The True Story Behind 'Open Water' Is A Dark Mystery That Goes Way Beyond The Horror Of The Film

Imagine surfacing from an ocean dive only to discover your boat is gone and you're completely alone. This scary situation actually happened to Tom and Eileen Lonergan on January 25, 1998. Tom and Eileen Lonergan were experienced divers on a trip to Australia's Great Barrier Reef when their dive boat crew left them behind. Two days passed before anyone realized they were missing, and rescue teams searched for the married couple unsuccessfully for days. The two were never seen again, their bodies assumed to be lost at sea

Like other nightmarish experiences, Tom and Eileen Lonergan's dreadful fate turned into a film, Open Water. The 2003 film was a critical darling and depicted the couple meeting their end being circled by sharks. The true story behind the Open Water movie, however, is much scarier simply because no one knows what really happened to Tom and Eileen Lonergan.


  • A Dive Slate With A Distress Message Was Discovered Six Months After Their Disappearance

    In order to communicate effectively underwater, many divers carry dive slates, small boards on which they can write messages or record information. Six months after Tom and Eileen Lonergan's disappearance, a well-weathered slate was discovered by a fisherman miles away from their dive site. Along with the date of January 26, 1998, and a time of 8:00 am, the slate read, "PLEASE HELP US OR WE WILL DIE."

    This distress note appears to clearly indicate the Lonergans were not left behind by choice and were alive at least until the next day to write the distress message.

  • Diaries Entries Have Led Some To Believe They Had A Suicide Pact

    Diaries Entries Have Led Some To Believe They Had A Suicide Pact
    Video: YouTube

    The diaries of Tom and Eilleen Lonergan were discovered after their disappearance and contained some eerie insights. According to entries, both Tom and Eileen were unhappy with their lives and each other. The couple both had careers as teachers, and each wrote how they hated their jobs. Eileen's diary included entries about how she felt too intertwined with her husband and how he had developed a death wish. Tom's diary backed this up as he wrote, "Like a student who has finished an exam I feel that my life is complete and I am ready to die."

    Although these disturbing writings from the Lonergans were mostly considered coincidental, some theories suggest the couple was carrying out a suicide pact or were the victims of a murder-suicide at the hands of Tom.

  • One Expert Believes The Lonergans Were Eaten By Tiger Sharks

    Open Water suggests the Lonergans met their ultimate fate thanks to sharks. Although half of the world's sharks live in the waters around Australia, most of them are completely harmless to humans. There was also no real evidence of a shark attack - such as blood residue or teeth marks - on the couple's wetsuit and dive jackets that washed ashore.

    However, one veteran Australian diver believes they were eaten by tiger sharks. According to the testimony of Ben Cropp, the notoriously dangerous sharks probably watched the couple and approached slowly after a few hours, eventually taking a bite. He also believed the Lonergans had not lasted more than 48 hours because of this.

  • A Captain Believes The Lonergans May Have Hitched A Ride On His Boat

    While police were investigating the case, another strange story emerged. Another boat captain who claimed to have visited the same dive spot the next day may have encountered the couple. According to his story, the head count before the vessel's return trip came out two more than the one taken when the boat left port. The tourists on his expedition that day were all from Italy and spoke in their native tongue. However, the captain also claimed to hear a few American voices among the tourists that day.

    If his story is true, it's possible the Lonergans slipped in among the divers and simply disappeared once the boat reached the shore. This theory would mean the couple planned ahead of time to spend the night in the middle of the ocean, waiting for an entirely different boat to show up the next day. While it is an interesting theory, it's not very plausible.

  • The Couple's Diving Jacks And Air Tanks Eventually Washed Ashore

    Several weeks after Tom and Eileen Lonergan were reported missing, pieces of their diving gear washed up on shore. Inflatable diving jackets and air tanks were found by group of people on a beach about 75 miles north of Port Douglas. The jackets had the couple's names written on them. The air tanks had a little air left inside, meaning they were probably dropped when the Lonergans realized the ship wasn't coming back for them. Even eight years after the incident, evidence was still being found, like a fin with "Lonergan" written inside.

    It's unclear why the Lonergans would have removed the jackets helping to keep them afloat. However, since there was no evidence of a shark attack, theorists believe the Lonergans became delirious from dehydration or removed them before an attempt to swim for shore. However, without the buoyancy of their jackets, the Lonergans would have likely worn themselves to the point of exhaustion from treading water.

  • Eileen's Wetsuit Washed Ashore With Several Tears And Barnacles Attached To It

    In addition to pieces of the Lonergan's diving equipment, a women's wetsuit the same size Eileen would have worn was also found washed up on shore several months after the couple went missing. It was intact with no blood or holes that would be consistent with injuries from a shark attack.

    The suit did have some tears in the armpit and buttocks areas but were thought to be the result of the suit getting snagged on coral as it drifted through the ocean. There were barnacles attached to the zipper, and authorities determined from their rate of growth the suit had probably been adrift in the ocean since the end of January, around the time of the couple's disappearance.