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Unborn Child appears at a seance

Aðalstræti 16 is a historically important location and currently serves as one of Reykjavik City Museum's five locations. This location holds the Settlement Exhibition. Photo by Davis Klavins. 

On the corner of Túngata and Aðalstræti lies lot number 16. It is located down the street from the Althing House. Aðalstræti was understood to be the location of Reykjavik's very first settlement. In 2001, it was decided to excavate the area to search for evidence that supported this. Turned out that right underneath the surface were  ruins of past habitations. On the corner lot they found the city's earliest evidence of human habitation in Reykjavik which was around year 871 A.D. As you can imagine, preserving the findings was of utmost importance, so the city built a museum around the archaeological findings.

The other building on lot 16, is four star Hotel Reykjavík Centrum, which opened in 2005. Aðalstræti 16 was severely damaged in a fire in 1765, so the original building has been altered quite a bit.  It used to be the Sheriff's home and at some it also served as an elementary school.

Aðalstræti in 1925. Photo taken from the viewpoint of Aðalstræti 16. Across the street was Dr. Georg Schierbeck's flower garden. He lived on Aðalstræti 11, which was right next to the garden (skrúðgarðurinn).

In 1917, the famous poet and playwright  Einar Hjörleifsson Kvaran lived in the building with his wife Gíslína and their children. Einar and his wife were avid spiritists. In fact, Einar was responsible for organized spiritism in Iceland. After experiencing otherworldly phenomenon with Iceland's first medium, Indriði Indriðason, his belief in spiritsm was anchored, His belief in spiritism (the afterlife) never wavered after that. That being said, he was aware of chicanery and it was important to him to associate only with those who truly were clairvoyant. When he organized spiritism, he founded the Experimental Society (Tilraunafélagið). It was exactly what the name implied. It was founded upon discovering Indriði's abilities where they observed and experimented the phenomenon. The Society went to great lengths to make sure those involved were honest and truthful. The story of the Experimental Society is among many stories in the book I'm currently working on. This blog is a side project and mirrors the stories in the book.

Aðalstræti 12

The Experimental Society members would often hold meetings and séances in their homes. On a particular evening in February 1917, Einar held a séance at his home. Usually during séances, the medium goes into a trance. Once the medium is in this state, otherworldly beings (people who have died) use the medium as their mouthpiece.

The séance started out as always, with the medium in a trance and a spirit from the other side speaking through the mouth of the medium. The sitters, which are those taking part in the séance, sat in a circle with the medium. Einar and his wife Gislína were both a part of the circle. One of the visitors was Sigurbjörg Ásbjörnsdóttir (1892-1975) from Vesturgata 23. The medium looked at her and a spirit spoke through him saying there was a baby in her lap.  Sigurbjörg was not expecting that and couldn't figure out who the baby could be. She couldn't think of a child that had died and was that close to her.

The spirit then spoke explaining that the child hadn't been born yet, it was currently in a different world. The child wasn't her's, but somehow she would play an important role in taking care of it for a time. One of the other sitters was a clairvoyant lady who claimed to also see the child in her arms. A discussion about the child evolved.

Left: Vesturgata in 1925. Photo from Cornell University. Collection. Right: Vesturgata 2008. Photo by Katie King 

Wanting to know more about this child, she asked the medium what involvement she would have in the child's life. The spirit  explained that she was to do for this child what every mother does for its own child. This would all make more sense when the time came.

One of the sitters then asked if people exist before they come to earth. With a slightly mocking tone, the spirit responded by asking if he really thought that we were first created in this casing.

Sigurbjörg walked out of the meeting pleased with what the medium had said. She was certain it meant she would become a foster parent.

The following year, on April 13, 1918, a baby girl was born on Hverfisgata 94. Her name was Ása Eyjólfsdóttir (1918-2018). In September the same year, Ása had been very sick for weeks. Her parents felt it was time to call Dr. Halldór Hansen. It had already been ten weeks since she became ill and the poor little girl was now experiencing severe vomiting, diarrhea and fever (cholerina -- a bad case of enterocolitis). After the doctor treated her, the fever subsided, but the vomiting and diarrhea persisted. The baby became so thin it was nothing but skin and bones. At six months-old, she was now the same weight as when she was born, about seven pounds.

It became apparent the baby had atrophia infantum, which is "gastrointestinal tuberculosis in children with congenital syphilis, a combination which leads to absorption and tissue atrophy."
This was a life threatening disease and Dr. Hansen did not expect the little girl to live. The only way he knew how to treat her was to feed her nutrition from mother's milk (breast milk). The only problem was that the girl had only been fed milk from a bottle.

Dr. Hansen was aware Sigurbjörg had recently given birth to her son, Pétur (July, 1918). Not wanting to give up on the little girl, Dr. Hansen had an idea. He knew Sigurbjörg had swollen milk ducts from too much milk production. He thought it would be worth a shot to ask her if she could feed the little girl, on her death bed, to give her a little strength. Sigurbjörg was happy to help and started breast feeding the little girl. It didn't take long before they saw improvements in the baby's health and three months later, she was completely healthy. She gained about half a pound a week and soon little Ása was strong enough to drink a normal portion of fluid. Unfortunately, at this point Sigurbjörg was unable to provide enough milk for the girl. They tried breast feeding the girl from two other women, but without much luck. They then tried cow's milk, which worked very well so they stuck with it.

There was no doubt in the doctor´s mind that it was Sigurbjörg's breast milk that saved the little girl's life.

The Settlement Exhibition
Settlement exhibition
A new hotel
Ása Eyjólfsdóttir
atrophia infantum
Story pp. 78-81.
Dr. Halldór Hansen

Pets continue on after this life

Dillon is a Whiskey bar located on Laugavegur 30. Their courtyard is next to Laugavegur 30b. The house is difficult to see from the street unless you enter Dillon's courtyard.

Before the tourist explosion in Iceland, Laugavegur 30b was known by many locals as a party house. The type of people renting the apartments in the building usually brought with them loud music and paraphernalia. Today, the house has been cleaned up for tourists. It's truly a perfect location for tourists as it's very close to all the shops, pubs, museums and theaters. It is now known as Fálkinn Guesthouse.

