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Sudden deaths and sinister spirits at Tevennec lighthouse

PUBLISHED: 15:18 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:25 22 October 2018

The isolated and eerie Tevennec lighthouse has a mysterious past. Pic: Jean-Marie Liot/Hemis.FR

The isolated and eerie Tevennec lighthouse has a mysterious past. Pic: Jean-Marie Liot/Hemis.FR

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As Hallowe'en approaches we take a look at the mysterious past of this isolated and eerie lighthouse, said to be home to the most terrifying inhabitant of all.

Tevennec is located in the tempestuous waters of the Raz de Sein strait. Pic: Realisation PlineTevennec is located in the tempestuous waters of the Raz de Sein strait. Pic: Realisation Pline

As inhospitable locations go, Tevennec lighthouse off the coast of Brittany, takes some beating.

Perched precariously at the summit of a rock in the tempestuous waters of the Raz de Sein strait, it is routinely battered by 70 foot waves and gale force winds.

Throw into the mix a sinister and grizzly past and you wonder why any sane person would want to live there and maybe that’s why according to folklore, its main inhabitant over the centuries has been Ankou – the Breton name for Death himself.

Anyone who has seen the film noir Shutter Island will be familiar with the sense of foreboding that Martin Scorsese builds as characters approach the remote landspot, and Tevennec has a similarly isolated and eerie feel to it.

Even before the lighthouse was built in 1875, the island which consists mainly of steep, jagged rocks, had a dark history.

Ankou is the Breton word for Death himself. Pic: Moreau.henri CC BY-SA 3.0Ankou is the Breton word for Death himself. Pic: Moreau.henri CC BY-SA 3.0

Any sailors unfortunate enough to lose power in the area would be swept to Tevennec by the strong current and legend has it that the dead were transported under the cover of darkness to the rock where Ankou could be heard by his unearthly wail.

Its first lighthouse keeper was Henri Guezennec, who was stationed alone and perhaps unsurprisingly in this isolated world, quickly went mad. It is said that he began to hear voices telling him to leave and from then on it was decided that two people should be in situ in order to preserve their sanity.

However, within the first year, one of the keepers died suddenly and allowing wives onto the island didn’t help either, with another keeper passing away suspiciously and a third being found dead in his bed. A fourth is said to have stayed there with his father, who slit his own throat with a razor.

Crucifixes were installed and a priest was called to exorcise the island but when a storm destroyed part of the lighthouse while a keeper’s wife was giving birth, a decision was made to make Tevennec lighthouse fully-automated as early as 1910.

After being uninhabited, by humans at least, for over a century, Frenchman Marc Pointud, president of the National Society for Heritage, Lighthouses and Beacons, bravely decided to spend 69 days alone in the haunted property two years ago.

Marc Pointard became Tevennec's first inhabitant for over a century. Pic: CC BY-SA 4.0Marc Pointard became Tevennec's first inhabitant for over a century. Pic: CC BY-SA 4.0

It was part of a project called Light on Tevennec and after being initially postponed due to bad weather, M. Pointud eventually made it onto the island to become its first resident in over 100 years.

Although still isolated and very basic accommodation, he had a laptop, internet and was in telephone contact with the mainland in case of any emergencies – something his predecessors never had – for them it was only the elements and dark thoughts for company. Alas, M. Pointud returned safely and now hopes to turn Tevennec into a permanent residence for someone other than Ankou.

Tevennec Lighthouse features in the France Calendar 2019, brought to you by France Magazine. A single calendar costs £11.99 but if you order four or more, they are only £8.99 each. To order, visit www.subscriptionsave.co.uk/M459 or call 01858 438832 and quote the code MFCM1459.

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