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An Entire Irish Village Vanished And No One Knows Why

One of the most remote islands in Ireland is home to one of the country’s most enduring mysteries. Achill Island was once home to what appeared to be a thriving village established in 1838. Over forty homes once lined the valley near Keem Bay, but today all that remains of the abandoned settlement is a few mounds of earth hinting at what once stood above ground.

An excavated foundation of one of the abandoned homes.

An excavated foundation of one of the abandoned homes.

Locals in the area have no memory of the village, and the only records left behind were collected by travel writers who noted the village’s serene beauty but described the locals as “primitive and backward.” Given that the other settlements on the island remained inhabited, what could have happened to the village at Keem?

Keem Bay today

Keem Bay today

To begin answering this question, a team of researchers and students from the Achill Archaeological Field School have begun carrying out excavations on the village in a search for clues that might help solve this mystery. According to the school’s website, there is evidence of some type of trauma which occurred around the middle of the nineteenth century:

The haunting and evocative remains of the houses are a monument to a traumatic period in the island’s history that is being slowly uncovered by archaeological investigation and documentary research. Folklore associated with the village revolves around the ‘booley (transhumance) phase’ of seasonal livestock herding that took place subsequent to abandonment of the village in the mid nineteenth century.

The archaeologists have so far found the houses were typical rural dwellings constructed of stone and mud, which usually leave much more significant ruins than what has been left behind today. According to Irish news outlet IrishCentral, there is evidence that the homes were intentionally destroyed.

Students and researchers pose beside one of their dig sites.

Students and researchers pose beside one of their dig sites.

Current theories revolve around the great famine that occurred in Ireland around the same time period, although these do not account for the fact that the village appears to have been razed or demolished. The Achill Archaeological Field School plans to return in 2017 to conduct further investigations.

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  • obviously a Hills Have Eyes situation
    famine led to cannibalism and then incest and then kidnapping neighboring villagers wich led to their eventual trauncing

  • mph23

    The Innsmouth look. And predilection. Clearly, they worshipped Dagon and Cthulhu. The whole town was either abandoned when they ‘returned to the sea’ or was destroyed when an almost-victim escaped and told the story to authorities.

    It happens. For reals. 😀

  • AS

    What about piracy? I’m usually the first to jump on the abduction bandwagon but by the evidenced trauma to the site, perhaps pirates pillaged and plundered the town, though 19th century may be too late for Barbary pirates.

    Perhaps some pestilence originating from the sea made them all insane, so they destroyed their own village. Just some theories…

  • Neil Ashley

    Ah yes the dread third ritual of the Esoteric Order of Dagon; by the Great Old Ones – that brings back memories.

  • busterggi

    What happened to Bara Hack, the village in Connecticut that disappeared aroundd the time of the Civil War?

    Oh, right, the farms were unprofitable as the land was crappier than most so it was abandoned and time & the weather did the rest.

  • Bear1000

    Hmm, well the travel writer did mention the locals were “primitive and backward.” Assuming he wasn’t being ethnocentric, maybe something (potato famine, village feud, civil strife, etc.) caused them to react violently and kill themselves off? Or a good many of them at least, and the rest fled else where? Just an idea.

  • ithilien

    Potatoes were the major crop, almost the exclusive crop, thus when the crop was blighted the people starved. Have you heard of the potato famine? Poverty area…. i dont know if you can assume everyone had a fishing boat. Wasnt that simple. Irish people are at times fond of hyperbole. I think it was abandoned as many settlements on the western coastal islands were abandoned as people went to the mainland for work, old people died off and no children were born. And the houses were used as salvaged materials by remaining villages. And were deliberately dismantled.