Lighthouses are towers or buildings designed to emit light. This light will then serve as an aid to the navigation of vessels. Before lighthouses were automated, private companies deployed lighthouse keepers there. One of the most common effects to lighthouse keepers is they were driven mad because of loneliness and isolation.
One of the most well-known stories about lighthouses is the Smalls Lighthouse. It was on a rocky island 20 miles west of Wales. The Smalls Lighthouse remains standing today, but not many people know what happened in this lighthouse that caused the changes in the number of lighthouse keepers deployed at a time.
The Smalls Lighthouse was constructed in the year 1775. The lighthouse keepers then sat on top of a small hut and they had rotating shifts during their time at the lighthouse. In the year 1801, two men stayed at the Smalls Lighthouse named Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith.
Griffith reportedly told Howell that he was not feeling well. Howell tried to help Griffith, but the latter’s health deteriorated quickly. Howell was desperate and used a distress signal to get the attention of the passing ships. No one came to their rescue, and sadly Griffith died.
One of the problems that Howell had to face alone was how he would live with a dead body. At first, the body was inside the hut where he lived, and it did not bother him so much. However, when the body started to decompose, it already dawned on Howell. Howell and Griffith were known to argue a lot, so if Howell threw Griffith’s body in the water, he could be accused of murder. Howell then decided to make a coffin for Griffith, and he succeeded in tearing apart some boards in the place they were staying at. Howell finally placed the body inside the coffin and put it in the outside railings outside the hut’s window.
Not long after, though, the winds in the area destroyed the coffin. The remains of Griffith were then tied to the railings. According to Howell, when the winds blew a particular angle, it appeared as if Griffith was gesturing to Howell.
The bad weather did not go away soon. It was impossible to land on the rocky island for four months. Many vessels reportedly tried to land there, but because there was only a distress signal despite the lighthouse remains operational, many thought the distress signal was about something not too important. Also, there was no form of communication developed at that time. Many people tried to land on the rocky island, and they reported a man waving to them. However, because they could not hear what the man was trying to say, they went back to their harbor without any information about the distress signals.
Months later, Howell was relieved from the lighthouse duty. The incident’s effect was so visible because he was quite mad and was mentally unstable. His physical appearance changed so much that his friends no longer recognized him.
Because of what happened, having three people as crews in lighthouses was in effect until the lighthouses were automated.