The Disappearance of the Eilean Mor Lighthouse Keepers

St._Flannan's_Cell_and_Flannan_Isles_Lighthouse_-_geograph.org.uk_-_623920On December 26th, 1900, Boxing Day, the SS Hesperus arrived at Eilean Mor, one of the Flannan Islands off of the coast of Scotland. On board the tiny vessel, Joseph Moore was preparing to take up his duties as a replacement for one of the lighthouse keepers at the island’s lighthouse; which besides the remnants of an old shepherd’s chapel built tied to St. Flannan, the Eilean Mor lighthouse is the only structure on the largest of the Flannan Islands.

It is a steep, treacherous climb from the boat landing to the lighthouse, even with the use of a 160-step staircase that runs up along the 200-foot cliff. The very landscape of the island projects an eerie atmosphere; combined with the isolation and tales of supernatural occurrences, including old Scottish legends of a race of little people inhabiting the land, the Eilean Mor is certainly an ominous feature.

Normally, one of the lighthouse keepers on the island would come down to greet the boat coming ashore, and a flag would have placed in view of the ship, to alert the crew that their arrival had been noticed. Being only met by silence, Moore headed up the stairs towards the lighthouse alone. Captain James Harvey, stayed with the boat to await the arrival of the keeper who was to be taken back to the mainland. Instead, all that Harvey would take to the mainland was a message. One that would be forwarded to the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters in Edinburgh; the first few lines of the telegraph are as follows:

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.

There is a mix of accounts as to what Moore found at the top of the cliffs. Per some, he found that the door to the lighthouse was unlocked, by others, the door was locked. This discrepancy is rather small compared to other portions of the story, both fact and possibly fiction. Inside the entry way, two of the three oil skinned coats were missing, meaning that one of the men went outside without his gear. This would have been unusual; it was also against the rules of the Lighthouse Board for all of the lighthouse keepers to be outside at the same time. The description of the entryway has been verified in every account of the day that the lighthouse was found unoccupied by any living humans.

In the kitchen area, which this part may be a more dramatic re-telling that has developed over the years than the actual truth of the matter, there was an overturned chair and some half eaten food. Most historians who look back on the accounts believe that this version of the tale was a part of the media frenzy and stories told to add a higher level of dramatic flair to the tragic event. Also, all the clocks in the lighthouse had stopped, meaning that no one had wound them for several days before Moore’s arrival. Captain Harvey ordered a search of the 39-acre island, but no living soul was to be found.

The_lighthouse_on_Eilean_MorSeveral days later, the Lighthouse board’s superintendent came to the island. Robert Muirhead had known all three of the men personally as he was the one who had recruited the three for the positions of keepers. All that Muirhead found in the lighthouse that held any clue about the men was the log book. Quite possibly, it is what is written in the log book that forms one of the multiple theories as to what happened to the men. In the log, second assistant Thomas Marshall wrote that the island was hit with severe winds. The Principal Keeper, James Ducat had been ‘very quiet’ and William McArthur, the third assistant, had been crying. This entry was dated December 12th. As the one theory states, two of the men were the victims of murder, then the third committed suicide.

Considering that no one remarked upon seeing any blood or signs of a struggle, this theory is considered not a likely. These theories site the men’s extreme isolation as the cause of one of the three turning against his fellow keepers. Typically speaking, the factor of isolation causing disruptions in a person’s state of mind happen when they are placed in solitary confinement; documentation of these sorts of events are noted in prisons where the convicts had been in solitary confinement for a lengthy amount of time. In the case of the lighthouse, none of the three were completely, physically alone. Though it would explain the peculiar notes in the log on the 12th that stated that one of the keepers had been quiet and another crying; as far as the stories go, McArthur would not have been one to breakdown over a storm.

There is another log dated on December 13th, noting that the storm was still over the island and that the three men were praying. On the following day, there is no entry. Then the final mark is on December 15th, to state that the storm was over. It was also on the 15th that a passing ship noted that the light on the lighthouse was not lit.

