Three people drown. A mother slits her own throat. A woman is abducted. A young boy is shot. What do these tragedies have in common? The Bustard Head lighthouse.
It all started on 5 May 1887. Kate Gibson, wife of Assistant Lighthouse Keeper Nils Gibson, went missing from Bustard Head. After a two-day search, Kate’s body was found by her eldest daughter. Her throat was slit; the inquest ruled it a suicide.
Two years later and tragedy struck again. On 15 May 1889 John Wilkinson, the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper, was piloting a boat. On board were his wife Elizabeth, Nils Gibson (now Lighthouse Keeper), Nils’s daughter Mary and Telegraph Master Alfred Power. Struggling to navigate in stormy weather, the boat capsized. Gibson grabbed Mary and Wilkinson held onto Elizabeth. Reports at the time said Gibson had stuck to his daughter ‘while strength lasted’ and Gibson himself stated in the inquest that when he tried to swim for shore ‘they had disappeared’. He made it to safety, swimming over 457 metres (500 yards) to the shore. Wilkinson reached land in the now-righted boat with his unconscious wife, but they could not revive her. Power’s body was found on the beach but Mary – presumed drowned – was never found.
Fast-forward to February 1912. Arthur Cogzwell was escorting 17-year-old Edie Anderson on her journey home from an outback station. Things went awry when Cogzwell was shot in the stomach. He died from his wound but not before he identified the assailant as George Daniels, a worker from the same station as Edie. Neither Daniels nor Edie were anywhere to be found. The prevailing theory was that a jealous Daniels had abducted Edie and taken her into the bush. Police and trackers launched an extensive manhunt, but to no avail. Edie and Daniels weren’t found until 23 years later, when their remains were discovered lying side-by-side. The connection to Bustard Head? Edie was the daughter of the Assistant Lighthouse Keeper and had been on her way home to the lighthouse when she was abducted.
The final incident took place in May 1914. A young boy, William O’Meara, was accidentally shot by his brother. The bullet damaged William’s liver, lungs and stomach. While it was initially thought he wouldn’t survive, in a small twist of good fate William pulled through. The shooting occurred, of course, at Bustard Head lighthouse, where the boys’ father was employed.
All these tragedies and accidents beg the question: Is Bustard Head cursed? Or is it all just coincidence?