In 1937, before the house became a party zone, it was just another house with good standing citizens as tenants. One of the tenants was Emil Tómasson (1881-1967). With an education in agriculture, he spent much of his younger years doing farm work. He was a very hard working and ambitious man, serving on various committees and writing multiple articles, especially on Icelandic wrestling (Glíma) and horses. He was a competitive wrestler himself and did very well. He had a passion for the sport and even authored a book about it. 


Emil was very meticulous about his appearance. He was always clean cut and his clothes slick. He was a happy man who loved to sing and dance.

In his younger years, Emil got himself a little puppy and named it Kolur. Shortly after, Emil started working as a teacher for children at a large farm. It was common back then to have teachers come stay on the farms to teach the children their bare essentials like reading and writing. Down in the basement was the kitchen. Emil made Kolur a box and filled it with hay. He then put Kolur inside his new bed and slid it under the oven in the kitchen. 

Kolur rarely left his bed. A lot of people went through the kitchen during the day, but it was only when he heard Emil walking down the stairs that he jumped out of bed. When Emil wasn't working, he took Kolur outside and played with him. They became very close and a special bond developed between the two.

When it came time to gather the sheep and cattle for the farmers, Emil approached them and suggested they take Kolur with them to help gather the sheep. This was always greatly appreciated until the farmers realized that the dog would only go with them for a short while before running back home to Emil. The farmers often cursed the dog and thought he was the dumbest animal there was. Emil never got frustrated with the dog, instead the bond between them became even stronger.

In the spring of 1912, Emil got his own farm and Kolur turned out to be an excellent sheepdog. It appeared that he had found his calling, running around making sure the sheep stayed put. Never once did one go astray while Kolur was on watch.

Icelandic sheepdog. Photo to the left by  Zonjah and photo to the right by   Unknown

During unruly snowstorms where sheep would often be buried alive, the farmers had to go searching for those still alive and bring them to safety. Kolur was able to sense sheep that were buried under the snow and still alive. He saved many sheep from entrapment and starvation. All this made the bond between Kolur and Emil even stronger. 

In March 1922, although still very much active and clear-minded, Kolur had started to age. Emil had to go on a long trip, beginning by taking a boat to the neighboring fjord. As always, Emil brought Kolur with him. The two of them got down to the pier and Emil jumped into the boat, expecting Kolur to follow right behind him. To his surprise, Kolur stayed behind on land. Startled by this change in behavior, Emil got out of the boat so he could carry the old dog on board. As much as he tried, Kolur wouldn't let him pick him up and started moving away from the pier. Not wanting to keep the boat waiting, Emil went back on the boat confident that the dog would find his way home. As the boat left the pier, he watched Kolur standing in the same spot where they parted. Emil couldn't shake this strange behavior in the dog and thought it most likely meant that his trip would be unfortunate or something bad would happen to the boat.

Almost two months later, Emil was finally home. Expecting to be greeted by Kolur, he was instead met with the news that his beloved dog had died. The day after Emil left on his trip, Kolur came home with a swollen and bloodied head. He refused to eat or drink and crawled straight into his bed where he stayed until he died a day later.

About 15 years and a few dogs later, in the summer of 1937, Emil had moved to Laugavegur 30b in Reykjavik. While there, he met a clairvoyant woman. They would often sit and talk about the hidden people and those who had passed on. Although Emil was fascinated by otherworldly matters, he was very cautious about believing everything he heard.
Dillon Whiskey bar on Laugavegur 30. The black house in the background is Laugavegur 30b. Photo by Gary J. Wood.

Seen from Dillon's courtyard. This photo is older than the one above. Most likely taken before it became a guesthouse for tourists. Here Laugavegur 30b is orange. Photo by Narisa.

One summer evening in 1937, the woman came over to his house. She was very excited. She had been able to arrange a meeting with the medium, Hafsteinn Björnsson. Hafsteinn was one of Iceland's most known mediums. The interest in his abilities reached other parts of the world, which resulted in him traveling to U.S.A. to be studied in controlled settings. The research can be found online here. Hafsteinn was a very sought after medium and it was unheard of to get an appointment on a short notice. This was an opportunity Emil couldn't resist.

The medium, Emil and his guests all sat in a circle, as was the norm during séances at the time. Whatever occurred during the séance didn't stick in Emil's memory. It was what happened afterwards that he never forgot. After the séance, the guests visited with each other and made small talk. Emil and Hafsteinn were the only ones left sitting in the circle. They sat and discussed mysterious phenomenon. Emil was thoroughly enjoying the conversation, finding it very enlightening. He noticed that Hafsteinn kept looking over at the wall in the living room. All of a sudden in mid-conversation, Hafsteinn interrupted asking him if he ever owned a dog. Perplexed and caught off-guard, Emil's mind was struggling to shift gears from deep discussions into life's mysteries that he had answered 'yes' before realizing it. He had had many dogs, he told Hafsteinn.

Hafsteinn then told him he was looking at a medium size black good looking dog. Its ears were hanging down. The inside of the ears were yellow with golden edges. His eyelids were yellow too. The eyebrows were unusually thick and furry. The dog's chest was a yellowish-white color and the legs were black in front, but yellow in back. The underside of the tail was white. Hafsteinn didn't understand what he was seeing, because the dog was acting strange. He was standing towards the bottom of a heather-covered steep hill. There's a large field covering an area between many farms. The dog was walking slowly back and forth. He then sat down on the tallest hill and looked down at the farms. It looks like he was in some kind of trouble or was experiencing an inner battle, but Hafsteinn couldn't quite understand what he was seeing.

Emil was speechless. He couldn't have described Kolur in any more detail if he was sitting on his lap. He knew right away what he was describing. He explained to Hafsteinn that he used to have a dog and during sheep gathering he'd lend the dog to the other farmers to help them. Kolur always went off willingly with the farmers, but never followed through helping them. He always returned home prematurely. This angered the farmers quite a bit, because the gathering the sheep would have been so much easier if the dog helped. They cursed and yelled at Kolur. Emil felt he now understood how torn this made the dog feel. He was battling within himself. On one end he had his unwavering dedication to Emil and on the other end, the fear of betraying the farmers when they needed him.

