The House of Spirits apartment hotel used to be a place of seances

Photo 1: Garðastræti 8. Sálarrannsóknarfélagið  or Icelandic Society for Psychical Research had their offices on the second floor of the yellow building .

The House of the Spirits is today used as an apartment hotel for tourists. Not that long ago, it truly was the house of the spirits. The second floor was used to house the offices of the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research where several séances and trans-healing took place.

Mediums have played a large part in Icelandic culture since the beginning of the 20th century. After the deaths of Iceland's most sought after mediums, they went through a dry-spell where the Society was struggling to find true Icelandic mediums. Since the 1980's, the Society started reaching out to foreign mediums to come work for them in Iceland.  

Mediums came from all over the world to work for the Society. Often, the mediums didn't know the language and only stayed for a short time. This would have made it difficult for them to gather the appropriate information about the sitters. The good thing about this arrangement was that most people felt they could trust these mediums as it would be nearly impossible for them to know random details about people in Iceland on such a short notice.

Photo 2: Garðastræti 8. Seen from the corner of Garðastræti and Ránargata

In May 1986, the English medium, Gladys Fieldhouse, came to Iceland to work for the Society.  That year, she held 72 private séances and two public séances where ca. 260 people attended. Gladys worked as a Freelance medium holding séances all over the world. Her first time in Iceland was in 1986, but several visits followed in the years to come. Gladys helped many Icelanders who sought her help to contact the other side of the veil. On May 7th, 1986, she helped  Magnús Sveinnsson (1906-1989) from Hvítsstöðum. 

When Magnús was seven his father became very ill and had to be separated from the family. He died a year later. After his father's death, Magnús was sent away to live with another family. His new family gave him a very good upbringing and he viewed them as his own. In 1935, Magnús graduated with a teaching degree and worked at teaching children and teenagers all over the country. In 1948 he married Guðný Margrét Björnsdóttir (1908-1953). 

The pregnant Guðný was taken to the hospital on May 1st, 1953 where she gave birth that same day to a baby girl via cesarean section. Everything went well and both mother and child seemed to be doing very well. Magnús and Guðný were incredibly happy and felt so lucky that they were all healthy. Unfortunately, the celebration was short lived. Guðný became sick and the doctors did everything they could to help her pain and suffering, but to no avail. Soon Guðný lost the battle and passed away on June 5th, 1953. 

During the House farewell ( húskveðja), the baby girl was baptized next to her mothers coffin and given the name Guðný Margrét. She went on to become an artist and in 1983 and 1988 she received artist scholarship from the Althing.

Photo 3: Guðný M. Björnsdóttir  source,  Photo 4: Guðný M. Magnúsdóttir  source, Photo 5: Magnús Sveinnsson  source

On May 7th, 1986, Magnús showed up at Garðastræti for a private séance with Gladys. Present in the room was Gladys and Auður Hafsteinsdóttir who was a staff member and translator with the Society. Gladys didn't speak English and Magnús had a limited understanding of English, so Auður was there to help with the communication between them. 

´Photo 6: A photo of the Society's staff member in the year 1997-1988. Auður is the second person on the right. Source

The séance began and Gladys saw many people from the other side in the room wanting to make contact with Magnús. Three of them were women. The first one was his wife, Guðný Björnsdóttir who had died right after child birth in 1953. Guðný wanted Magnús to know that it was really her and not some chicanery on Gladys' part. 

Gladys started telling Magnús about his wedding ring. In fact, Gladys told him it wasn't really his wedding ring, but Guðný's ring.  Magnús was caught off guard and very surprised to hear her say that. He had forgotten all about it. The wedding ring was indeed her's and not his own. 

Several years earlier, Magnús' ring started getting loose around his ring finger and he had to have it re-sized. He went to the goldsmith and had him take a chunk out of his ring and put it on Guðný's ring instead. When the resizing was done, it turned out that his ring was too tight, but Guðný's ring now fit him perfectly. He decided to wear her ring instead and had never taken it off since. 

Gladys told Magnús that Guðný visited him, their daughter and grandchildren often. She also told him that Guðný thinks the boys were going to be scholars.

Photo 7: Magnús´ first wife, Guðný. Source

Magnús thought it was impossible for Gladys to know about the ring because he hadn't told anybody about it. This was her first time in Iceland and she didn't speak the language. Auður didn't know him either or anything about him. He was convinced that Gladys was the real deal

Photo 8: The British medium, Gladys Fieldhouse. Source

The next woman to make contact was Guðný's friend and teacher  Kristín Þórarinsdóttir (1915-1958).  Kristín was diagnosed with cancer and after three months of severe sickness, she succumbed to her illness. Magnús did not share the conversation that went on, we only know that she came through on the other side with his wife and mother.

Photo 9: Kristín Þórarinsdóttir. Source

 Then Magnús' mother, Elísabet Guðrún Jónsdóttir (1874-1948), came through. His mother was showing Gladys a farm. A lot of people were at the farm and she was baking bread for them all. Then she showed Gladys how she would knead the bread by pulling up her sleeves to the elbows. This was exactly how Magnús remembered it, too.  

Photo 10: Magnús' mother, Elísabet.  Source

Magnús felt that people's general perception had changed from the ages of time and from century to century. If we looked at the history since the origin of man, it had been a very short time since we believed the earth was flat. It was likely because our knowledge in physics and chemistry was in its beginning phases, he thought. 

He felt our future children will consider us uneducated and with lack of knowledge. We know very little about the energy of the universe and something new is always coming to light. "Seek and ye will find", are the words of the holy writs. He urged these words to be considered, but felt that unfortunately today,  we can't say that  man was on the right path, but we had to hope the future would be brighter.

Photo 11: Garðastræti 8 seen from the side and into the court yard.

Photo #1: by Sóley Björnsdóttir and Margrét Hallmundsdóttir
Photo #2: by Sóley Björnsdóttir and Margrét Hallmundsdóttir
Photo #11: by Sóley Björnsdóttir and Margrét Hallmundsdóttir


  1. I'd never heard of the House of the Spirits before. How interesting!

  2. I agree, Lydia...very would never know by just looking at that it has such history.
    Have you never heard of it as a guesthouse or the stories of séances in the house?


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