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Isle of the Damned: Lighthouse keepers disappeared without a trace, leaving strange entries



In December 1900, three lighthouse keepers - Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald MacArthur - went missing on Eileen More Island off the west coast of Scotland. The mysterious circumstances of their disappearance gave rise to the most fantastic speculations: there were rumors about ghosts and sea monsters. And although the stories of local old-timers were never taken seriously, none of the versions proposed during the investigation could shed light on what happened, says

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Mysterious Eileen Mor

The lighthouse on the rocky islet of Eileen Mor near the highest point of the Flannan Archipelago, also known as the "Seven Hunters", was built in 1899 - just a year before the tragedy that brought the place to notoriety. The last half century - since the early 1970s, when the lighthouse was automated - the island has been considered uninhabited.

However, Eileen Mor was never really inhabited. Apart from the lighthouse and sharp rocks, the island has only an ancient chapel. It is believed to have been erected in the XNUMXth century by the Irish Bishop Flannan, who was later canonized. According to legend, Flannan, in whose honor the archipelago got its name, was a hermit and for some time preached in these parts.

It is not surprising that Eileen Mor has caused awe among pilgrims and visitors to the island since time immemorial. Bizarre superstitions and strange rituals became a tradition here: for example, it was believed that arriving on the island should walk around the chapel on his knees - perhaps in order to appease the spirits who lived here. Many of those who have visited the island told about the special mystical atmosphere of this secluded place.

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Generations of local shepherds have brought sheep here to graze for centuries, but never stayed overnight. They called Eileen More "another country", implying that this place is associated with the paranormal

After the lighthouse was completed, the first rangers arrived on Eileen Mor. There were four of them: Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, Joseph Moore and Donald MacArthur. Three of them were supposed to keep watch at the lighthouse, alternately replacing each other. Once every two weeks, a supply ship came to Eileen Mor, their only link with the outside world.

In early December 1900, Joseph Moore took a two-week vacation. Since he was on the mainland at the time of the mysterious incident at the lighthouse, only he was lucky to stay alive.

Without a trace

The first oddities on Eileen Mor were reported by the crew of the ship "Arkhtor", which arrived at the port of Lit. On December 15, 1900, when the ship passed by the island, the fire in the lighthouse was no longer burning. This was recorded in the logbook.

A few days later, a ship with Joseph Moore was to leave for Eileen More, but due to bad weather, the departure had to be postponed for a week. When Moore finally came down to the rocky shore of the island, none of the caretakers came out to meet him. The necessary preparations had not been made at the dock before the arrival of the ship; no flag was raised on the flagpole.

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Suspecting something was wrong, Moore was the first of the arriving team to climb the steep rocky slope to the lighthouse. Later he admitted that already at that moment he was experiencing overwhelming fear and anticipated trouble. Two days later, he described his impressions:

“When I approached the gate, I found it locked. I headed for the front door to the kitchen and pantry, but it was also locked, like the one behind it. But the kitchen door itself was open. When I entered, I noticed the hearth, which had gone out a few days ago. I managed to enter the living rooms, where I saw empty beds, as if the caretakers had left them early in the morning. I didn't waste any more time. It was obvious that something serious had happened. ”

It seemed that the incident took the three men by surprise. On the table in the kitchen were plates of meat, potatoes, and cucumbers. The dinner was half-eaten, and one of the chairs was overturned, as if one of the caretakers overturned it in a hurry. Although it was forbidden to leave the lighthouse unattended, something forced them to leave their post.

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This guess is confirmed by the fact that at the entrance one of the three cloaks remained hanging. Something out of the ordinary had to happen for the experienced caretaker to forget the outerwear in mid-December. But in this case, it is not clear why, with such a rush, they found time to tightly close the front door and gate behind them.

After Moore returned to the others with the report, the ship's captain James Harvey and his crew searched the coast - however, to no avail. It turned out that Marshall, Ducat and MacArthur literally disappeared, leaving no trace. That evening, the captain sailed from the island and from the nearest telegraph station sent a telegram to the control center of the lighthouses of Scotland.