Hafsteinn wasn't done yet. He asked Emil if he had ever owned a horse that he loved dearly. Emil said he had. Then Hafsteinn explained that for a while now he had been looking at a horse's head and the strange thing was that no matter how hard he tried, he could only see his head and neck. The rest of the body was completely hidden. It was like there was a dark mist covering it.  The head was large and beautiful. He could tell the horse was well taken care of. Its eyes were large and bright and constantly looking at Emil. Hafsteinn was surprised of how eager the horse was to get in touch with him.

The Icelandic horse. Kári was reddish-brown in color. Photo to the left by  Thomas Quine and photo to the right by Marc-Lautenbacher.  

There was no doubt in Emil's mind that he was talking about Kári, a horse he deeply loved and missed. The two of them were inseparable and had developed a strong bond. He hadn't seen the horse for over two years. Emil had not been a wealthy farmer and in order to take care of his family, he had taken out a loan. Not quite understanding how deceitful loan contracts could be, he didn't realize he had put a lien on his horse. One day when Emil was in the stable feeding his horse, they came to collect him as a payment on the loan. He watched as Kári happily trotted next to the man with his beautiful mane blowing in the wind. His eyes swelled up with tears. Emil didn't know it then, but it was the last time he'd ever see Kári. 

Soon after, Emil moved his family to Reykjavik. He thought often about Kári and missed riding him. He never stopped wondering how his horse was doing. One day he met a man who knew of his horse. He told Emil that the horse was constantly running away and twice he had tried swimming over Lagarfljót (River in West Iceland).

The following year, Emil was having difficulty finding out how more news on Kári. He was worried about his welfare, especially after what he had previously heard. In the summer of 1936, Emil met another man who knew of the horse. The man callously told him that Kári had died. He had ran away and tried to cross the same river, but fell through the ice and drowned. The news weighed heavy on Emil and he mourned the horse deeply.

Emil never forgot his meeting with Hafsteinn and the mysteries into the afterlife were even deeper than he had ever thought. There was no doubt in his mind that Hafsteinn truly did see the animals. What he didn't understand was why does this happen?

Fálkinn Guesthouse
Emil Tómasson
The story pp. 33-36.
The story (2)
The story (3) pp.41-45.
The story (4) pp.25-27 Research into Hafsteinn Björnsson

The dead contact us through dreams

Ránargata 12 is the first house with a red roof on the right. Across the street on Ránargata 13 was the home of Iceland's first President, Sveinn Björnsson. His father (a devout spiritist), Björn Jónsson, started a printing company in their home. It was to become Iceland's largest printing company, Ísafold. Sigmundur Guðmundsson from my blog about Bankastræti was its main printer.

 On a sunny, crisp January morning in 1942,  Unnur Skúladóttir walked around Tjörnin, the pond in downtown Reykjavik, before work. She loved breathing in the chilly fresh air. It was almost 9:00 a.m. and she started walking towards her job. She worked doing the  light baths at  Miðbæjarskóli which was the inner city elementary school next to the pond. 

She could clearly feel someone lingering over her left shoulder, but when she turned around there was no one there. She didn't mind the presence, it actually made her feel good. As she went about her day at work, the presence never left her side.

After her work day was over, she walked home feeling the presence hovering over her shoulder the entire way. When she got home to Ránargata 12, the presence followed her inside. This is also the place she lived when a spirit followed her to the cemetery. See my blog on the story here

Now when she was home, she had the chance to focus more on communicating with the presence. She decided that bedtime would be a good time, so right before bed she focused intensely on the spirit hoping she'd dream about it.

Miðbæjarskóli by Tjörnin (the Pond) in the middle of Reykjavik city. Photo by Jabbi

 The morning after, she woke up disappointed she hadn't had the dream she so desperately wanted. For several days she felt the presence tagging along as her constant companion. There were times she could feel the presence so strong that it was almost like she could see the spirit. 

All she had to do was to remove the thin veil and there it would be. At one point she considered contacting a clairvoyant to find out who this spirit was, but never followed through with it.

The school in the distance on the other side of the pond in Reykjavik. To the right is the Free Church and Hallgrim's Church can be seen in the distance.

One night while lying awake in bed, she felt herself being pulled out of her body. All of a sudden she was standing in an open field. The field was enormous and stretched out far as eye could see. On this field she saw two roads. One was wide and flat, while the other road was narrow and bumpy. Unnur chose the wide flat road.

As she walked on the road she saw people in small crowds. They were loud and rowdy. They appeared to be working, but she couldn't see any tools. Further ahead on the narrow and bumpy road, she saw a short skinny man. It was almost like he was without ligaments. 

She watched him nervously, fearing he'd fall any moment. She was right to fear, because a moment later she watched him fall down. She ran over to help him get back up. In that very moment the surroundings became brighter. In the brightness a beautiful young woman about twenty years old, appeared next to her. She was petite with dark complexion. The girl smiled. It was such a warm and loving smile.

The girl looked at Unnur and told her she was so happy to finally reach her. She had been trying for so long. Unnur didn't recognize the girl and asked her if she was the spirit that had been with her recently. 

The girl confirmed and explained that she was the little girl from Greenland she had helped. She never forgot how Unnur had made her feel that day. Unnur knew now who it was and asked her if she had passed on. The girl answered she had died the previous fall, but wanted to thank Unnur for what she had done for her. With that the girl and the surroundings disappeared and Unnur woke up in her bed.

Ránargata 12

The story of the little girl from Greenland began 17 years prior in August 1925. At the time Unnur was living with her husband, Dr. Halldór Stefánsson in Ísafjörður. A Danish ship was sailing from Greenland and stopped by in Ísafjörður for a few days. On board the ship were several Eskimo families. Some of them appeared extremely poor, so every day the Ísafjörður residents would go down to the ship bringing gifts for the Eskimo families. Unnur was one of those bringing gifts to the families.

One day when she arrived down at the ship she saw a little Eskimo girl, about six years old, sitting on a wooden box crying. She was wearing brand new leather pants and a raggedy old dirty shirt. Her face and hair were filthy. It looked like she hadn't been cleaned in a long time. 