The conclusion of the investigation by the Northern Lighthouse Board was that all three of the men were swept out to sea by a rogue wave. This was based on the evidence of ropes strewn about by the landing platform. The ropes should have been in a brown crate that is situated seventy feet above the platform. Despite this being stated as the “official” and most likely cause of the disappearances, it is not without issue. For one, the only way that the men could have been taken out to sea by an obscure wave is if all three were down on the platform. Once again, this would have been against the regulations of the Lighthouse Board. When this is combined with the evidence that only two of the men were wearing their heavy outdoor wear, would imply that the third man ran out quickly to help the other two. For a calm day, there seems to be little reason for the third man to rush down to the platform. Quite certainly, no wave would have been able to touch the lighthouse since it is 215-feet above sea level. If the other two men had been washed out to sea by a wave, then what happened to the third? Was he too taken unsuspectingly by a wave?

According to those on the mainland and the Isle of Lewes, the seas were calm. However, this does not mean that calm seas in one location mean the same in another. Where one side of a town may have rain, another may have sun. During the rough storm that plagued the men in the middle of December, the mainland was relatively dry. By meteorologically accounts of this time period, the weather was not anymore unusual than any other December.

There are some that still question as to why the bodies were never found. Surely if they had been taken by the ocean, they may have washed up somewhere? This could simply be explained that the current took them in a different direction from the land; for there are many victims of the ocean, from both the sea and shore who were never seen again. The wave report also does not explain how three experienced men could have been so careless and unsuspecting of the dangers around them.

None of the other theories surrounding the disappearances of the men prove any more probable. There are claims of alien abductions, sea monsters, that a giant bird carried the men off, that all three decided to jump into the ocean to commit suicide, or that they boarded a passing ship. Some are not willing to reject the idea that the men’s disappearances were not supernaturally related and that the island claimed their souls. After all, the lighthouse had only been in operation since December 7, 1899, a year before the event. As a few of the older generation can tell you, there are certain unspoken rules apply to the Flannan Islands; they are to be respected by any and all visitors. If one breaks the rules, then they will have to bear the consequences, whatever they may be.

References:

Johnson, B. (2014, January 1). The Eilean Mor Lighthouse Mystery. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofScotland/The-Eilean-Mor-Lighthouse-Mystery/

(2013). Missed in History: Disappearance at Flannan Isles [Radio series episode]. In Stuff You Missed in History Class .Tracy V. Wilson .

Merritt, M. (2014, January 1). Three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace on Boxing Day 1900… now a new clue could. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from https://www.express.co.uk/scotland/475203/Three-lighthouse-keepers-vanished-without-trace-on-Boxing-Day-1900-now-a-new-clue-could

