Spirits let themselves be known by ringing every clock

Hraundrangi seen from Öxnadalur. Courtesy of  Finnur Malmquist

Hraundrangi is one of Iceland's most known peaks and is made of lava. It is normally associated with Öxnadalur. According to the newspaper Vísir, this mountain peak was climbed the first time known to man on August 5th, 1956.

Three men set out on this historical journey, Finnur Eyjólfsson and Sigurður Waage from Reykjavík and the American Nicholas Clinch.

Photo: Courtesy of Morgunblaðið

After their great accomplishment, the two Icelanders showed deep gratitude towards Nicholas for joining them on their journey. Without his help and climbing expertise, they would never have been able to make it to the top of Hraundrangi.

Sigurður, Nicholas and Finnur. Courtesy of  Jökull. Finnur lived on Vitastígur 12 and Sigurður on Laugarásvegur 73 (both in Reykjavík).

What many perhaps don´t know is that right on the other side of the mountain lava wall, is a place called Hlaðir in Högradalir. This place was the home of one of Iceland's historical women. She was known for her free spirit and independence. She was a poet and a midwife by the name of  Ólöf Sigurðardóttir (1857-1933).

Hlaðir í Högrárdalur. Courtesy of Herðubreið. A beautiful love poem by Ólöf is posted on the Herðubreið website here

Ólöf was the next youngest of 16 children. Ten of which survived into adulthood. Her parents were dirt poor and without means to take care of their family properly. Ólöf was 19 when she left home and in 1882 she had finished her degree in midwifery and moved to Copenhagen to continue her studies. It was Dr. Jónas Jónassen who taught her. The same doctor who helped Guðmundur from my previous blog.

After graduation she moved back to Reykjavík to work as a midwife, but only a few years later, in 1888, she became sick with Tuberculosis and had to stop working. The year earlier, in 1887, She married the carpenter Halldór Guðmundsson (1850-1920). They moved to a farm in Hlaðir where she lived for more than 30 years. 

She wrote two poetry collections where she used her talent to, among other things describe the poverty and poor conditions from her childhood. In 1945, the spiritist and priest, Rev. Jón Auðuns published some of her work. This was the same priest as held the sermon at Einar H. Kvaran's funeral. You can read about the funeral in my blog here and here.

Hlaðir in Högradalir where Ólöf and her husband, Halldór, lived.  The Facebook page Ólafarhús á Hlöðum is keeping her memory alive by dedicating the page to her and the restoration of her farm. Photo: Courtesy of  Ólafarhús á Hlöðum

When Ólöf was a little girl, she lived in Vatnsnes, Húnavatnssýsla in a small cot at the edge of a small valley. Her mother was on her second marriage and had 16 children. As soon as the children were old enough to go into foster care and earn their own living, they were sent off. It was Ólöf's mom who kept the home running. She made sure there were routines and rules to be followed. Being so strong and resourceful, she was able to pay the bills as soon as they arrived and make the most out of the little they had to create comfort and enjoyment for her family.

More recent photo of the farm, Hlaðir in Hörgárdalur. It is currently being renovated. You can find updates on the renovation on the Facebook page  Ólafarhús á Hlöðum, which is where I found this  photo 

Their home was a turf-house. It was as bad as it could get. The front room was small and low to the ceiling. There were no wooden boards to cover the mud walls or the ceiling, except above their beds where they had put up loose boards to cover the beds. There was no table or any other seating except the beds. There were shelves above the beds where many of their items were kept. All valuables were kept under the bed sheets.

In order to introduce light into the house they used horse fat or seal oil. They were too poor to have any tools, so whenever the turf-house needed to be repaired, they smeared cow poop into the cracks.

View of the bay Hindisvík on Vatnsnes peninsula in the north of Iceland
Courtesy of  

Whenever the roof leaked and dripped down on them in bed, all the sheep skin covers were piled on top of them. They needed to lie completely still, because if they didn't, the puddled water on top of the sheep skin would drip down underneath and get them wet.