Unnur walked over to her and tried to comfort her, but she couldn't understand what the girl was saying. Unnur headed over to the captain of the ship and asked him if he knew what was wrong with the girl. He explained that her family and the others had gone out into the woods, but because she was so filthy and raggedy, she couldn't go with them. 

Unnur asked the captain if she could take the little girl home with her. He couldn't allow that. But then he smiled and said he could pretend he didn't notice her taking the girl.

Unnur took the girl home with her. Once there she gave her a bath and scrubbed her from top to toe. The girl's beautiful black hair glowed. She trimmed her hair and gave her bangs. She then tied a red ribbon in her hair and dressed her in a green sweater and a pretty hat. 

The girl enjoyed the delicious food they offered her. After eating, she played with the toys and listened to the family play instruments. She seemed to be loving every minute of the visit. The same evening, Unnur brought the girl back to the ship where the parents were waiting for her.

Unnur was certain that when she met the girl again almost 20 years later in her dream, it wasn't just a vivid dream, but that she had appeared to her very much alive. She also believed that in order to make contact with the girl, she had to help the poor man.

Spiritual contact through dreams
The roles of a cemetery watchman
Reykjavik's innercity school
The girl from Greenland page 118.
John Harvey Kellogg

The roles of a cemetery watchman

´Hólavalla Cemetery is spooky, yet peaceful at the same time. With its old graves and even older trees, it´s easy to feel there's more to life than meets the eye.
Although not the first cemetery in Reykjavík, Hólavalla Cemetery (Hólavallagarður) is presently its oldest cemetery. The historical aspects of this cemetery, and the ones before it, which were located near the Althing House, will be covered in a different post. A brief history will have to suffice for now as this blog is meant to continue with the story from my previous blog about Unnur.

The cemetery got its first 'resident' in 1838, Guðrún Oddsdóttir, age 58. Losing her father, two brothers, her first husband (Stefán Stephensen d.1820) and two of her children while still toddlers, it is impossible to fathom the demons she must have been fighting during her time on earth. According to she had a total of 14 children.

Since Guðrún was the first to be buried in the cemetery, she became its watchman (or watchwoman). It is an Icelandic tradition the first person to be buried in a cemetery becomes its watchman. A watchman's body never rots and its face has never been described as beautiful. The watchman is usually red-faced and wearing red clothes or a green dress. They never get to rest in their graves, because they are constantly on guard. Their duty is to receive all new arrivals and watch over their souls and the garden itself. As you can imagine, people weren't too eager to have their loved ones become watchmen.

Pictures of the cemetery:

The gate on the corner of Ljósvallagata and Sólavallagata.

Back to Unnur's story.  It was now 1945, about 16 years since her vision of Guðmundur onboard the ship (see my previous blog for this part of the story). Unnur was now living on Ránargata 12. She had recently lost her 'fostermom' or nanny (fóstra), Guðbjörg. She wanted to visit her grave site, but didn't know where in the cemetery she was buried. It was a beautiful sunny day in July, so Unnur decided to walk down to the cemetery. It was less than a 10 minute walk and no sign of wind. She walked along Garðastræti heading for the cemetery gate on the corner of Sólvallagata and Ljósvallagata. While she was walking along Garðastræti, she could feel someone walking to the left of her. She turned around to look, but couldn't see anyone there. She figured it was Guðbjörg guiding her to the grave spot.

When Unnur got to the cemetery it was like she didn't control where she was going. It felt like the spirit that was with her was navigating her. All of a sudden, Unnur stopped next to a gravestone. She studied and started reading the engraved letters: "Here lies Guðmundur..." (Only six with that name who died in 1925 were buried in the cemetery, and only one fits her age group being nine years her senior).

Unnur was very surprised to see his grave. She had no idea he had moved to Reykjavík. Last she had heard, he was living in East-Iceland. She stayed by the grave for a while, probably reflecting on her out of body encounter with Guðmundur 15 years prior. To her knowledge, Guðmundur never visited her again.

Additional sources:

Spiritual contact through dreams

The Pond (Tjörnin) and Vonarstræti. The tall building is the Oddfellow building on Vonarstræti 10. The house built on Vonarstræti 12 has been moved to the lot behind it. Photo by Ziko van Dijk.

Unnur Skúladóttir Thoroddsen (1885-1970) was a woman of privilege and high intelligence. She was kind-hearted, loving and altogether a beautiful soul. As a young woman she was known for her beauty and never lacked in the selection of men. There was something else, though that made Unnur stand out even more. She had multiple otherworldly experiences which many would consider dreams, but in her own words:

"They [mystic experiences] can't be called dreams. The awareness is so much clearer than in ordinary dreams, where everything becomes confusing and from one thing to another. This is much more likely to be visions, after all, it always starts out by someone approaching me, usually in my sleep and usually strokes down my left shoulder and speaks in a mild yet decisive manner: 'wake up!' And I feel like I'm waking up and traveling all over. And it has happened that I see myself, what we call lying behind in the bed." (translated by author of article).

The house that once was located on Vonarstræti 12 was built for her father, editor and Thingman (member of the Althing/Parliament), Skúli Thoroddsen. In 2010 the house was moved to the lot behind it as an addition to the Althing House.  The architect, Rögnvaldur Ólafsson (1874-1917) also worked on other known structures in Iceland. Among them within downtown Reykjavík is the Free Church (Fríkirkjan), the Sales tower (Söluturnin), the Minister´s House (Ráðherrabústaðurinn) and the old post office on Austurstræti.

On the right is the Oddfellow building. To the left is Unnur´s home on Vonarstræti 12. If you look closesly, you can see the original lot stands empty and the house has been moved to the lot behind it.

Unnur worshipped her father and he adored her equally. The loving relationship was perhaps reflected in the similarities of their personal characters. She received good education when home-schooled at Bessastaðir (which her dad purchased in 1899 and is now the President's residence) and after that she was sent away to Scotland to study languages and arts. When she returned, she married the newly graduated Dr. Halldór Stefánsson (1884-1948).

Just like her father, she was actively engaged in causes she believed in. She´s most known for her work in the committee to support mothers (Mæðrastyrksnefnd). She was also active in the proletariat (working class) national partnership (Alþjóðasamhjálp verkalýðsins) established by Icelandic communists. Unnur considered herself apolitical and didn't look at it from a political perspective, but rather more that of a humanitarian. She never wavered from the preachings of her father about  being dedicated to Icelandic causes, freedom and independence.

