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All Soul's Day

  Visions of holographic images on All Soul's Day 

Fríkirkjan is the largest wooden church in Reykjavík. The white structure on the right is 'Glaumbær'  and houses Listasafn Íslands (Icelandic Art Museum). Þorsteinn V. Jónsson

Spirit-beings have been known to frequent the Icelandic churches.  Fríkirkjan  or The Free Church in Reykjavik is no exception to such visitations.   

The Free Church is a breakaway church from the State (Lutheran) Church. 

This transfer to the Free Church had nothing to do with the doctrine. It seemed to have more to do with imitating the rest of the world. 

The Free Church was organized more like the churches in Norway and the Icelandic communities in North America.

The original Free Church by the pond, Tjörnin, in Reykjavík. Built in 1903.   Magnús Ólafsson (1862-1937)

The growing congregation was in need of a building and in 1903 they consecrated their brand new church east of  the pond,  Tjörnin

As the congregation grew even bigger, the church went through structural changes as early as in 1905. Then again, less than 20 years later, in 1924, they built even more additions to the church.

      
Side view of the original Fríkirkja (Free Church) in Reykjavik.   Sigfús Eymundsson (1837-1911) 

On the left is Iðnó, in the middle is the Inner City School and to the right is the Free Church. In front of the buildings is Tjörnin and up above is the German air ship   Graf Zeppelin. It came to Iceland in 1930 and 1931.   Pálína Þorleifsdóttir

The otherworldly phenomenon experienced in this church are so many that they cannot all be mentioned here. Some have already been mentioned in my  blogs here , while others I have included in my work in progress (WIP)  . One of the women I mention in my book is   Valgerður Gísladóttir   (1902-1979). 

During Valgerður's childhood, many authors and poets frequented her home. Among them were the spiritists  Einar H. Kvaran  and  Rev. Haraldur Níelsson . During her childhood and teenage years, Valgerður was not a believer in healings or communication with the dead. It wasn't until later in life that she began to keep a more open mind.

Valgerður Gísladóttir 1957.   Þjóðviljinn

Valgerður's mom, the midwife  María Þorvarðardóttir  (1862-1937), was mystical by nature and believed strongly in otherworldly things, including healings.

Although her spiritist-affiliated mother discussed otherworldly things with Einar Kvaran and the Reverend, Valgerður's favorite guests were the atheist and socialist,   Þorsteinn Erlingsson and                Jón Trausti whose work mirrored  naturalism. They seemed to be more realistic and to have more sympathy for the people.

Helga María Þorvarðardóttir (1862-1937). Morgunblaðið

As Valgerður grew older, she spent her time and energy in politics. She   was optimistic about the future of equal rights in Iceland. She also saw the need to fight against the injustice in the legal system. Gender roles didn't sit well with her and she felt that women could do much of the same work that men were doing. 

For a time,  Valgerður  served as  the President of the Women's Association of the Socialistic Party (Kvennafélag sosialista). She was also active in a party called   The People's Alliance  (Alþýðubandalagið) and   The People's Unity Party--Socialist Party   (Sósíalistaflokkurinn). She also played a role in multiple other associations, including Children Protection Services. 

Her strong personality and high intelligence was admired by many. She was known for her honesty, decency and love for her fellow human beings. 

     
The Free Church by the pond in Reykjavík as it looks today.    

It wasn't until Valgerður was in her early 20's that she began to believe in otherworldly phenomenon, including spiritual healings. She had for a long time suffered from a severe knee problem that forced her to use crutches while walking (see WIP). 

Valgerður's mom had tried multiple times to get her to have a medium heal her. Valgerður wasn't about to fall into the superstitious trap. 

Emotionally, she wasn't ready to put her hopes into something she didn't believe in. She wasn't ready to put her hopes into something she didn't believe would work. It would only cause her disappointment and deepen the depression of yet another failed treatment. She wanted nothing to do with it. 

