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Northern Frights at Halloween - Gateway to Hell in Co Antrim

The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan. The natural gas crater has been burning since 1971. Picture from Flickr 
Cathal McGuigan

IN PHYSICS today, one of the more prominent theories is that of the Multiverse. This is the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, which means that anything possible (and probably a few impossible things) are actually happening somewhere.

It’s all rather beautiful. There is a place where all your childhood dogs are still alive and running around. A world exists that is made of jelly and you bounce you way to work each day. Somewhere Father Ted never ended and is in its 20th glorious season.

But among the infinite worlds there are also darker places. One that some believe phantoms can drag you into if the borders separating worlds are weak enough… borders perhaps not far from Ballymena.

While the United Irishmen were busy plotting their rebellion around 1798, Thomas McHarg and his young daughter set out from Belfast by coach with an important package for the army barracks in Derry. 

A terrible storm was brewing when the passengers stopped at an inn in Antrim town to change horses. 

The owners begged McHarg to stay the night and wait for the storm to pass for the sake of his daughter if not for himself.

But McHarg stood to earn a substanial bonus if he could deliver the package within two days and so hitched a team of fresh horses to his coach and pushed on into the storm, insisting that “neither God nor the Devil himself can keep me from getting to Derry”.

You can see where this is going.

There were two roads that McHarg could take to cross the Clough River. The crossing at Glarryford was favoured by coachs as there was a small inn, yet the bridge there was often damaged as the river swelled during heavy rain.

Glarryford lies north of Ballymena

Coaches avoided the other crossing near Dundermot Mound as much as possible. The bridge was narrower and the area also had a sinister reputation. 

Strange lights were often seen among the trees near the mound and it was rumoured that it had once been the site of twisted ritual and sacrifices and that unspeakable creatures and spirits had been summoned there.

As McHarg rode on through the storm, he stopped at villages along the way to ask “Is the bridge at Glarryford still up?”

No-one could tell him if the bridge had survived the storm and when he reached Glarryford, he found that it had indeed been swept away.

He took a detour to the other bridge near Dundermot Mound and was never seen again.

The coach could well have been attacked by thieves, or may have met with an accident along the road to Derry but legend has it that McHarg was swept away to another world.

The story goes that the mound opened and McHarg, his young daughter and even the horses were swallowed - or dragged - into the 'otherworld' associated in Ireland with fairies, or demons.

Rumour has it that the mound opens even today to allow ‘Black Tom’s coach’ to return to our world. 

A traveller along the road encountering the coach is said to see a little girl perched beside the coachman who asks, always asks, “Is the bridge at Glarryford still up?”

Those who answer him, or speak to him at all, are said to die within a year.

On dark nights near Dundermot Mound then, 'Whatever you say, say nothing' remains good advice, although lost tourists may be offended that no-one is brave enough to stop and direct them to Ballymena.

Send us your scary stories and tales of the unexplained from Co Antrim and across the north.

Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Twitter @irish_news or by using the #northernfrights hashtag.

You can also send us your stories on Facebook or via email to northernfrightsin@gmail.com.

Tomorrow – Visitors to Bangor from another world?

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