Ólöf  herself, described her home in more detail in an article here.

It is perhaps not surprising that the independent and self sufficient Ólöf was an outspoken supporter of women's rights, which could be seen in some of her poetic work. She was one of the first women of her time to cut her hair short.

Hvítserkur in Húnafirði. Courtesy of 賀 禎禎 

Whatever her relationship with Halldór was, they lived separately, yet in the same house. They divided the house between them, so they each had their own living room and bedroom. As soon as Halldór died in 1920, she moved to Akureyri and then Reykjavík where she passed away in 1933.

Love was very important to Ólöf, but it didn't appear that she had experienced it in the way she perhaps desired. She had been writing letters back and forth with the poet Þorsteinn Erlingsson for 21 years, from 1883 until Þorsteinn died in 1914. 

The letters showed strong hints of intimate feelings towards each other.  Just like her, he was a bit of a radical and an eccentric. He was a political rebel and caused quite a stir. His strong opinions were also expressed towards religious and atheistic institutions.

Ólöf and Halldór. Courtesy of mbl.is

Ólöf was a spiritual soul and believed that we continued on living after this life. She wasn't always so certain life after death existed. It wasn't until she discovered her mediumistic abilities that she knew of their existence.

In the first decade of the 19th Century Ólöf started self-educating on the matters of eternity, trying to get in contact with the invisible world. With her unwavering belief in the invisible world, she wanted to share this knowledge with others.

In 1917, Ólöf discovered that a rational and sincere 14 year old boy, whom she knew, was capable of automatic writing. From my research into Ólöf's life, I suspect this boy was Steindór Steindórsson (born 1902). She started using him as a writing medium to contact spirit-beings. It turned out that she was able to come in contact with two men whom she knew when they were still alive. 

These men came to be her main contacts on the other side. She wasn't easily fooled nor was she one to believe without reason. She knew the men's personalities quite well and the way they came across in this boy's writing was so obvious that there was no doubt it was them. The way the sentences were put together and the words used convinced her that there was no way the boy could be doing this on his own.

During the automatic writing, the boy would be wide awake with no apparent transformation. He would read out loud while, using the same speaking pattern as Ólöf recognized being the two dead men. The boy usually didn't know what they were talking about.

In her search of the truth, Ólöf had been fooled before with the authenticity of other mediums. But now, finally, she was in no doubt that she was communicating with the two dead men. Their peculiarities were too distinct to be mistaken.

In 1907-1908 Ólöf's table clock in the living room started ringing incessantly and automatically without stopping. It was in the middle of the day. It wouldn't stop ringing and it was loud. This lasted a few minutes, then it started slowing down with a random ring here and there. Then all of a sudden it started up again. The ringing was loud and incessant ringing.

Ólöf and Halldór were alone in the house and just stood there watching the clock with wonderment and confusion. They were confused because the mechanics of the clock did not allow for any ringing. There had previously been an alarm on the clock, but it had been broken for a very long time and therefore had never been wound up. Instead, there was a hammer and a metal ball in a hole on top of the clock they had been using as an alarm.

Ólöf went over to the clock and tried to mimic the sound by hitting their make-shift alarm with the hammer. No matter how she tried, she couldn't recreate the alarm they had just heard. Then Ólöf commanded whoever was responsible for the ringing to stop this nonsense, she didn't  want this noise around her. The ringing immediately slowed down, but didn't completely stop until a few days later.

The clock had been in the room of an old lady for a few years. She died a few years back. The old lady was resourceful and liked to keep busy. Ólöf felt certain it was the lady who was ringing the clock letting them know of her presence.

A mural of  Ólöf in Akureyri. It is on Listagilið, which is the art center in Akureyri. Located in Grófargil on Kaupvangsstræti. Photo: Courtesy of  Ólafarhús á Hlöðum

In May, 1917, a young man who had close relatives at Hlaðir passed away. Ólöf and Halldór knew him very well and were quite fond of him. He was aware of Ólöf's interest into otherworldly phenomenon and was a little curious himself. The young man was known to be very intelligent and extremely respectful towards others. When he passed away, Ólöf asked her invisible friends (as she called them) to receive him and guide him on his journey. They communicated back to her that they would gladly do so.