At the time, Valgerður had moved in with her parents as she hadn't been able to work due to her injury.  Around this time, Valgerður dreamt of a woman entering her room. The woman walked over to her bed. She didn't know the woman, but she saw her clearly. She was average height with penetrating gray eyes and sharp eye brows. 

She looked down at Valgerður and said with a strict commanding voice:  Let yourself be healed, child . Valgerður startled and was instantly wide awake. Even though she was awake, she thought she saw the woman walk out of her room.

Hverfisgata 70, Reykjavik is the home Valgerður grew up in. It is also where she had the dream and where the medium healed her injury. 

The following morning she told her mother about the dream and described the woman. Her mom recognized the woman right away as her own mother,  Valgerður Bjarnadóttir (1829-1895). 

Valgerður, named after her grandmother, had never seen her grandmother as she died before she was born. She had never seen a picture of her, either. Seeing this as a sign, her mom begged her to allow the medium to at least give it a try.

Valgerður wanted to get better more than anything, but had zero faith in mediums or any other miraculous healings. She did believe in God or some type of a higher power who controlled our lives if we did what we thought was best and right. 

Being in her early twenties, she hadn't had much life experience yet. She felt very confused on the matter and since all attempts of general medical practice had failed, she finally agreed to try the healing. 

Excited, her mom invited the medium  Andrés Böðvarsson  (1896-1931)  (who's story I will tell you in my WIP). He had Valgerður lie down on a chaise, then put his hands in the area of her injury. 

Valgerður was determined to stay awake and make sure she knew exactly what was going on. But as she grew more tired, she fell asleep before even realizing it. 

     
The only image of Andrés Böðvarsson that I could find.  Morgunn

When Valgerður woke up the morning after, she was surprised to move her knee. It had been a very long time since she had been able to bend it at all. She walked around the house in awe and in shock that she was moving her leg normally and without crutches. 

Valgerður walked into living-room where the healing had taken place. At the table was a note that the medium had written. She walked over to the table and picked up the note. As she began reading, she realized that it described what type of injury it was and how it had occurred. 

It wasn't until that moment that Valgerður remembered the incidence. It had been such an uneventful misstep of the foot when climbing a fence, that she would never had put the two together.

      
Free Church on the right.   Betty D Scott

After the dream-visit by her grandmother and the spirit-healing, Valgerður began discussing these things with her mother and was soon an unwavering believer in otherworldly communications.

Since then, her grandmother continued to visit her. Although she was dead before Valgerður was born, she felt she knew her grandmother very well. She saw and talked to her often. Her grandmother would frequently give her good advice when she needed it.

In  1899 the Free Church had with 600 members. In 1901,  6,321 residents  lived in Reykjavík. This shows that about 10% of Reykjavík's residents left the State Church and joined the Free Church community.  Mörður Árnason

On November 2nd, which was the   All Soul's Day, the day dedicated for prayer and remembrance of all souls who have left their earthly body, Valgerður went to the Free Church. 

Reverend  Jón Auðuns was preaching that day. You may remember him from my previous  blogs here

As Valgerður sat in her seat watching the choir sing, she suddenly saw an image of a woman right above the choir. The image was as clear as day and very detailed.  Valgerður was a little confused, thinking she was seeing things that weren't really there.

She tried to get rid of the image by looking elsewhere around the church and out through the window. Then she looked back at the choir, but the image of the woman was still there.

    Ever since Valgerður reached adulthood, she was a member of Icelandic Society for Psychical Research which Einar Kvaran founded.  Þjóðviljinn

Judging by the woman's large dress and the way her hair was done, she appeared to be from the 17th Century or so. She was sitting in a chair and had a lot of hair. 

Then a cloud appeared and covered the woman's face and then the entire image. As soon as her image disappeared, another image appeared. This time it was of Reverend Haraldur Níelsson. She recognized the image because it was the exact same as a picture she had seen in her mom's house. 