When Unnur was a young woman in Reykjavík, there was a young man by the name of Guðmundur who was fond of her. They didn't know each other well, but she´d see him out and about and dance with him at dances. Their friendship faded with time and he moved away. She heard that he got married, but was always drunk and getting in trouble. Then in 1925 she read in the newspapers that he had died.

Two years went by and she hadn't really thought of Guðmundur since she read about his death. One evening in 1927 when living at Vonarstræti 12, she felt like something was pulling on her as if she was supposed to leave her physical body. She wasn't able to go leave her body. It felt like something kept pulling her back into it when she tried. She felt as if someone needed her to leave her body and go with them somewhere, but on the other side, it seemed like someone was trying to protect her from something bad.

Here you see the empty lot the house once stood and the house itself in the background in its new location (beige colored with red roof).

One night when this had happened and she couldn't go back to sleep, she tried to focus on the day to day type of stuff and fill it with feelings of love for everthing that exists in this world and other worlds. Then she calmly fell back asleep. Soon after she woke up but this time she decided to read. She grabbed a book, and before she knew it she had fallen back asleep.

All of a sudden she had arrived on a strange beach where she could see large rocks, cliffs in various sizes and a desolate beach. In front of her was a large ocean. Far from land out on the water was a ship. The ocean was flat, but seemed heavy and dark red. She didn't like it, but she knew she had to go on that ship. Waves were coming in but she traveled across the ocean with ease, floating right above sea level. It was warmer and brighter there and she was tempted to stay rather than to go onboard the ship.

Then the ship was right in front of her and before she knew it she was onboard. It didn't look like any ship she had seen before. It was all wrong. Besides everything being in the wrong location, the width of the ship was about the same distance as the length.

Not a soul was on deck, but she could feel there was someone there with her. She saw a large opening in the middle of the deck. She went down without using a ladder. She entered a large dim container-looking room. The ceiling was low and it was although large, it was a very tight space. Once down there she saw people and heard groaning and agonizing cries.

Unnur hated it down there. She couldn't stand being there and wanted to leave, but nonetheless she felt she should stay. All these people were begging for help, but she didn't know what she could possibly do for them. She had a feeling that they were all low on the moral totem pole. Every once in a while she'd reach her hands out and when she did it looked like a lamp had been lit for a short moment. The light had a green hue. All of a sudden she heard someone calling her name. She walked in the direction of the voice. It led her  to the north-west corner deep inside the dim room.

The floor in the corner seemed to be made of green-brown pond scum and sitting in it was a man. He covered his face with both hands and said: "Finally you have come to help me. I am Guðmundur". For only a moment she saw him the way she remembered him almost 20 years earlier, but then he changed again. He told her how he had messed up in life and so had everyone else in there.

After listening to Guðmundur, Unnur asked him what she could do for him. He asked her to think well of him and pray for him. Unnur got on her knees in front of the corner and tried to pray for help. It was extremely difficult. It was so hard to breathe in there and no one near could help her. She felt a small light approach, but it never quite reach his corner. She needed more help.

In that moment things started to break apart and disappear around her and she floated higher and higher into the bright light and sunny surroundings. Short moment later she was back in her bed.

Vonarstræti 12 is the large house to the center left. Photo taken in 1910 by Photographer: Magnús Ólafsson.

This trip affected Unnur deeply. She had never seen such awfulness before.

The next day she went alone up on a hillside in the beautiful weather and sat on a big rock. She sat there for a long time thinking good thoughts about the poor people on the ship. She made sure to pray for them every day and send them positive thoughts.

A couple of years later, Unnur felt herself being pulled out of her body and she was back at the same place as she had been two years earlier. She saw the desolate beach and its cliffs. The ocean wasn't like it had been before. It wasn't as dreary and gray and the air was lighter. The ship wasn't as far from land, either. Unnur got on the ship quickly and didn't have the same feelings of regret as before. The ship wasn't as dark as it was last time, but it wasn't bright either. It was kind of colorless. This time there were a lot of people on the deck, but they disappeared right away, leaving
only one man behind, Guðmundur.

Guðmundur told her he had it much better and that he always knew that prayers and warm thoughts would help. The surroundings on the ship were brighter and he was now wearing white clothes. He was happier. He wanted her and others to know this.

Unnur looked around and she could still see the open black hole on the deck. But the ocean was completely still and in the most extraordinary multicolored scheme of blue, purple, yellow, green, golden and light red streaks. She threw herself into the colors and everything disappeared. Life was calling her.

This is only one of many of Unnur's experiences. She lived in various places in Iceland and had similar vivid dreams or out of body experiences throughout her life.

Hermann jónasson
Skúli Thoroddsen 
The mysteries of the Parliament building
The Free church in Reykjavik
Sales tower on Lækjargata
The Minister's residence
The post office
Vonarstræti 12 moved
Unnur Skúladóttir
Halldór Stefánsson 

A mother's love

Ingólfsstræti 21, Reykjavík.
Ingólfsstræti 21 became protected under the protection laws in 2011. It is one of the very first concrete buildings in Reykjavík.  The first concrete house was a large barn the French baron Charles Gauldrée-Boilleau built for himself on Barónstígur 4 (the street is named after him: Baron Street). Although it wasn´t the very first concrete building in Reykjavik, it was the first one built in new-renaissance style. The other concrete house built about the same time was Bankastræti 6.

In 1903 workers from Denmark were brought to Reykjavik to work on the concrete artistry which so beautifully decorates the face of Ingólfsstræti 21. It was built for its first owner, the bookbinder Halldór þórðarson and manager of Félagsprentsmiðjan which was owned by Sigmundur Guðmundsson (he is also mentioned in my previous blog). Its most prominent owner was ship-owner, entrepreneur and visionary Óskar Halldórsson. He was also the main reason there are herring factories in Iceland. You can read about him in Halldór Laxness´ work Íslands-Bersa in Guðsgjafaþulu, published in 1972.