Golden Gate Hauntings

Lady of Stowe LakeGGP_Map

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is over a thousand acres of beautifully maintained fields and trees. Built in the 1870s the park holds an art museum (among other things) and is home to the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Close to the very center of the park is beautiful man-made Stowe Lake, and Stowe Lakes tragic haunting.
The story goes back to the early 1900s when it was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle in January of 1908, when a young man was stopped by police and told them he reportedly saw ” a thin tall figure” blocking his automobile, “it was wet and it seemed to shine. It was barefoot, I didn’t notice the face. I was frightened and anxious to leave.” The young man then fled the park, only to be stopped by the police a few minutes later. Whether this was the beginning of the Stowe Lake haunting or not is hard to say as the reports on when it began are a little uncertain.
The story is a sad but not unfamiliar tale as many areas around the world have a similar one, it begins possibly only a few years before the Chronicle’s 1908 article on the “thin, tall figure”, when Golden Gate Park was still very new. A young mother is with her three children, two older children and a baby in a stroller, when tired from a full day of roaming the park, she sits on a bench over looking Stowe Lake and it’s center island Strawberry Hill to rest her feet a bit. Her older children are allowed to play close by while the stroller safe next to the bench, the baby asleep. Someone she recognizes stops by her bench and the two begin a lengthy conversation. The Mother keeps an eye on the oldest children but dismisses the baby as it is right next to her and out of harms way. She continues talking to her companion for a good long while.Finally her friend sees it’s time to move on and departs. the young Mother collects her oldest children, but when she reaches for the stroller it is gone. The story is unclear of whether someone took the baby and later dumped it or if the stroller rolled down into the lake with the baby inside, but all accounts agree that the Mother is anxious and fearful as she wonders that area of the park , frantically asking people if they have seen her baby. Horror dawns inside her head as she realizes what may have happened, grief stricken she wades into Stowe Lake to search for her missing child and never comes back up. The baby’s body is found in the lake not far from where it’s Mother sat chatting.jjm
The Mother has been seen for over a hundred years now, pale, wearing a white dress,sometimes soaking wet, and almost always barefoot wondering the Stowe Lake/Strawberry Hill area of the park. Sometimes she is just weeping silently, looking out over one of the bridges that connects Strawberry Hill and the rest of the park and she’ll disappear as you get closer. Other times people have reported witnessing a young woman wading frantically into the water. Another common report is people seeing a tall, pale woman, with dark hair and a distraught demeanor wondering the area, sometimes at night the witnesses will be accosted by her and asked if they’ve seen her baby, when they go leave to seek help they look back to see if she’s following but she has disappeared.
This ghostly legend is also tied in with the history of a certain statue that is not far from Stowe Lake. The Pioneer Woman and Children that resides next to the park’s pioneer cabin has been the park since 1915 and is the only statue of a woman in the entire one thousand plus acres of Golden Gate Park. It’s a simple statue of a Mother with outstretched hands and two tiny children in front of her, but its how people tie into the Stowe Lake ghost story that makes it a bit more interesting. According to some the Ghost of Stowe Lake can inhabit the bronze statue allowing it to move. People have reported seeing it’s head turn as if searching. The original article in the San Francisco Chronicle stated the figure the young man saw had a “shine” to it leaving many others down the years to suggest that the statue walks at night. On certain nights some believe you can see a third, smaller child next to the statues older children as if the mother and child from the original story have been reunited in some way.

The Ghost Cop

Although Golden Gate Park is covered in beautiful mini forests, flowers, and man-made lakes due to its position of being right in the heart of San Francisco it is also riddled with roads for cars to drive on as well as hiking and bike trails, but because of weather or maintenance some of the trails and inlets have “No parking!” or “KEEP OUT!” signs posted. What the park does lack is an abundance of lights.According to spectators the park can be quite dark and ominous at night which makes this next urban legend a bit strange and a bit amusing.
The story reportedly goes something like this:
A couple is driving through the park at night,they are late for a get together and time being tight the driver decides to speed through to get to where they’re going quicker. Suddenly they see what every driver dreads seeing in their rear view mirror, red, white, and blue swirling lights a sure sign that they are being pulled over. Not being the type to disregard a police officer, the driver pulls over. The encounter is normal one as the police officer writes up the ticket and everyone goes on their merry way.
A few days later the man who was driving decides that since he’ll be in town anyway he might as well pay the ticket in person. When he goes to pay his ticket he is informed that there is no record of the ticket ever being written. Happy he doesn’t have to pay the man goes to leave but not before the officer asks him to “hold on” something is very very off about the ticket and not just the fact it was never put in the system.
The police officer asks the guy ” Are you trying to play a game with me son?” understandably confused the guy shakes his head asking the officer what it is that’s bothering him so much and the police officer asks him to describe the police officer that pulled him over to him, as he finishes he notices that Mr. Officer is looking a little pale. After asking what is wrong the other man looks him dead in the eye and replies. “Well, you see that ticket? Looks new to me, but can’t possibly be new. The officer you just described, the one who supposedly wrote that ticket out for you has been dead for more than ten years.”
The above story is usually told the exact way, sometimes the driver is parked in a no parking zone, or has his headlights off at night. No one is exactly sure the origins of the story, but it’s almost always at night, and the dead officer has almost always been dead for “more than ten years.” Although no one reports the officer as being dangerous or violent in any way, it is suggested that if you ever see a police officer trying to pull you over while driving through Golden Gate Park that you do not pull over until you are out of the park as supposedly the ghost cop can not leave the park, makes one believe that maybe he or she is tied to the park in some way. Although trying to explain to the police officer pulling you over about why you didn’t do so immediately was because you thought he was a ghost may garner you some odd looks or a trip to your local psych ward!

