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Ep. 12 The Missing Thrupple on Eilean Mor

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers Disappearance


It was a dark December night, the year was 1900 and a small ship approached Eilean Mor, a remote island in the Flannan Islands. The island, named after St. Flannan, was rumored to be haunted since at least the 6th century. St. Flannan had planned on settling there and even built a chapel, however, shortly after the chapel’s completion, he and his followers fled the island. They claimed they were being tormented by magical beings, and after that the island remained empty. Shepherds used to bring over their sheep for grazing but they would never stay past dark for fear of the spirits believed to haunt the island. And there were also tales of a mythical race of “little people” known to the locals. The island is completely uninhabited except for the lighthouse keepers. So that definitely ups the creep factor.


The ship approaching the island was captained by James Harvey, and carried a replacement lighthouse keeper by the name of Joseph Moore. As the ship approached land, Captain Harvey was surprised not to see anyone waiting for their arrival. He blew his horn and sent up a flare, hoping to attract some attention... but there was no response.


So Joseph Moore rowed to shore and began the long walk up the cliff to the lighthouse. According to later reports he said he felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding as he climbed the stairs to the top of the lighthouse, where he found...nothing.


No one was there, but Moore could tell something was wrong. The door had been unlocked, though why they would need to keep a door on an uninhabited island locked is beyond me. Aside from the door, he noticed that 2 of the 3 coats were missing. In the kitchen he found half eaten food and an overturned chair, as if someone had gotten up in a hurry. Even more unsettling, the clocks had stopped.


There is something so unsettling about a stopped clock.


Our boy Joseph, despite knowing something had clearly gone wrong, continued to search the lighthouse. He must be a gryffindor! Unfortunately he didn’t find anything else. So he ran back to the ship to tell the Captain, who ordered a search of the islands for the missing men. But no one was to be found.


Captain Harvey immediately sent a telegram to the mainland, this is what it said


A dreadful accident has happened at Flannans. The three Keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the occasional have disappeared from the island. On our arrival there this afternoon no sign of life was to be seen on the Island.

Fired a rocket but, as no response was made, managed to land Moore, who went up to the Station but found no Keepers there. The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.

Night coming on, we could not wait to make something as to their fate. I have left Moore, MacDonald, Buoymaster and two Seamen on the island to keep the light burning until you make other arrangements. Will not return to Oban until I hear from you. I have repeated this wire to Muirhead in case you are not at home. I will remain at the telegraph office tonight until it closes, if you wish to wire me.


A few days after this telegram was sent, Robert Muirhead, the superintendent of the northern lighthouse board, set out to the island to conduct his own investigation. At first he didn’t find anything more than what had previously been found by Joseph Moore, but then he found the lighthouse’s log, and noticed some odd entries from the last few days.


December 12th

Thomas Marshall, the 2nd assistant, wrote that there were “severe winds the likes of which I have never seen before in twenty years.” He also said that James Ducat, the Principal Keeper, had been “very quiet”, and that the 3rd assistant, William McArthur, had been crying.


William McArthur was a seasoned mariner and known as kind of a tough guy, so it was weird to think that he would be crying, especially over something like a storm.


December 13th

Entries stated that the storm was still raging and that all three men had been praying. Not so odd, right? Wrong. These were 3 experienced lighthouse keepers, safely inside a brand new lighthouse that was 150 ft above sea level. In fact, the lighthouse was only a year old. There shouldn’t have been such danger from a storm that they would feel the need to pray for it to stop.


December 15th

The final entry. It was short and only said “Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.” So what the fuck does that mean?!


The log also mentioned damage to equipment, bent stairway iron railings, and displace rail tracks.


The strangest thing of all is that there were no reported storms in the area on those days. In fact, reports said that the weather was calm until December 17th. 2 days AFTER the final log entry. So what happened?


Another ship, the Archtor had also passed by on December 15th and found the lighthouse dark. Which as you know, is the opposite of what you want in a lighthouse. However, they did not report this oddity until after the fact.


Full of questions, Muirhead turned his attention to the single coat left in the lighthouse. If all 3 men had left the lighthouse, then why, in the bitter cold would one of the lighthouse keepers leave without his coat? AND why did all 3 of them leave at the same time, when rules and regulations strictly prohibited it?


Wondering what would cause them to leave the lighthouse, Muirhead went down to the landing platform for further investigation. There was usually a brown crate held 70 ft above sea level on a supply crane that held ropes, but the crate was gone and the ground strewn with ropes. So his first thought was that the crate had been dislodged by the storm and the lightkeepers were trying to retrieve it when a large wave came and washed them to sea.


This seemed to be the most likely theory, but people weren’t quite convinced. Firstly, none of the bodies had washed ashore. Surely, at least one body or some other evidence would have come ashore. Secondly, one of the men had left the lighthouse without his coat...in the middle of december...when they weren’t even all supposed to leave at the same time anyway. Thirdly, how had three experience lighthouse keepers been taken by surprise from a wave? You’d think they would know when and when not to venture near the ocean.


And lastly, the weather. As I said previously, weather reports from the time say that it was calm. There shouldn’t have been any crazy waves. And furthermore, the lighthouse was visible from the nearby Isle of Lewis, which would not have been the case if there was bad weather.


It’s also thought that two of the men went out to secure the box and the third ran out to warn them of large waves approaching, but got caught up in the waves as well. This would explain why one of them went out without their coat.


Another theory is that one of the keepers got swept up in a wave and in trying to save him the other two were swept up as well.


Those are the normal theories, but they do leave things unexplained. Such as the strange log posts.


Supposedly, MacArthur was a hothead. So it’s thought that perhaps a fight broke out near the cliff’s edge and all three men fell to their deaths and were swept up in the sea. Or, creepier still, one of the men, possibly MacArthur due to his strange behavior in the logs and leaving the lighthouse without his coat, went insane, murdered the other two, threw their bodies into the sea, and then committed suicide by jumping off the cliff


There are a lot more theories out there, each one crazier than the last. Here are some of my favorites


The men were carried off by a sea serpent (or giant seabird)

They had secretly arranged for a ship to take them away to start new lives

They had been abducted by foreign spies

They had been attacked by a boat of malevolent ghosts

They were abducted by aliens (Doctor Who did an episode on this!)

They were spirited away by the little people to the faerie realm


https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/The-Eilean-Mor-Lighthouse-Mystery/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/flannan-isle-lighthouse

https://www.ozy.com/flashback/unraveling-the-mystery-of-eilean-mor-lighthouse/90050

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flannan_Isles_Lighthouse#Speculation_and_conjecture



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