Back in the day, people in Reykjavik would sometimes have the wake or a viewing in their homes and from there, carry the coffin to the church. In 1953, Óskar Halldórsson was the last man to be carried in his coffin from his home on Ingólfsstræti 21 and over to Reykjavik Cathedral.

Óskar Halldórson´s coffin being walked from Ingólfsstræti 21 to Reykjavik Cathedral.

In 1926, a family of five lived on Ingólfsstræti 21. Ragna Gísladóttir (1912-1999) was one of the three children of Margrét Sigurðardóttir (1874-1972) and silversmith Gísli Gíslason (1872-1956).

Ragna loved singing insomuch that she and her friend, Hanna Guðjónsdóttir, joined song clubs. They spent much of their time practicing their singing. In fact, her friend Hanna went on to play an important role in Reykjavik´s music culture (among other things, became a piano teacher and a member of the honor society of the philharmonic choir) and married Stefán Kristinsson who was a part of the The Apostles (postularnir) in Reykjavik´s music association (Tónlistarfélag Reykjavíkur). From early adulthood, they both frequented Unuhús, the main hub for artists at the time.The couple were close to the Laxness family (Halldór Laxness) who lived for a time in the same house on Laufásvegur 25. Their son, Einar Laxness, was a friend of the couple´s son and a constant fixture in their home.

The girls never ate before practice, so Ragna's mom would make sure there was food on the table for them after practice.

One day in 1926 when the girls came home from singing practice, Ragna's mom had gone out to visit her friend Jóhanna Þorsteinsdóttir on Lindargata 9. She had left sandwiches on the kitchen table for the girls to eat. The girls sat down at the table to eat their sandwiches.

Ragna's sister, Magnea Ósk (1904-2000) was hanging out in the living room with her friend Þórhildur Ólafsdóttir. The way the apartment was set up the kitchen was to the right of the entry way and in order to get to the living room, you had to walk through the kitchen. From the living room you could get to the master bedroom.

Þórhildur (1900-1982) went on to play a vital role in foster care education. She went to Stockholm, Sweden, to study social pedagogy and when she returned to Iceland she realized childcare in Reykjavík was severely lacking. It was only available in the summer while mothers worked in the fisheries. Þórhildur fought for a year-round day care for children pushing a healthy environment including healthy foods. In 1940 she opened the first year-round day care with 20 children signed up. She had one assistant working for her. After paying the assistant her wages, there wasn't enough money left over for Þórhildur. Only three months after opening, the money was spent and the daycare closed. She later opened another care center called Tjarnarborg located on Tjarnargata.

While they were eating, Ragna's mom walked through the front door and into the kitchen. She stopped and made small talk with the girls, commenting on how beautiful the weather was that day. The girls looked outside into a clear sky covered in stars. The mom told the girls to finish eating and after a few more comments she calmly took off her shawl and put it on her arm before walking into the living room. She stood in the doorway and said something very serious and strange to Magnea and her friend. Ragna and Hanna overheard what she said and were very confused about the different tone her mother used and the contrast in the conversation to the one they had just had. Chills went through them and they stopped eating altogether. They sat completely still for almost ten minutes. Ragna then got up to ask her mom what she meant by what she had said to her sister. She walked into the living room where her mom had gone. To Ragna's surprise, her mom wasn't there.

Ragna asked her sister where their mom went. Confused, Magnea said their mom was never there. Ragna didn't like the response and adamantly stated that her mom had just gotten back and she saw her talking to them in the living room. Slightly annoyed with her sister, she started looking for her mom. She walked into her dimmed bedroom. She thought it was strange her mom would sit alone in the dark. Certain her mom had to be there somewhere, she searched everywhere. She even searched under the bed covers and under the bed. Her mom was nowhere to be found.

It is common for many Icelanders to take such visions seriously, so the girls got worried that something may have happened to their mom. Without putting their hats or gloves on, they rushed out the door towards Jóhanna´s house. When they got to Bergstaðastræti 6 they saw their mother walking with her friend. When the mom saw the girls rushing towards her, she hurried towards them wondering if everything was alright, especially since they weren't even properly dressed. Something must be wrong.

Relieved and happy to see their mom was OK, the girls asked her if she had been thinking about home. The mom smiled and told the girls she always thought about home when she was away. Happy and relieved their mom was safe, they told her what had happened and how they been worried she had died when they saw her ghost in the kitchen.

Click here to see on Google Maps

S. Nordal and Þ. Þórðarson, Gráskinna hin meiri. 2. bindi. (Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfan Þjóðsaga, 1962), II, 189-192. 

Visited by a dead man

Bankastræti 3, Reykjavik.

Bankastræti is one of Reykjavik's busiest streets and merges with Reykjavik's main shopping street, Laugavegur. On Bankastræti 3 is an old brick house where the fashion accessory  boutique, Stella, is located. This store has been there since 1942 and most of Reykjavik's residents know this house by the name Stella.

This house is the oldest family home in Reykjavik. It was built out of a chiseled volcanic rock called Grey-stone. The building of this house started in 1881 shortly after the completion of the Althing House and likely both buildings used many of the same workers. The outer shell of the house has been protected by law since 2011.

The street used to be called Baker´s Hill, named after the bakery that used to be on Bankastræti 2. In 1886 when Iceland´s national bank (Landsbanki Íslands) moved into the building, they named the street the Bank Street (Bankastræti).

The house was originally built for the printer Sigmundur Guðmundsson to be his home and printing shop. Soon after in 1883, Sigurður Kristjánsson took over the shop and opened up a bookstore and a publishing company which he ran for the remainder of the millennium.

One day in 1899, Þorvaldur Guðmundsson  arrived at Sigurður's doorsteps with a huge book chest ready to move in. Þorvaldur loved reading and collecting books, in fact by 1918 he had collected around 1400 books. He was so engaged in his reading that he took little notice of the clothes he wore.

After arriving in Reykjavik, he became a devout Good Templar and active in YMCA (K.F.U.M.). Þorvaldur was a very good friend of the archaeologist, poet, author and philosopher Brynjólfur Jónsson who often stayed with him when in town. They both grew up in the same small place, so their families were most likely quite close.

Brynjúlfur Jónsson received annual grants to continue his research in archaeology. 