It then occurred to Valgerður that she shouldn't have doubted her vision of the lady in the first place. The reason the image of the Reverend appeared was to show her that the first image was a true v She felt she was shown the latter picture to prove the authenticity of the first image.

 
The Day of the Dead. Painting by   William-Adolphe Bouguereau


Dealing with spirits that don't go away

Spirits can stick around in the same location regardless of structural changes to the area 

On Austurstræti 8 is a vintage store called Gyllti Kötturinn (The Golden Cat).

It may not come as a surprise to all that most of Reykjavik's ghost stories are from the oldest part of town. The first street ever built in Reykjavík was Aðalstræti and then Hafnarstræti . Today's story is about the third oldest street,  Austurstræti. 

With its first house in the year 1800, Austurstræti became the official third street. This house no longer stands, but was located on  Austurstræti 4.  The oldest house still standing is  Austurstræti 20, which was built in 1805.

As one of Reykjavík's oldest streets, many of the memories etched into its history are rarely talked about out, let alone remembered. 

The oldest house that still remains on Austurstræti is  Hressingarskálinn  (Hressó) on Austurstræti 20 which was built in 1805.   Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason

In 1860,  Guðmundur Lambertsen  (1834-1885) was a successful and known merchant. He owned a house on  Austurstræti 8 which he used as a  store, tailor shop, brewery and a bar. It was called Lambertsenhús (the Lambertsen House). His house was known to have ghostly activities. 

Lambertsenhús or the tailor's house in 1845 on what is now Austurstræti 8. It wasn't until 1848 that the street got its name, Austurstræti (East Street), as it is east of Aðalstræti (Main Street). Before then, it went by the Danish names Tværgaden and Langefortov.  Picture painted with watercolors and markers by  Jón Helgason

In 1874, one of the founders of Iceland's first spiritist society and the Minister of Iceland (1909-1911), Björn Jónsson (1846-1912), established the paper Ísafold. Three years later, he added  Ísafoldarprentsmiðja   (Ísafold Printing Company)  to his business. He was running his printing shop out of his home and it was getting crowded. It was time to expand and move into something bigger. 

Björn Jónsson was the Minister of Iceland, a devout spiritist and the father of the Iceland's first president, Sveinn Björnsson. See my posts (6) that mention him Unknown

In 1887, Björn found the new location for his business. Guðmundur Lambertsen had died the year before and his house was up for sale. Björn ceased the opportunity and  purchased the house. It was to be the new location for his printing company, offices, book store and family home.

The Lambertsen House was too small for Björn's needs, so he tore the Lambertsen House down and built a new one. 

  Austurstræti 8-10 is perhaps most known for housing  Ísafoldarprentsmiðja  (Ísafold Printing Company).   Ísafold

The tearing down of the old house and building a new one did not drive away the spirits. In fact, the otherworldly activities were quite frequent in this new building.  It is worth pointing out that not only was Björn a devout spiritist and the Minister of Iceland, but he was also the father of Iceland's first president, Sveinn  Björnsson (1881-1952). The house on  Austurstræti   was to become the future president's childhood home. 

Sveinn Björnsson, First president of the Republic of Iceland. He served as president from 1944 to 1952. He also served as Grandmaster of the Icelandic Order of Freemasons. See my posts (2) that mention him Forseti.is

The bank director, Jens Waage (1873-1938), who went on to marry the spiritist Eufemía Indriðadóttir    (1881-1960). She was the daughter of the spiritist Indriði Einarsson. You can read more about him in my blogs (2) here . He was Indriði Indriðason's cousin, Iceland's first medium. Read about him in my blogs (4) here

Jens had his share of ghostly experiences in the building. One of those experiences was the annual poker game.

Jens Waage was a bank director and an actor. Magnús Ólafsson

 Every New Year's Eve, the Ísafold building was quite a lively one. Two spirit-beings would sit down together and play poker. The game was usually quite noisy and people could heard the clinking coins and the laughter. One of the laughs was loud and distinct. 

