My headlights shine into blackness, revealing only the thin, crooked, ungraded ribbon of tarmac disappearing into mist. There is no sign of life in any direction, only the night — and the road. The radio has lost reception. When I step out the wind is ripping. I think I can hear something through the wind, someone calling. I listen harder. I hear it again. Voices? This is the Bog Road outside Clifden, in Connemara, County Galway, in the far west of Ireland. And it’s haunted.
The bodies in the bog
What's the story behind the Bog Road's ghostly repute?
Ireland has perhaps more than its share of ghost stories, and few are more persistent than the grim tale of Connemara's Bog Road. As one version of the story goes, there was a hostelry here called the Halfway House. It's a mere pile of stones today, but in the 1790s, it was run by a brother and sister who made a business of welcoming solo travellers and then murdering them (at the stroke of midnight, naturally) and pocketing their belongings. It is believed to be ghosts of these hapless victims — whose bodies the ghoulish siblings fed to the windswept bogland — that give this lonely stretch of road its spectral reputation. —Matthew Phenix
Not far from Ballyconneely, off R341, near Ballinaboy, just before the bridge, it stretches just a few miles, but the Bog Road is one of the most fearsome drives in the Auld Sod.
“I was giving a lift to two old fellas who insisted that they would get out of the car if I turned down the Bog Road,” Roundstone local Malachy Kearns assured me, shaking his mighty head. “Who am I to say?”
Clodagh Foyle of Clifden agreed. “People say it’s haunted. Folks do drive off the road a good bit. I wouldn’t be driving it at night, and certainly not alone.”
Yet here I am. A large boulder creates a hulking blackness beside the road in the moonless, starless night. I know the mountains of the Twelve Bens are looming off to my right, but I can’t see them. For a long while I stare into the abyss. The drizzling rain stops. It’s then that I get out of my car and feel the wind and think I hear someone’s call. Then I’m sure I hear it again.
Tales of spirits, leprechauns and fairies are legend in Ireland; and of course no one believes in them anymore—but the night is long and dark, the wind is calling up the past, and the hair on the back of my neck is standing on end. I climb back into the car, press the clutch and take the long way round.
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