In August, 1917, Ólöf heard a ticking sound coming from the loft. She decided to go see what in the world this sound could be. The loft was only used for storage and there definitely wasn't a clock up there. When she got up to the loft, she could hear the ticking coming from a paper bag with metal containers filled with sodium that had been purchased in the city. 

Ólöf opened the paper bag. To her surprise, the ticking sound came from inside one of the metal containers. Then all of a sudden, the second container started ticking, then the third and the fourth. They were now all ticking one after the other. The ticking wouldn't stop, instead it became more frequent.

Ólöf ran off to get  Steindór J. Steindórsson (1902-1997) who was a medium at the time. Without telling him why, she had him follow her up to the loft. Once up there Steindór asked Ólöf why the watches were ticking. Ólöf told him she didn't know. She went back down to get her husband and the others in the house. 

In all, she had dragged five people up into the loft. They all heard the same ticking. They dragged the metal boxes to the middle of the floor and studied them thoroughly to see if there was any trickery to them. All the while the ticking continued. One of the men was not about to be fooled and stuck his hand into the sodium. As soon as he did, the ticking stopped. At the same moment as the ticking stopped, they heard a heavy clock in Halldór's tool shed banging loudly. 

The only problem was that Halldór didn't have a clock in there. Three of them went over to investigate. While out on the grass, they could now hear the constant ticking from the watches up on the loft. They couldn't figure out what was going on and eventually gave up on it.

From the middle of August until late September the watches kept ticking in the corner of the loft. Sometimes it sounded like there was ticking from multiple watches all over the loft. Ólöf seemed to notice that the ticking was affected by the weather. It appeared to be more active when it was warmer. She hadn't heard the big clock under the partitioning in her husband's shed since that day they had gone to investigate.

Ólöf asked her otherworldly friends if they knew what was going on. They explained to her that it was the man who had died recently. The friend Ólöf was communicating with explained that he had asked him to start all the watches. He wanted to let them know of his presence and that he had found residence on the other side. 

In order to do this, a knowledge in chemistry was needed and a lot of practice. The otherworldly contacts told Ólöf he was very diligent and was learning fast the laws and principles that ruled the other side.

Every once in a while they promised S  (this is the name Ólöf gave her otherworldly contact) to write to her via the medium, Steindór.

One of the men who heard the watches was a teenager who had been sick. He was very intrigued by otherworldly experiences and enjoyed sitting where he could hear the ticking of the watches. He was S´s cousin (frændi) and felt certain it was him causing the watches to tick. The sick boy, which Ólöf called A, lived in Hlaðir near the house that Ólöf lived in.  

One day as soon as the boy walked into his house, he heard the watches as if they were right next to him. Everyone else in the house heard the ticking next to him as well. The ticking seemed to follow him around. No matter where he went, the ticking went too. This pleased the boy. A year later the boy died. Ólöf asked her otherworldly control to ask S to watch over the boy, to help him and direct him. She was later told that this had been done.

Then again, six months later, the watches started ticking again, right where A used to sit. The ticking sounded more like motor strokes in the distance. Yet at the same time, the sound was right there with them. It was like someone was changing the sound in various ways.

Whenever Ólöf talked about this, she referred to them as our boys, and that S. and A were making themselves known. The ticking would move from one place to another. Ólöf would test the ticking just to verify it was them, by directing the ticking to occur in certain places. Every time she did this, the ticking adhered to her directions and she was in no doubt it was them.

Four of the men present who later verified Ólöf's story were
Steindór J. Steindórsson (medium)
Halldór Guðmundsson (Ólöf´s husband)
Halldór Stefánsson (1889-1935) farmer at Hlaðir. Died at young age from Tuberculosis.
Kolbeinn Guðvarðsson (from Hlaðir)

Steindór. Courtesy of Morgunblaðið

Steindór was born at Möðruvellir, down the road from Hlaðir where he was raised and considered his home. He went on to become botanist and the first to received a price from the Ása Wright fund for his scientific work in 1977.  In 1993 he received Akureyri's honorary citizen award. He was a teacher and a principle at Akureyri Jr. College (Menntaskólinn á Akureyri).