It was clear to those who heard it that it was Sigmundur Guðmundsson's   (1853-1898)   laugh. He was the head printer. The other poker player was Guðmundur Lambertsen, the former owner of the Lambertsen House.

Guðmundur Lambertsen was the owner of Lambertsen House and one of the poker players Jens Waage saw. He died from pneumonia at the age of 50. He was considered highly intelligent and knowledgeable in many traits.  Sólveig Eymundsson

Sigmundur Guðmundsson (1854-1898)  was a printer and a vital part of Ísafold's success. He was an intelligent man who loved a good time. He was highly educated, fluent in four languages and a genius in the printing business. In fact, he was considered the best in the country. 

In 1879, during a visit in England, he purchased a speed-press and brought it to Iceland on the mail ship Phoenix. This made Ísafold the first company in Iceland to use a speed-press. They were now able to print 600 newspapers in one hour. 

The press was first located at Bankastræti 3, a house you can read about in my blog  here . Sigmundur was Ísafold's main printer from its very first day of business until in 1883 when he decided to start his own printing company. Sigmundur became very sick and at the young age of 44, his body succumbed to Tuberculosis. 

Sigmundur Guðmundsson was the other poker player who Jens Waage saw. Ísafold

All ghostly activities in the house couldn't be blamed on the two poker players. Like the poker players, some of the spirits were more recent and tied to the printing company. 

Late one evening,  Guðmundur Þorláksson  (1926-1988), one of the paper's employees, walked towards the printing room with a letter in hand. The printing room was closed, so he opened the letter slot and pushed the letter through. 

Guðmundur Þorláksson.  Morgunblaðið

While Guðmundur had his hand inside the letter opening on the door, he felt a large furry hand touch him from the inside of the printing room. Terrified, he jerked his hand away and took off running. He ran into the room where his coworkers sat around a table. 

Guðmundur was white as sheet and looked like he had just had the living daylight scared out of him.  Guðmundur manage to pull himself together and tell his coworkers about the furry hand. 

After describing it in detail, his coworkers knew exactly who he had encountered. It was a woman he used to work there. She died earlier that winter. 

Björn had the Lambertsen House torn down in 1886 and built a larger house that could fit the printing shop, office, book store and his family home.  Ísafold

The spirits who had been there from the days of Lambertsen House were still watching over the people living there. Inside the shop was a ladder to the second floor. The ladder also served as a door to the basement. In order to keep the basement open, the ladder had to be leaned up against the wall. 

There was a hook on the wall to keep the ladder from moving. The basement was in use all day long, so the ladder was hooked up against the wall most of the day. 

One of the ways the ghosts would make themselves known was to pick up the large printing letters out of their boxes and throw them on to the floor with a loud bang. Photo from 1906.  Prentsögusetur

Although it was convenient to keep the basement open, it could also be hazardous. On several occasions, they would forget to put the ladder back at the end of the day. After dark people would accidentally fall down into the basement. As painful as the fall was, nobody ever got seriously injured. This didn't surprise anyone, as they knew there was a guardian spirit looking out for them.

Austurstræti looking westward. Ísafold Printing Shop is the first house on the left.   Magnús Ólafsson 1862-1937 

There was something else there too, something unclean. All day long, the men would climb the ladder to get from the typing hall to the offices. The spirits seemed to know they were in a rush, because every time the men hurried up the ladder, they were slowed down by the spirits pulling on their legs. It was only luck that nobody fell when this happened. 

The printing shop is in the center of the photograph. The bottom left corner is Austurvöllur.  Magnús Ólafsson

Björn wanted to know what was going on and invited a clairvoyant woman to come take a look.  When the woman got to the house, she looked under the ladder and was startled. She saw an awful spirit-being crouching under the ladder. It looked so awful she couldn’t even begin to describe it. It barely looked human.