“A terrible disaster has taken place on Flannan. Three caretakers, Dukat, Marshall and the temporary, disappeared from the island. We arrived there this afternoon and found no signs of life on the island.

Launched a flare and, since there was no response, dropped Moore ashore. He went up to the lighthouse, but found no caretakers there. Judging by the stopped clock and other signs, something happened about a week ago. The poor fellows must have been washed off the cliff, or they drowned while the faucet was being repaired, or something like that.

The night is coming. We cannot stay and continue the proceedings, but we will return tomorrow morning and try to find out something about their fate. I left Moore, McDonald, a buoykeeper and two sailors on the island to keep the lighthouse on fire until you give further instructions, ”the telegram said.

One of the first versions of what happened was Captain Harvey's assumption that the rangers could be washed into the sea from the dock or from a high cliff. Although none of the bodies washed ashore, it is still considered the most plausible. True, this explanation does not answer the main question: why did all three men have to leave the lighthouse almost simultaneously, while one of them was in such a hurry that he did not bother to put on a raincoat?

Strange entries

A few days later, Robert Moorehead from the lighthouse department arrived at Eileen More for a detailed investigation. He was familiar with the missing and personally approved Marshall, Dukat and MacArthur as caretakers.

After checking the testimony of Joseph Moore and Captain James Harvey, Moorehead consulted the logbook kept by the keepers. In it, they reported on the performance of work at the lighthouse and described changes in their physical and mental state.

Moorehead immediately noticed how much the latest entries in the journal differed from the previous ones. So, judging by the contradictory notes from December 12, which were left by the second assistant Thomas Marshall, the chief caretaker James Dukat was very quiet, and the seasoned sailor Donald MacArthur was crying at all.

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Marshall also mentioned “strong winds, the likes of which he does not remember in the last twenty years,” although no storms were recorded in the region on December 12, 13 and 14. According to reports, there was only one strong storm near Eileen Mor, and it occurred on December 17, that is, several days after the tragedy. If a natural disaster had really struck the lighthouse, it would have been noticed from the neighboring island, which was located nearby.

However, the December 13 entry stated that the unprecedented winds did not subside for two consecutive days. All three men prayed for an end to the storm, although none of them was religious before arriving at Eileen Mor. They could wait out the bad weather in a strong lighthouse located at the highest point of the archipelago, but for some reason they were scared like small children.

The last succinct entry, dated December 15th, read:

“The storm has died down, the sea is calm. The Lord is over all things. "

After reviewing the logbook, the questions only increased. Moorehead now doubted the veracity of the information he had read and the sanity of Marshall, Ducat, and MacArthur. Could it be the insanity of the caretakers that caused the tragedy? Perhaps one of them killed his comrades and threw their bodies into the water, after which he committed suicide.

In the official report, Moorehead nevertheless included the version previously proposed by Captain Harvey - that three unfortunates were washed into the sea. One piece of evidence was new evidence found at the dock: pieces of rope that were supposed to be stored in a crate near a supply crane on a cliff 30 meters above the dock. Although this explanation did not fully convince the Scottish lighthouse management, it was the only realistic version of what happened.


Thanks to the attention of the press, the tragic story of the disappearance of the lighthouse keepers quickly received a public outcry and just as quickly began to grow overgrown with all kinds of speculation.

The frankly conspiracy theories related to the interventions of foreign states, contacts with extraterrestrial intelligence or the abduction by the race of stunted people, allegedly inhabiting local cliffs from ancient times, were not long in coming. Perhaps because of these rumors, the following keepers of the lighthouse on Eileen Mor Island repeatedly reported strange voices that seemed to them in the howling of the wind, calling the names of the missing men.

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Interest in this mysterious story has not waned to this day. In 2019, the movie “Disappearance” with Gerard Butler, which takes place on the island of Eileen Mor, was released; it is also worth mentioning the recent chamber thriller directed by Robert Eggers with the telling name "The Lighthouse" with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.

Both tapes, in one way or another, quote what happened on the island. As for the truth, it is now impossible to say for sure what actually happened in December 1900 at Eileen More. The only thing that raises no doubts is that the memory of this tragedy will continue to excite the minds of lovers of mysticism and mysteries.

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