10 Abandoned Lighthouses With Strange & Tragic Histories

8. Flannan Island Lighthouse, Scotland

flannan-isles-lighthouse (Image: Chris Downer, cc-sa-4.0)

Located off the coast of Scotland, the Flannan Island lighthouse warned passing ships of the presence of seven rocky, uninhabited islands called the Seven Hunters. Near the lighthouse stands a handful of ruins, thought to be the remains of an ancient chapel and house. First manned in 1899, it wasn’t long before tragedy struck the small, remote island.

Roderick MacKenzie, a gamekeeper on the mainland, was hired to keep watch for the light in the lighthouse, making sure that all was well. There was no radio communication between the lighthouse and the mainland, after all, and even MacKenzie’s warning would need to be sent to Edinburgh by telegram. On December 15, 1900, the Flannan Island lighthouse remained dark.

flannan-isles-lighthouse-railway (Image: Chris Downer, cc-sa-4.0)

The lighthouse was manned by three people – James Ducat, Thomas Marshall and Donal Macarthur. A passing ship also reported that there was no light visible, and when it was investigated, the scene was an eerie one.

The table was set for dinner, a meal of meat and potatoes laid out for the men. The beds had clearly been slept in, and the only real clue of something that might have happened was a reference to a severe storm, made in the log for the day before. Another entry stated that the storm was passing, though, and there was no sign of damage to the Flannan Isles lighthouse. There was no sign of a struggle, no blood, and only a single chair had been knocked over. Everything else was eerily, strangely intact.

flannan-isles-lighthouse-2 (Image: Peter Standing, cc-sa-4.0)

There were a number of theories about what happened, including the sudden arrival of pirates or the presence of vengeful ghosts from the nearby ruins. The theory given the most credibility is that the men were all killed when they were swept out to sea by fierce waves, but no trace of them has ever been found.

The Flannan Isles lighthouse was manned until September 28, 1971, when an automatic light was installed. On the day of the 100th anniversary of the lighthouse keepers’ disappearance, a moment of silence was held by the neighbouring community.


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About the author: Debra Kelly




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