In December 1900, something very unusual happened on one of the desolate Scottish islands that make up the Flannan Isles. All three men manning the lighthouse on the largest of the seven islands disappeared without a trace.

The Three Missing Men Behind the Locked DoorThe Three Missing Men Behind the Locked Door Sun, Feb 9, 1975 – 76 · Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa, United States of America) ·

An Empty Lighthouse

Three men manned the lighthouse at one time. In the early days of the newly built lighthouse, those three men were Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald McArthur. A fourth man, Joseph Moore, was due to relieve one of the men in late December following his two-week break.

The first signs of something amiss came on December 15th, when a passing ship reported that no guiding light came from the lighthouse. For reasons of bad weather or convenience, no one went to investigate. It wasn’t until the 26th that a ship finally arrived at the island bearing supplies and Joseph Moore, and the sad reality was discovered.

Mystery of the Atlantic - Lighthouse DisasterMystery of the Atlantic – Lighthouse Disaster Fri, Dec 28, 1900 – 5 · The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Tayside, Scotland) ·

Possible Explanations

The generally accepted explanation goes something like this: the men were trying to secure a crane or aid someone in distress when they were swept away by an unexpected, massive wave. But the unusual nature of the story, and the mysterious clues left behind (often embellished in the papers, of course), led to other increasingly dramatic theories:

Flannan Isles Disappearance theoriesFlannan Isles Disappearance theories Sun, Jul 24, 1994 – 158 · The Observer (London, Greater London, England) ·

Still a Mystery

Unfortunately, the bodies of the three men were never found. The details of what exactly happened to the lighthouse keepers on that remote and stormy isle remain a mystery.

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One thought on “The Flannan Isles Disappearance

  1. Mysteries like this disappearance always become a birthing ground for Twilight Zone writers. I guess I could say that they were abducted by aliens in spacecraft could just as plausible as sea serpents and large sea birds.
    But considering the clues of a really bad storm and the work ethic and tenacity of the men of that day, securing the equipment sounds more realistic to me. Work accidents were quite common according to many of the old newspaper accounts. Some of which were quite detailed in descriptions given. The more freakish and bizarre were always covered in great detail.
    The ones that I found while searching dealt with sawmills, trains, and lumberjack accidents. I discovered that I had a great uncle that was an engineer of a passenger train going through southeast Montana, that while crossing a rain swollen creek, had the bridge collapse. His name was Frank Merrifield. It was written that they found his body in the locomotive. His hand still gripping the throttle in a death grip.

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