Corpse roads were a means of transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in parts of Europe. Many such roads have disappeared. In spirit lore, spirits, phantasms, wraiths, and fairies traveled the land along special routes. These such routes were believed to be straight and have something in common with ley lines. Mazes and labyrinths would hinder their movements. Spirits would fly along a direct course close to the ground. Any obstructions such as buildings, fences and walls were kept clear to avoid them. The roads would begin or end at cemeteries and thus believed to have similar characteristics to allow ghosts to thrive.
Corpses traveled along defined corpse roads to avoid their spirits returning to haunt the living. It was a widespread custom that the feet of the corpse be kept pointing away from the family home on its way to the cemetery. It was believed spirits could not cross running water. Often, corpses were taken over bridges in route to their burial.
Other beliefs include phantom lights. These lights were believed to be an omen of an impending death or sign of a soul leaving a body. Some believe crops will not grow where a corpse was carried across a field. Villagers in Manaton, England would carry a corpse around a cross three times until a vicar, irritated with the tradition, had the cross destroyed. On Dartmoor, the dead from remote moorland homesteads were taken along Lych Way to the Lydford Church. Some now see phantom monks in white and phantom funeral processions along this path.
Crossroads were seen as a place where the world and the underworld intersected. Because it was seen as a place of transition, it was believed to be occupied by special spirit guardians. Some thought the Devil could manifest at these intersections. Lore also states spirits such as suicides, hanged criminals, witches, outlaws, and gypsies could be bound at crossroads.
Corpse roads weren't strictly an European tradition. Such paths have been found in parts of China, Sweden, the Netherlands and Costa Rica.