The Ghost Ship of 1921

All around the world there are legends of ships rising from their watery graves to haunt those who are still living; some come in the form of a flaming phantom, others look how they did when they sank. Most of these are meant to be symbolic, serving as a reminder that not all justices have yet to be served. Not all ships need to rise from the ocean, and neither are they phantom images. Some ghost ships come to claim this title simply because they were abandoned on the open water. Whenever a floating, vacant vessel is found, one predominant question quickly arises, what happened to the crew?

Roughly 580 nautical miles west of Bermuda lay a graveyard of a thousand shipwrecks. At least, it is believed to be a thousand; a total accumulation of the effects of storms, wars, ever-changing geological features, and human error. Beyond the grave bed lies a flat, thin chain of barrier islands called the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The largest of the islands being: Hatteras and Ocracoke. Bodie Island is also one of the larger portions of the chain, and sits to the north of Hatteras; due to the changing coastal landscape, Bodie Island is now a peninsula. Cape Hatteras is located in a bend on Hatteras Island; near which, two major Atlantic currents meet: the cold Labrador Current that flows south and the warm Florida Current, from the Gulf Stream, that flows north. Such a mix of two polar currents causes turbulent waters and a large expanse of shifting, shallow sandbars called shoals.

The Carroll A. Deering was found stuck on the Outer Shoal at 6:30a.m. on January 31st, 1921 by C.P. Brady of the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard. Rough waters made it impossible to reach the ship until February 4th, when a wrecker aptly named Rescue, along with a cutter named Manning, arrived at the Deering at approximately 9:30 in the morning. The captain of the Rescue, Captain James Carlson, went aboard the ship and verified that it was indeed the Carroll A. Deering, a five-masted schooner on a scheduled return from Barbados to Hampton Roads, Virginia.

According to accounts from those who boarded the ship, she was devoid of crew. Food had been laid out, as if in preparation of a meal. Among the missing items from the ship were her anchors, the navigational equipment, some papers, all personal belongings of those on board, and the lifeboats.

The last documentation of the ship’s crew was on January 29th, when she passed the Cape Lookout Lightship. A crewman aboard the Lightship found the Deering’s appearance to be unusual. One the crewman aboard the passing ship stated the ship had lost both of its anchors, when the ship was found a few days afterwards, the anchors were missing. What truly sparked the curiosity of the documenter on board the Lightship was that the crewman on the ship did not present himself as an officer nor did he look the part.

If true, this would mean that the veteran shipmaster and navigator, Captain Willis T. Wormell was not the man with whom the crewman aboard the Lightship would have spoken to about the anchors. Wormell was filling in for the first captain of the ship, Captain William M. Merritt, part owner of the ship, who had taken ill during the journey and had disembarked; the first mate, S.E. Merritt, Merritt’s son, chose to remain with his father. At some point, while harbor hopping before embarking on the voyage home, it is rumored that Captain Wormell spoke with a friend and fellow captain, stating that he distrusted the Scandinavian crew of nine aboard the ship. It was mentioned in passing that the ship’s engineer, Herbert Bates, could be trusted. What fate could have befallen either the captain or the engineer between the ship’s departure for home on January 9th and the meeting on the 29th?

The Deering was seen again on January 30th near the Diamond Shoals Lightship by the SS Lake Elon. This point was marked as occurring at approximately 5:45 p.m. Once again, something strange caught the eyes of those passing the ship; because of the Deering’s unusual route. Bearing in mind that the waters in this area are quite treacherous and that a ship’s crew must always be on guard for changes in the sandbars and of the currents and weather conditions around the island chain; there would have been a specific route that the ship should have been taking during its journey.

