Frank Towers, known as “Lucks” or “Lucky” Towers, will probably have his name attached to the Titanic for as long as the story of the doomed liner is told. There is, however, no reason why this should be so, for the person “Frank Towers” never existed. The story of Frank “Lucks” Towers is one of the earliest versions of what in the late 20th Century would become known as an “urban legend” or “urban myth.”
As the tale is told, Towers was a stoker (fireman) aboard the Titanic, who was able to get into one of the lifeboats and so survived the disaster. On the face of it, a far from impossible scenario: several stokers were ordered to help crew the lifeboats, their strong backs being a definite help in rowing the boats. Like so many of the surviving crewmen, he then vanished from the public eye–that is, until May 29, 1914, when he was apparently a stoker aboard the RMS Empress of Ireland the night she was rammed and sunk, with a horrible loss of lives, by the Swedish collier Storstadt. Again, he disappears into obscurity, only to re-emerge on May 7, 1915, as a stoker aboard the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 ten miles off the south Irish coast–1,198 people perished in that atrocity. (One version of the story has Towers shouting out “Now what!?” when the torpedo struck the ship.) A remarkable–even incredible–string of coincidence, misfortune, and luck! To be a crewman aboard the ships that were the victims of the three greatest maritime disasters of the early 20th Century–and yet survive all of them! Life is, of course, filled brim-full with amazing coincidences, and it seems that the unhappy career of Frank Towers was proof of that truth.
There is no “Frank Tower” or “Frank Towers” or any name even remotely close listed on any of the crew manifests or the survivor lists compiled for the Titanic or the Empress of Ireland. There was a “Frank Tower” who survived the sinking of the Lusitania, and it may well be that this is our boy, who decided to embroider his career at sea with a few additional adventures. And William Clark, who was a stoker, did survive both the Titanic and Empress of Ireland disasters. But one man who survived all three? Sorry, folks, but it just didn’t happen: there isn’t a shred of supporting evidence that this particular “Frank Towers” ever existed, and far too much documentary evidence proving that he didn’t.
As a postscript, Robert Serling, the brother of Rod Serling, the creator of the television series “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery,” confirmed to me in 1998 that his brother did indeed use the legend of Frank “Lucks” Towers as the basis for the “Night Gallery” episode “Sole Survivor.”