insane and killed his two colleagues and then threw their bodies, and himself,into the sea. It has also been speculated that perhaps a ship moored there and a crew member killed all the men for some reason and took the bodies. The official and rational explanation made by the Lighthouse Board of Edinburgh seems to fit, and is perhaps what happened to the men, but why were their bodies not washed ashore as was usually the case in these waters?
Allegedly Moore, when he arrived at the isle, saw three strange, large black birds watching him from a rock as he came ashore. The birds were observed after taking off diving into the sea, inspiring a poet in 1912 to write a epic poem which speculates a supernatural force took the men and turned them into sea birds.
The mystery has inspired an opera,and has been the subject of books and articles, and even songs by popular artists and bands such as Genesis.
The Flannan Isles have been free of residential communities since the early 1970's, when the lighthouse became automated. A concrete helipad was built soon after, enabling maintenance in bad weather. It is very unlikely that we will ever know for sure what happened to the three lighthouse keepers stationed at Eilean Mor in late 1900, but one thing is for sure - these men who probably had no intentions or aspirations of being famous and being known world-wide now are, but for all the wrong reasons.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2014