A phantom car was haunting a section of road between Gweedore and Letterkenny in 1936. Sightings began in December 1935, but by January 1936 the car was appearing nightly, and the area - an isolated beauty spot known as Barnes Gap - was crawling with curiosity seekers from Donegal and Derry.
The following is from the Derry Journal of 20 January 1936.
Considerable attention is still being attracted over a large area of Donegal by the recent report in the “Derry Journal” of the appearance of a phantom motor car at Barnes Gap on the main road from Letterkenny to Gweedore. The car which has made its appearances practically every night during the past two months, has been seen regularly by motorists, carters, pedestrians and cyclists. It is usually observed coming at great speed with headlights illuminating a considerable stretch of the road, but when within a few yards of the observer the lights are extinguished and the car seems to vanish completely, no trace of it remaining.
Accompanied by a number of companions, a “Journal” representative visited Barnes Gap one night last week, in order to find out for himself what amount of truth was in the reported occurrence. Meeting a resident of the district, our representative questioned him regarding the nocturnal visitor. This man said that he had seen the car on several occasions and once while on the road with a horse and cart he drew his horse to one side in order to allow the passing of a swiftly moving car but when it drew almost level with him it vanished without a trace. He also informed our representative that on one occasion a car appeared to a lady unexpectedly in the middle of the Gap, and that she could clearly see the head and face of a man sitting at the wheel, but when she approached to the spot where the stationary car sat, all trace of it disappeared in an instant. While the story of the phantom car continues to spread and draw hundreds of people nightly to the Gap, in the hope of seeing the mysterious visitor, our representative was not rewarded by the sight of anything unusual, but he hopes to repeat the visit at an early date.
The same issue carried a possible explanation for the phenomenon.
A theory has been advanced by Mr J Gorman, a mail car driver in the Derry and Lough Swilly Railway Co., who has gained much experience of motoring conditions on the Donegal Roads.
He is of the belief that, owing to heavy fog and mists, the headlights of cars recently have been reflected in such a manner as to deceive observers, and that, as it is very often the practice for motor drivers to shut off their lamps when going through the Gap, the apparent disappearance of the vehicle may be thus explained.
Memories are short at the Derry Journal. This wasn’t Ireland’s first experience of a phantom car; six years earlier, Drogheda in County Louth was being haunted by an invisible car, and the Journal covered the story.
A phantom motor car, which recently was alleged by several residents of the locality to be haunting the Tullyallen district, a country village two or three miles outside Drogheda, has now invaded Drogheda. It passes generally late at night, and while such trifles as brilliant lights and an old woman sitting at the wheel have been added in the telling of the original story, those persons who have heard the ghost are positive in their statements that it can only be heard and not seen.
A Drogheda man told a “Sunday Independent” representative that on Friday night when going home a bit late but perfectly sober, he was operating his hall door when he heard the roar of a motor car coming, he thought, over the street. He waited at the door to see the car pass, but nothing passed, and on looking down the street he saw that it was deserted.
A possible explanation of the mystery would seem to be that the Shannon Scheme high power cables acts under certain conditions as wireless receiver, and carries the noise of distant motor cars to places where there are none, and in this way creates the impression that a phantom motor car has passed.
Derry Journal, 10 March 1930 and 10 January 1936