A well-known Wiccan high priestess lives in County Meath now, but she used to live in Mayo.
She confirmed to me that the hungry ghosts are heard about in stories told in her present location. But it was back in Mayo, where she'd encountered them herself.
The main roads into Western Ireland all pass through seemingly endless miles of bog land. It can be stunningly beautiful, but not so much late at night, when all you want is to be home.
The priestess and her late husband were driving through it, chatting about their day to stave off boredom and to keep themselves awake. It didn't help that the weather was against them. Driving conditions were hazardous enough without that extreme concentration.
Suddenly her husband glimpsed a woman standing at the side of the road. It had been a mere flash, unseen until they were actually passing her.
This was the middle of nowhere, in the early hours of the morning, with rain lashing down. He second guessed his own sight, twisting for a double-take. There was no sign of her in the rear view mirror. Nevertheless, they had to reverse to check. She wasn't there.
By now, their sensibilities tingled with a feeling that they weren't alone. It wasn't a nice sensation. The atmosphere felt laden with desperation and despair. Debating pareidolia versus an actual ghost sighting, this feeling gave credence to the latter. What was to happen next confirmed it all.
"They were everywhere!" The priestess told me, several years later. "In families, alone, some of them not even able to hold their form. They were all around the car!"
Her husband had battled the instinct to close his eyes, as he had to keep on driving. Going around them was not an option, so they drove on through.
But this was no hit and run massacre. The people they were seeing had been dead a long time. Starved and trudging, these were the famine victims forced to leave their homes. They hadn't made it past this narrow country lane over a hundred and fifty years before.
The experience shook the couple, but somehow it seemed worse when they'd finally passed through. Now the darkness seemed watchful, menacing and with the threat that something terrible could step out at any time.
It was a very long journey back to their Mayo home.