In July of 1921, Agent Thompson of the FBI came to the Outer Banks region to investigate any and all possible leads as to what happened to the ship’s officers and crew. Among the various theories as to why the ship was abandoned were: pirates, rum-runners, and a mutiny. Due to the rough weather conditions when the ship was found, it is believed that a mutiny is quite unlikely. A knowledgeable sailor would have risked using the lifeboats in such settings. To note, the rough seas were not due to a hurricane sweeping through the area, which also crosses out the idea that the men would have been swept overboard by the strong storm.

Despite an FBI investigation, no legitimate evidence ever came to light. There was a bottle that was found by a local resident named Christopher Columbus Gray, with a handwritten note claiming pirates; it was viewed as a hoax by the federal government. This was in contradiction to the handwriting experts who claimed that the handwriting on the letter matched that of the ship’s engineer.

Oddly, the Carroll A. Deering was not the only ship to meet a mysterious fate during this time period. The S.S. Hewitt, a freighter, disappeared around January 25, 1921. This second ship was steering along a similar route as the Deering, having left Texas on January 20th headed towards Portland, Maine; the Deering had been built in Bath, Maine. The last known communication with the Hewitt was on January 25th, and it was a standard check-in call. The Hewitt has never been found.

In March of 1921, the Deering made its final voyage, being towed further out onto the water before being dynamited. The investigation into the disappearance of the Deering’s crew officially closed in 1922, with no explanation as to what happened or any indication as to the whereabouts of the crew. Nearly a century later, the mystery remains unsolved.

 

 

 

Noa, M. (2010, March 8). The Carroll A. Deering Schooner. Retrieved January 1, 2015, from https://www.historicmysteries.com/the-mystery-of-the-carroll-a-deering-schooner/

The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks. (2015, January 1). Retrieved March 12, 2015, from https://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/theghostship.htm

The Mysterious Ship Disappearances. (2007, January 1). Retrieved March 12, 2015, from https://maritime-connector.com/the-mysterious-ship-disappearances/

 

 

The Legend of Thirteen Curves

IMG_0214-2Nestled between what was formerly called Pumpkin and Toad Hollows is a road that has supposedly a dark tragic history to it. This road is known as Cedarvale Road and is located about ten miles outside of Syracuse, NY.  It runs between what is now known as the towns of Onondaga and Marcellus. It is your typical rural country road that is very beauitful to take a scenic drive. The landscape consists of corn fields, woods and cow pastures. Several old farmhouses and modern homes are scattered throughout this area. There is a section on this road that consists of twisty and sharp hairpin turns known by locals as Thirteen Curves.

This section of Cedarvale Road starts at Howlett Hill Road and ends at Pleasant Valley Road. On one side of the thirteen curves are tree covered hills that form a wall extending the whole length of the curves. On the other side is Onondaga Creek with several deep ravines. This part of the road is extremely dangerous especially if you are going at a high rate of speed or are not paying attention to what is in front of you. The terrain is up and down hill. One can also easily get vertigo and disoriented traveling in this area Throughout history there has been several automobile, truck and farming vehicle accidents that occurred in this particular section. In winter the pavement can become very icy and snow covered. Someone not familiar with these treacherous curves can get into an accident here. This may have been the case of one particular deadly night sixty or seventy years ago involving a newly married young couple.

IMG_0212-2I grew up in a farming hamlet called South Onondaga in the southern part of Central New York situated in the town of Onondaga. South Onondaga in the 1800’s and early turn of century was known as Toad Hollow. It is a very hilly region and has several isolated rural roads that tend to twist and turn but nothing compares to Thirteen Curves. If you take Cedarvale Road from the Marcellus area you will eventually end up in of South Onondaga. As a child I heard several stories about Thirteen Curves and the ghostly tale. My mother also was born and raised in South Onondaga. She was born in 1942 and the story of Thirteen Curves has been around since she was a child. The legend of Thirteen Curves is very well known to locals. Recently it has gained international attention from being featured in several books and on T.V.

The version of the story which I heard throughout my childhood involved a newly wed couple traveling from Syracuse on their way to the village of Skaneateles to spend their honeymoon there. Skaneateles is a historical village that has several fine dining restaurants and inns even back in the early 1900’s. The couple was traveling in a new brand luxury car. They became lost and ended up on Cedarvale Road. It was late at night and they weren’t familiar with the dangerous curves on this road. The car veered off a curve and plummeted down into the creek. The accident supposedly happened on the seventh curve. The bride was killed instantly.

