For French sailors, hell can be literally found off the coast of Brittany.
Between the French mainland and the Île de Sein is a stretch of water known as the Raz de Sein, infamous for its violent currents.
The lighthouses dotting the uninhabited islands along the waterway are difficult to reach and can house at most two lighthouse keepers living in extreme conditions, earning the lighthouses the nickname “hell” from sailors as well as lighthouse keepers themselves.
Hell has been empty since the lighthouses were automated.
One of them, Tévennec lighthouse, sits on a rock off the coast at the western tip of Brittany, it is still operational despite being unmanned and just manages to stay out of reach from the strong 20 meters high waves.
The construction of the nearby Ar Men (literally “the Rock”, in Breton) lighthouse to the west, designed to secure ship navigation off the island of Sein, began in 1867.
But there is also a sea passage between the île de Sein and the Pointe du Raz which constitutes a shortcut: the Raz de Sein and navigation would be protected by Tévennec itself.
The Tévennec light was first activated in March 1875, having a maximum range of 9 miles.
Automated in 1910 because of its difficult access, it accompanies the light of La Vieille in securing the passage of the strait, which presents many difficulties.
The rocks near Tévennec were historically known as Stevenet Banks.
Tévennec has a special reputation among the lighthouses of Brittany as the location of hauntings and madness and, despite its pictoresque location, there are few who’d want to spend any time there.
When the lighthouse was first established in 1875, the French government classified it as a lighthouse requiring a single keeper, and like any good spooky story, eerie happenings began immediately.
It is said, in fact, to have driven its first keeper, Henri Guezennec, mad during his stay, demanding his departure. He 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.
Allegedly his replacement, Minou, had a similar experience, and from then on the French government decided that two people should be in site in order to preserve their sanity.
It seems that, 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.
In 1897 in fact the government began recruiting married couples to keep the lighthouse.
The first couple to accept the job were the Milliners, while the most durable keepers, Louis and Marie-Jacquette Quéméré, followed them with their three children and a cow and remained five years. In 1907 a new couple replaced them, Msr. Roparz and his wife. Crucifixes were installed and a priest was called to exorcise the island but, when a storm destroyed a part of the lighthouse while the keeper’s wife was in childbirth, a decision was made to make Tevennec lighthouse fully-automated as early as 1910, and service it every six months.
Historically, during the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) the French ship Séduisant was wrecked there, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of men.
According to folklore, lighthouse’s main inhabitant over the centuries has been Ankou,the Breton name for Death himself.
Even before the lighthouse was built in 1875, the island which consists mainly of steep, jagged rocks, had a dark history.
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.
This story lead locals to claim the site of our lighthouse is the home of Ankou and a gathering place for the souls of dead sailors.
Despite around twenty-four keepers manned it, no one has dared live there since 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, recently decided to spend 69 days alone in the supposedly haunted property.
It was part of a project called Light on Tevennec and, after being initially postponed due to bad weather, Marc eventually made it onto the island to become its first resident in over 100 years.
Although still isolated and in 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. And, of course, he returned safely.
Either way, the beautiful lighthouse was listed as a monument historique by a decree of December 31, 2015.
Images from web – Google Research