Marc Pointud at the lighthouse
This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Marc Pointud is currently preparing to spend 60 days on his own, in one of the most terrifying places in France: The infamous lighthouse of Tévennec. Located on an inhospitable island, just off the Pointe du Raz in Brittany, the place has a rather dark reputation. Given that it's hard to access and people are scared shitless of the place, no one has dared to live there since 1910—the year it was automated.
Lit for the first time in 1875, the lighthouse has met 23 guards. Henri Guezennec was the first person to live there and, unsurprisingly, he was also the first to go completely mad. To this day, the legend lives on. There are of guards losing their minds, people dying suspiciously after falling on knives, children dying, and, of course, ghosts. In many ways the lighthouse isn't dissimilar to its neighbor Ar-Men—or the "Hell of Hells," as it's been dubbed.
Marc Pointud knows the country's lighthouses quite well. In 2002, he founded the National Society for Heritage, Lighthouses and Beacons, in an attempt to preserve the country's forgotten lighthouses. In 2011, the state granted his organization permission to occupy and renovate Tévennec. The long-term goal being to eventually turn it into an artist residence.
This year, to celebrate the lighthouse's 140th anniversary and raise awareness of the historic landmark, Marc decided that he'd spend 60 days alone there. The project is called Light on Tévennec and is crowd-funded. I gave Marc a call to find out why he'd put himself through such a thing.
VICE: How are you feeling about spending two months in a lighthouse that people say is haunted?
Marc: I've been preparing myself for it for a long time now. I've sailed quite a bit, but this will be my first stint in a lighthouse. I've spent some extended periods of time at sea with a crew. In a way I think that's probably harder because you not only have to take care of yourself, you need to look after a ton of other people too.
Photo by Charles Marion. Courtesy of National Society of Heritage, Lighthouses and Beacons
Why would you spend 60 days alone there? Wasn't loneliness the reason the lighthouse keepers went mad in the first place?
That is exactly what this is about. Solitude is the Tévennec's keepers' tradition. Between 1874 to 1910, the lighthouse needed a new keeper every year. Nobody could last longer. But it was a different time. You weren't able to communicate with the outside world. You basically only had the birds to talk to. It'll be much easier for me: I'll be in touch with both the media and my association all the time.
Is the lighthouse equipped to have someone living in it?
Not at all. There's no furniture. It's completely abandoned. I'm going to bring a couple of bits and pieces—a bed, a chair, a table, food, and some stuff to write with. It's going to be a bit like being a prisoner, I suppose. The lighthouse is fully automated, so I don't have to operate it or anything. There's no running water, no electricity, no heating. It's going to cost a fortune to refurbish that place. That's why we are crowd-funding this project.
So you're doing this to raise awareness about the abandonment of the lighthouses? Is the state involved?
Nope. There's no support from the state. Sometimes, they carry out some very basic repairs on the lights. Which is strange—these lights are used every single night, but nothing is done for their upkeep.
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Are you afraid that you won't last 60 days?
We'll take all the necessary precautions to make sure that it all goes smoothly. That said, I could easily encounter medical or psychological problems. But if anything comes up, I just need to make a phone call and there'll be a helicopter there in 15 minutes. Folks don't die on Tévennec like they used to. I'm in good shape, though, so nothing should go wrong.
Why are there so many stories about Tévennec?
Before it was a lighthouse, Tévennec was supposedly the residence of Ankou (the personification of death in Breton legends). When you sail the Raz de Sein without an engine, the current takes you directly to Tévennec. A lot of sailors have died there and that's how the rock earned its reputation. After the state built a house out there, they'd send people to live there by themselves. Which wasn't a great idea. Whenever it was stormy, waves could go all the way up above the roof—which ended with the house being completely destroyed three times in 100 years. Hopefully, things are a bit different these days.
Hopefully. So do you believe in ghosts?
No, I don't. But I'm respectful of people's beliefs and wouldn't rule anything out completely. But what is a ghost, even? Is it some wandering soul, or is it a manifestation of loneliness? Who knows. Anyway, if I end up meeting a spirit there, I'll try to snap a picture.