It was right before midnight on May 16th, 1914 when Þorvaldur got home after a Good Templar meeting (Independent Order of Good Templars). He lied down in bed but struggled with falling asleep. As he lied there staring out into the room, he heard someone walking up the stairs to his room. Then all of a sudden his door opened and his friend, Brynjúlfur, walked in and without saying a word, he head directly over to the window. After standing there staring out the window, he just as quietly as he walked in, turned around and left.

Right away Þorvaldur knew something had happened to his friend. Brynjúlfur wasn't in town, so he knew it wasn't his physical body he had seen. Þorvaldur felt certain this meant that Brynjúlfur was either very sick or dead.

After a short night, Þorvaldur got out of bed early the following morning only to hear the news that his friend Brynjúlfur had died from pneumonia that night. In fact, he had died at the same time he visited Þorvaldur's room.

Þorvaldur was a member of the Good Templar Order at the same time as many spiritists who had formed an organization called the Experimental Society. Although he wasn't affiliated with them, he most certainly would have been familiar with their work which had been the talk of the town since it originated less than a decade earlier. Apart from their influence among Reykjavik's residents in otherworldly contact, it wasn't uncommon to believe in visitations from the dead, especially through dreams.

Besides his great contribution in archaeology, Brynjúlfur was known to be highly intelligent and a great philosopher. He was poor his whole life and spent most of his adult life in poor health. Despite his health struggles, he authored many books, including one on parapsychology (Dulrænar Smásögur) which can be read (in Icelandic) for free online here.

Þorvaldur Guðmundsson
Brynjúlfur Jónsson
Good Templars

The mysteries of the Parliament Building

Established in 930 A.D. the Icelandic Parliament, also known as the Althing, is the oldest Parliament in the world still in existence. It wasn't until almost a millennium (950 years) later the parliament members finally got its own building, the Althing House in Reykjavik. It was built in celebration of the 1000 year anniversary of Reykjavík's first settlement in 877 A.D. The building was finished in 1881. Until then, they had their offices at Menntaskóli Reykjavíkur (Reykjavík Jr. College) or just MR, just down the road from Arnarhóll.

The Althing meeting hall at MR Source

The plan was to the Althing House on Arnarhóll, which is said to be the location of the first settlers. Arnarhóll is the hill below the National Theater located on the corner of Hverfisgata and Lækjargata. Building on the hill was perfect. From there everyone would be able to see it. It would practically be on display. Not only that, this area belonged to the country and therefore free to build on. Not wanting to waste anymore time, they transported all the stones needed for the building on to the property and dug a hole for the foundation. They were just about ready to get started on the building.

Arnarhóll. Governor, Hilmar Finsen (1824-1886) used this pasture to feed his cattle. Photo taken in the summer of 1930 by Magnús Ólafsson.

With a hole in the ground and all the materials ready to use, the men in charge changed their minds. The Althing House would not be built on Arnarhóll after all, but further east in the city by Austurvöllur. The workers had no choice. They covered the hole they had spent much time and energy digging and knew that soon they would be transporting all the building material to yet another location. 

Kirkjustræti seen eastward. Althing House is yet to be built, it was still just a kale garden. In the background is MR where the Althing was holding its meetings. On top of the hill in the background is the current location of Hallgrímskirkja. Painting by Jón Helgason

The new location hadn't been decided. All they knew was that it was not going to be up on Arnarhóll. They did have an area in mind, though. It was down by Austurvöllur. Appointed men went from house to house offering to purchase their homes so they could build the Althing House on the property. The homeowners were not so willing to give up their homes as was hoped for. One of the homeowners who felt the pressure was the Althingman and headmaster Halldór Kr. Friðriksson (1819-1902). He had been living on Kirkjustræti 12 since 1851. Halldór had a kale garden in his yard and it was there they wanted to build the new Althing house. Eventually he agreed to sell them his kale garden for 2,500 Icelandic krónur. 

View westward on Kirkjustræti. Austurvöllur is on the right and Reykjavik Cathedral on the left. The small house on the left side (southside) of Kirkjustræti is Halldór's house on Kirkjustræti 12. The kale garden can be seen fenced in on the east side of the house. Photo Sigfús Eymundsson

Just like with most decisions, the public's approval on this new location was split. Many felt it should be built on Arnarhóll, since that was the location of Ingólfur´s first settlement. After all, it was being built in remembrance of the original settlers.  

A journalist for the newspaper, Norðlingur, was very frustrated about this new location. To put his anger to good use, he printed his thoughts in the paper on how Arnarhóll was the only appropriate place for the building. It was the Governor, Hilmar Finsen's fault for not wanting to lose the pasture his cows were feeding on up on Arnarhóll. Instead, he felt they picked the ugliest spot possible. 

Statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, Iceland's first settler. It is located on Arnarhóll where the Althing House was supposed to be built.

The journalist for Norðlingur was appalled they would purchase such an expensive kale garden when they could have built on Arnarhóll for free. Not only that, now they had to move all the stones and other material that had been collected at Arnarhóll all the way to Kirkjustræti 12.  

This was the perfect ranting opportunity for the journalist who kept on about we didn't need an Althing at all the way things were being managed. Governor  Hilmar Finsen was making all the decisions anyway. If only the previous governor, Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879), had still been alive and gotten a few words in, he would never let such a thing happen.

They finally broke ground on the south-side of the kale garden. It turned out that they were digging too close to the pond resulting in a flooded the foundation. They were forced to stop all digging and start again on the north side of the kale garden which is where it stands today.  The newspaper, Norðlingur, was so concerned about this matter that they called them the Red  Thingmen and begged "Good Jesus help them!"

Painting of Reykjavik from 1835. In this picture it is clear how close the pond was to the kale garden. Today, the pond is smaller and does not reach this far. Painting by Frederik Kloss

It was finally time to get started on the building. The plan was to build using Icelandic stone, decorated with an image of Iceland´s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson.

The first floor was to be the national library, the second floor for the Althing and the third floor to the Antiquities Museum. The attic was designed for the Althing meeting rooms. It is a very cluttered and tight space.