Steindór was also politically active and became a man of the Althing (Altþingismaður) in 1956. He was a member of the Social Democratic Party (Alþýðuflokkurinn) and was the city council man in Akureyri from 1946-1958.

In addition to teaching and politics, he was highly involved in all kinds of botany organizations, such as being Iceland's representative in the meeting of Nordic natural sciences in Helsingfors (now Helsinki), Finland. He was involved in multiple other international meetups on behalf of natural sciences, including agriculture.

He was also an author and wrote articles in the Heima er bezt (Home is best) for 30 years. He co-wrote and translated many travel books as well.

The spring of 1919, Ólöf and Steindór were communicating with the other side and at the end of the meeting, she was sad to lose the connection with them. It had been such a pleasant meeting, so she asked them to please promise her to let her know of their presence when she went to bed that night. She didn't like the thought of being alone. They promised to try.

Then Steindór left and Ólöf got ready for bed, longingly expecting them to make themselves known. Nothing happened. Ólöf grabbed a book and started reading. An hour later, nothing had happened. She thought to herself that there was nothing they could do for her at the present. She put her book away and fell asleep cuddling with her pillow. 

In that same instance she heard a loud bang right behind her neck and another loud bang right afterwards in front of her heater. It was as if the shot was coming from a double-barreled rifle except the bang was smaller. She laughed, thanked them and went to sleep.

Ólöf was often aware of her otherworldly friends in various ways. She enjoyed their presence very much, especially when she was alone and therefore she rarely ever felt alone. She didn't like sharing experiences she had when alone since there was no way to prove they actually happened, so she kept those to herself.

A marker in Ólöf's memory located in Hólavalla Cemetery in Reykjavík. Her funeral services were held at the Reykjavík Cathedral by Austurvöllur. Although her marker is in the cemetery, I couldn't find her grave registered anywhere. The search was done on a website which includes all cemeteries in Iceland here. Photo: Courtesy of Ólafarhús á Hlöðum.

In 1917, Ólöf received a Christmas letter from the spiritist and priest, Rev. Haraldur Níelsson. You can read about him in my previous blogs here and here and here. The letter was handed to her while she was sitting in the dark one night. She didn't open the letter right away since it was dark. Before she lit the light, Steindór came to visit. They had decided to make contact with the other side that evening.

Ólöf lit up the light and looked at the letter. She saw it was from Rev. Níelsson. She didn't open it but said to Steindór that now they should test their otherworldly connections by asking them what is in the letter from the Reverend. They sat down together and reached contact with their spirit friends. They did as Ólöf had said and asked them to tell them what was in the letter. The otherworldly control (the spirit-beings in control of the communication) said they would try, but it wasn't certain that they could.

To make it easier for them, Ólöf said it was enough that they told her one sentence word for word, but it had to be of decent length. The otherworldly control did not want to agree to this, because if there was anything wrong with the sentence, then she'd lose all trust in them. They explained to her that it is impossible to translate word for word through the medium. 

Ólöf then asked them if they could at least tell her what the letter was about. The otherworldly control promised to try, but said it would be difficult. He then started giving her information about what was in the letter. 

Among the things he told her was that it was written on postal paper (postpappírörk) with thin letters. The spirit-being also told her the content of the letter, which turned out to be exactly what the Reverend had written. Although it was just a summary of the letter, it could not have been more accurate. Both Ólöf and Steindór felt quite happy and triumphant.

Ólöf's funeral services were held at the Reykjavik Cathedral by Austurvöllur. The same priest that held the funeral service for Einar H. Kvaran, also did so for Ólöf, the spiritist, Rev. Jón Auðuns. He also went on to publish much of her work some years later.


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