In December 1900, a boat called Hesperus set sail for the island of Eilean Mor, one of the seven islets (also known as the “Seven Hunters”) of the Flannan Isles off the coast of northwestern Scotland. Capt
The more far-fetched of these theories suggest they had been carried away by a giant seabird, had been abducted by spies or had simply escaped to start new lives. The perhaps more plausible theories suggest that the keepers had been swept away when trying to secure a box in a crevice above sea level. Other theories suggest the psychology of the lighthouse keepers played a part. MacArthur had a reputation for brawling and was known to be violent. It is suggested by some that a fight broke out on the cliff edge, causing the men to fall to their deaths.
James Harvey was tasked with delivering a relief lighthouse keeper as part of a regular rotation. The journey was delayed a few days by bad weather, and when Harvey and his crew finally arrived, it was clear that something was awry. None of the normal preparations at the landing dock had been made, the flagstaff was bare, and none of the keepers came to greet the Hesperus. The keepers, as it turned out, weren’t on the island at all. All three of them had vanished.
Eilean Mor had its peculiarities. The island’s only permanent residents were sheep, and herders referred to it as “the other country,” believing it to be a place touched by something paranormal. Eilean Mor had long elicited a sort of fearful reverence in its visitors; the main draw to the remote location was a chapel built in the 7th century by St. Flannan. Even those who never prayed were moved to worship while on Eilean Mor. Superstitions and rituals—like circling the church’s ruins on your knees—were adopted by those passing through, and many considered Eilean Mor to have an indefinable aura that could not be ignored.
Further clues were found down by the landing platform. Here Muirhead noticed ropes strewn all over the rocks, ropes which were usually held in a brown crate 70 feet above the platform on a supply crane. Perhaps the crate had been dislodged and knocked down, and the lighthouse keepers were attempting to retrieve them when an unexpected wave came and washed them out to sea? This was the first and most likely theory, and as such Muirhead included it in his official report to the Northern Lighthouse Board.
But this explanation left some people in the Northern Lighthouse Board unconvinced. For one, why had none of the bodies been washed ashore? Why had one of the men left the lighthouse without taking his coat, especially since this was December in the Outer Hebridies? Why had three experienced lighthouse keepers been taken unaware by a wave?
Although these were all good questions, the most pertinent and persistent question was around the weather conditions at the time; the seas should have been calm! They were sure of this as the lighthouse could be seen from the nearby Isle of Lewis, and any bad weather would have obscured it from view.
Over the following decades, subsequent lighthouse keepers at Eilean Mor have reported strange voices in the wind, calling out the names of the three dead men. Theories about their disappearance have ranged from foreign invaders capturing the men, all the way through to alien abductions! Whatever the reason for their disappearance, something (or someone) snatched those three men from the rock of Eilean Mor on that winter’s day over 100 years ago.