The designing and building of the Althing House was given to the Danish architect F. A. Baldt. He was highly respected and paid his men much more than his counterparts. In fact, when the governor found out what he was doing, he said it was against the law to pay the Icelandic citizens this much more. He was paying his staff 3.00 Icelandic kronur per hour instead of 1.75-2.00 kronur per hour. This upset Baldt and he refused to lower the wages.

It was rumored that Baldt knew kaldabras or cold soldering. Back in the day when the Althing House was being built, this method was kept secret and was only known to those who specialized in iron work. Not understanding how this method, many of the citizens were certain this type of soldering could not be done without otherworldly help, namely with help from the devil. It was a method of inquiring evil spirits or other wicked acts.

When the tools broke, as often happened during constructions, Baldt left with his broken tools only to return shortly after with them fully repaired without any physical signs of soldering with fire. It was obvious that it was magic ... kaldabras

The Althing House can be seen  next to (east of) Reykjavík Cathedral. Halldór's house on Kirkjustræti 12 is the small house next to the Althing House.

As is the norm when building houses in Iceland, when the time came to lay the cornerstone, a message was inserted inside it. For the Althing House, it was a silver plaque which was inscribed with, among other things:
"According to the finances of Iceland for the years 1880 and 1881 and Althing's decree 1879, this house is built for the Althing and the country´s galleries on 16th year of governances of Kristian, the King, IX..." (translated by author of article).
A scripture was also engraved into the plaque: Joh. 8:32 The truth shall set you free (Sannleikurinn mun gjöra yður frjálsa).
June 9, 1880, was the official ceremony for the laying down of the cornerstone. The silver plaque along with the blue prints, or a model replica of the building, were put on display in a big tent set up in the park (Austurvöllur) across the street for everyone to see. They put up three poles in the foundation. The two end poles carried the Icelandic emblem, which was a falcon with a blue background.
On one of them was written: with laws shall the land be built and on the other science strengthens all achievements (með lögum skal land byggja and vísindin efla alla dáð respectively). The middle pole carried the royal flag and the emblem with the king´s name, Kristian IX, on it.

Iceland Coat of Arms 1903-1919. Ssolbergj

Coat of Arms of Denmark 1819-1903. This was the first national emblem where Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland had their own symbol of representation (Iceland is the cod fish). Prior to this, they were represented by the Coat of Arms of Norway. The kings under this emblem were Kings Frederick VI, Christian VIII, Frederick VII and Christian IX of Denmark. Sodacan

Trumpets were heard and the people who had gathered themselves for this big event, joined in by singing Martin Luther's psalm A Mighty Fortress is Our God which he wrote in 1529 (original: Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, Icelandic: Vor guð er borg á bjargi traust).

When the singing was over, the governor of Iceland, Hilmar Finsen, put the silver plaque, along with all the valid Danish coins inside a carved-out portion of the cornerstone.  A stone cover was then placed on top and cemented shut. 

In his speech, Hilmar Finsen asked God to bless the building and all the work that went on inside as long as the freedom was based on the truth. Then the bishop tapped the stone three times and said In the name of the Holy Trinity (Í nafni heilagrar þrenningar).

The Althing House on Kirkjustræti in 2020
Rumors of ghosts inside the building have been heard and told by many of Reykjavik's residents. One is of a reporter working late one evening in the building. Something piqued her curiosity about the attic, so she decided to go explore. She went up into the attic and what she saw up there has never been properly described, except as a horrible nightmare of a ghost.

The type of ghost she saw goes by the name mara and is known to harass people in their sleep and suck out their happiness. It attacks people in their sleep by embracing them with a horrible nightmare. Sometimes they step on or lie on top of the sleeping person to suffocate them.
The name mara is the same as mare in nightmare. Educated people often called it succubus or incubus, which are ghosts who lie down on top of people and copulate while they sleep.
The sculptor and clairvoyant, Vagna Sólveig Vagnsdóttir, known for her art and her weekly appearances for several years on the radio station, Rás 2 during the airing of Næturvaktin (Nightwatch). Some people, including herself, claim there may be sorcery imbedded in her art. Vagna´s father, Vagn, has recorded rhymes, verses and stories in an online oral collection on Ísmús which can be listened to here. Her grandmother was Margrét Sigurðardóttir. Her brother, Vagna´s great uncle, was Jón Sigurðsson. Jón was better known as Jón Forseti or President Jón. He was the leader of Icelandic Independence Movement. His contribution to Iceland´s independence was great that his birthday, June 17th was chosen to become Iceland´s independence day.

Vagna is certain a bad spirit is poisoning the minds of the thingmen. She believes as soon as the thingmen enter the building, their demeanor changes completely by becoming dark and heavy. The building is sick and the best thing to do is to remove the Althing from the building to another place altogether.

 Kirkjustræti seen westward in 2020 compared to the same location in 1949. Halldór's house is gone and the Althing house has been expanded. The building going through constructions is at the location of Reykjavik's oldest cemetery. Bottom photo taken in 1949 by Unknown

What reason anyone or anything has to haunt this building is unknown. Perhaps it has to do with a spirit tied to one of the artifacts in the antiquity museum or maybe Baldt released evil spirits into the building. Maybe it has something to do with the history of this area, which has countless stories of otherworldly visitations. Perhaps it has something to do with the type of work that happened on this street.
Other than being next to the church, Reykjavík's oldest cemetery was just down the street. When the cemetery stood in the way of the city's growth, excavations began before all the bodies were transferred elsewhere and houses and gardens built on top of them.
A few houses down, on Kirkjustræti 2, was the location of the first hospital in Reykjavik (1866) and the first location of the medical school (1876). Kirkjustræti 12 on which the property the Althing House was built on, housed the first medical research labs in Reykjavik. A building in the backyard was used to dissect bodies. This building was later used to house the Nurses Association.

 Whatever the story is, the Althing's House continues to be considered haunted.

Sources: Houses on kirkjustræti Kirkjustræti 12 The Althing house Reykjavík 1000 years old Construction of the Althing House Construction of the Althing House (2) A Mighty Fortress is Our God, YouTube Jón Sigurðsson, funeral Article on the Althing House What is a "Mara" A ghost story essay Vagna Sólveig Vagnsdóttir Hauntings in the Althing House Kaldabras