Located at the western tip of Brittany, France, is a stretch of wind lashed sea called the Raz de Sein strait. Dotted with a remote chain of barren rocky islands and shoals relentlessly battered by massive waves up to 70 feet high, it is a forbidding place to be at the best of times, and long posed a threat to ships passing through these treacherous churning waters. Perched out on one of these islands, little more than a rocky outcropping jutting from the froth, is a lighthouse called “Phare de Tévennec,” or “Tévennec Lighthouse,” just sitting there in the middle of the fierce, gray sea. It sits there forlorn and alone, just above the ferocious boiling ocean and biting waves, looking like something out of a horror movie, which is fitting because this isolated little light house has a dark history and is known as one of the most haunted and cursed places in France.
The chain of islands where the lighthouse is located is called the Chaussée de Sein, and it has long been considered difficult to navigate through and a major hazard for shipping. To help ships get through the gauntlet of rocks and shoals, the whole way plagued by vicious currents, a series of lighthouses were built here starting from the 18th century and the Tévennec Lighthouse is one of these. The craggy rocks of Tévennec, called the Stevenet Banks, were considered to be an especially bad area for ships, with the currents operating here in just such as way as to push vessels towards its steep, jagged maw, the island like a hungry beast pulling its prey in. Indeed, the rocks of Tévennec were so ruthless and deadly that mariners said that the island was inhabited by Ankou, the Breton name for Death personified, and that he would pull the souls of sailors towards him across the water. The legend was that one could hear the horrific wails of Ankou over the roaring waves and whipping winds, and it was a place that was avoided as much as possible. Indeed, the lighthouses in the region were collectively known as “Hell” by sailors and lighthouse keepers, due to the deaths and the bleak, inhospitable conditions.
Untold numbers of ships met their doom here, notably during the Napoleonic Wars, when in 1796 the French ship Séduisant was dashed against the rocks at Tévennec, taking hundreds to their watery grave. In response to the dangerous, hungry nature of this ominous passage, Tévennec Lighthouse was constructed in 1871 and first activated in 1875. It was designed and classified for having just a single keeper, who would do one year of service and another keeper would come in. This was no easy job, as being completely alone out on that speck of rock surrounded by the lethal expanse of cold sea buffeted by neverending strong winds with only one's own thoughts as company was often described as being a sort of hell, making a year seem like an eternity of suffering. The first lighthouse keeper at Tévennec wouldn’t even last this long, and would begin its sinister reputation as a rather malevolent haunted and blighted place.
The first lighthouse keeper was a man named Henri Guezennec, who almost immediately apparently experienced strange phenomena there. He would claim that he saw shadow figures lurking on the rocks, and that disembodied ghostly voices incessantly told him to leave. There were also allegedly various freak accidents that plagued him, and it apparently got to the point where he could not sleep and could barely do his job. The story goes that within months he went completely insane and had to be relieved of duty, practically incoherent and spouting garbled stories of the ghosts relentlessly tormenting him there. A replacement named Minou was sent, and he too apparently had strange experiences there and went mad within weeks. Two lighthouse keepers losing their minds so fast and in such quick succession was definitely odd, and the French government changed the designation of Tévennec to that of a two-person operation, but this seems to have not helped.
During the first year, one of the two lighthouse keepers stationed there died in a sudden freak accident, another keeper passed away suspiciously, a third was found dead in his bed of unknown causes, and a fourth is said to have stayed there with his father, who slit his own throat with a razor after going mad. After this strange spate of deaths, there was much talk that the lighthouse was cursed, haunted, or both, and there was even a priest brought in to exorcize it, embedding crucifixes into the rocks to drive the evil away. The government then adjusted the rules so that married lighthouse keepers could bring their wives. This seems to have worked for a time, with the first few couples having no particular issues other than the utter desolation, but the husband of one family who moved in died when he accidentally fell on a knife, and a family that moved in 1907 faced tragedy when a storm knocked down a wall and killed the wife while she was in bed in childbirth. It all makes for what French writer Jean-Christophe Fichou has called “one of the strangest places in the history of lighthouses.”
In 1910, the lighthouse became automated, as it remains right up to the present. For decades Tévennec lighthouse remained uninhabited and completely avoided by superstitious locals, and there were even reports of mysterious lights or apparitions by passing vessels. It seemed as if people were happy to leave that bleak island and its insidious forces to itself, yet in 2015, Marc Pointud, president of the National Society for Heritage, Lighthouses and Beacons, set out to stay there for a planned two months as part of a campaign to advocate for the preservation and restoration of France’s historical lighthouses. Undaunted by tales of hauntings and curses, nor by the various delays he faced due to bad weather, he was dropped onto the island by helicopter and lived there in meager, basic accommodations. During his stay, when asked whether he had experienced anything paranormal, Pointud said in an interview with “Marina Reservation”:
Up to now nothing… We must put these stories in the context of the XIX th century. Legends, superstition and religion are mingled here. The guards didn’t use to communicate at all back then, they were really isolated. This is not my case now and we are at the XXIst century… Therefore, there is no news with Ankou yet. Fortunately, because the one who sees it dies in that same year.
Pointud completed his stay without incident, and apparently enjoyed it so much that he has plans to make it into a more permanent residence. It is hard to know what to think of this place. Is it haunted or cursed? Or is it just a deeply eerie, forgotten place in a dangerous location that has managed to pull at the imagination and draw in to itself spooky legends? It then end, the lighthouse still sits out there on its rocky perch, uninhabited by nothing living, stared at by passing vessels and just maybe staring right back.