To this day, it is said that the ghost of bride haunts Thirteen Curves. Her spirit has been seen in the back seats of cars traveling the road, in the woods, floating above the creek or guiding across the seventh curve. She has been seen wearing a white wedding dress. Some report she is carrying an orange lantern. Sometimes she has been seen covered in blood. Others state she has been seen carrying her husband’s head. She also supposedly walks out in front of vehicles causing them to crash.

There are also several versions to this haunting tale and if you ask locals they may tell you a different story depending on who you ask. Variations to this story include many different scenarios on what happened to the car and the couple. One is that the couple’s car broke down and the husband went to get help at a farmhouse nearby. When he came back he found his wife dead and covered in blood. Not knowing how she died. Another version reports that the couple died instantly when they crashed into the creek. Yet another states that the husband died fixing a flat tire on their car while the wife waited in the car. Eventually the wife heard scraping noises on the rooftop of the car. She got out of the auto to take a look and saw a frightening scene. Her husband was dead, bleeding and hanging upside down from a tree. His fingers were touching the roof of the car causing the noise.

It is hard to keep track of all the stories regarding Thirteen Curves there are so many. Is it just a legend or true story? No one knows for sure. However no one can find records of a new married couple involved in a deadly car crash on Cedarvale Road that occurred sixty or seventy years ago.

IMG_0209-2According to the Webster Dictionary an urban legend can be defined as a story about an unusual event or occurrence that many believe is true but really isn’t true. These stories are usually told by word of mouth and have several variations to it. Usually there is no evidence or records to prove that this unusual event took place.

Locals and several others claim they have seen the ghost that haunts Thirteen Curves. The only commonalities to all the variations of this story is that a deadly car accident occurred involving a newlywed couple and there was death. If you look at other urban myths across the country you will find similar tales involving a couple in a deadly car accident. There are also stories about bride apparitions haunting different roads or streets and being seen in the back seats of vehicles.

This haunting tale fits the description of a classic urban legend. There are several different versions of the story. It had been told word of mouth. Generations have told the story in school yards, community events, in books and on T.V. There are similar stories across the country. There is no evidence or history records of this strange event. However what about those sightings of the ghostly bride by locals and people traveling the road?

Finally A Story From Loch Ness Not Involving A Monster!

John Alasdair Macdonald captured this image in a 'fluke'
John Alasdair Macdonald captured this image in a ‘fluke’

Usually the amazing sightings reported at Loch Ness is about Nessie, but not today.  A meteor shower was captured late Sunday night in breath taking fashion as the shooting star was captured as the man behind the lens said was an “absolute fluke”.

John Alasdair Macdonald, a tour guide, caught the meteor on film at about 9pm last night in the Scottish Highlands.

Taking his Sony RX100 compact camera outside to capture some photographs of the stars in Drumnadrochit, on the west shore of Loch Ness, Mr Macdonald described it as a “beautiful night”.

His wife is quoted as saying “it was just sheer dumb luck,” Mr Macdonald told The Independent: “It was a complete fluke, an absolute fluke”.

The image posted on the Facebook page of his tour website, The Hebridean Explorer, where it quickly attracted a lot of attention.

Some of the above is taken from The Independent article.  Now my thoughts are Loch Ness has a history of odd sightings over years from Nessie to Strange lights seen in the sky.  Wait strange lights seen in the sky? Wait strange lights in the sky? Hmm, do meteors fit the bill? Yes. They will not explain every strange light or Nessie, unless Nessie is really an alien catching rides on a meteor showers… wait… nah.., but a meteor shower would help to explain some of the legends and folklore of the area. Can you imagine ancient man seeing something like that picture of the meteor and the child like wonder it would create or fear? Very striking indeed.   I think it just proves the Loch has many secrets…. who knows maybe the next picture of a meteor coming down will be taken by Nessie – that spotlight stealing monster is never far from my thoughts….