The crouching distorted looking spirit enjoyed having fun with the workers. The clairvoyant lady explained that the spirit would spit between the ladder and the men's feet when they were rushing up it. This extracted energy from them. The clairvoyant lady didn't know what kind of spirit this was, but it would be a good thing to pray for it. After the visit, the pulling on the men's leg in the ladder ceased.

Austurstræti looking eastward. The Governor's Office that used to be the jail (see previous post) is the larger white building on the left. The printing shop is the large building in the center.  Þjóðminjasafn Íslands

The men were later told that this scary being used to be in the old Lambertsen House (Tailor's house). Nobody at Ísafold showed any fear of these otherworldly activities or was afraid of the dark. They all felt there were guardian spirits in the house looking out for them. 

The Printing Shop to the left as seen from Austurvöllur.  William Gersholm Collingwood 1854-1932

As if these activities weren't enough, these ghosts were relentlessly mischievous and didn't seem empty for ideas. One evening, Iceland's first official medium, Indriði Indriðason came to visit Björn in his office. He brought his friend and fellow spiritist, Brynjólfur Þorláksson (1867-1950) with him. 

Björn invited them inside to sit down and brought them apples to eat. Brynjólfur held a delicious apple in his hand and was about sink his teeth into it when all of a sudden, the apple flew out of his hand and on to the wall where it smashed open with a bang.  Björn had only one response to this: yes, yes! This is how it is

Right after the apple hit the wall, an empty chair levitated all the way up to the tall ceiling only to come crashing down to the floor, breaking the chair. Brynjólfur couldn't take it anymore and told Indriði it was time to go before it got worse. 

It turned out that this time, the spirit wasn't one of Ísafold's regulars. This time it was Jón Einarsson from Vestmannaeyjar who had been relentlessly haunting the medium, Indriði. You will hear more about him in my upcoming book .

The Ísafold house That once stood on Austurstræti 8-10 has since been moved to Aðalstræti 12.

Today, Austurstræti 8 is a vintage store called Gyllti Kötturinn (The Golden Cat). On their website, the owners have written a heart warming and welcoming introduction to their store. Among the things they wrote was:

This desire to bring something back to life again and again gives power to present, by not allowing the past to fade into oblivion.

The owners of Gyllti Kötturinn have a spirit girl appear on the stairs inside the store. The girl is harmlessly mischievous. She spends a lot of time down in the basement of the store. She's young, but although they have tried, the owners haven't been able to figure out where or when she's from. 

The American Bar restaurant is next door to Gyllti Kötturinn.

The girl appears to be 10 years old or younger. She has long black hair and looks to be from a different era judging by her clothes. By the looks of it she's not from Iceland. She probably arrived there wearing her favorite clothes. She wears felt shoes and a brownish dress with a laced collar. Her skirt is wide, like the skirts from the 40's. 

 

 The girl communicates with the owners by hiding things. She doesn't like how messy it is, so she'll throw the clothes into a corner. The owners take this as a hint that they need to clean up the area. The girls is a pleasant addition to their store and she carries with her good energy.

One time, the owner, Hafdís Þorláksdóttir's skeptic-by-nature sister came by the store. While they were chatting and eating cake, she decided to tell her skeptical sister about the spirit-girl. As expected, the sister told her how ridiculous she was. Obviously this was just all in her imagination. Just as soon as she had said that, her cake flew out of her hand.


Click here to see on Google Maps

Additional sources:

Haunted house in the middle of the city

A monster-looking ghost haunts a man living in Reykjavik city center. How does he know whether it's real or a prank?

Tjörnin (The Pond) in Reykjavík.  Bernd Thaller

Smack in the middle of the 18th century Reykjavik city was a cluster of turf houses and factories. These structures belonged to Sheriff Skúli Magnusson's corporation called Hið Íslenska Hlutafélag (The Icelandic Corporation). It was established in 1751 by Icelandic politicians wanting to boost the economy. 

In January 1752, the Danish king approved of the corporation and the name was changed. It was now under the Danish name,  Det Privilegerte Islandske Interessentskab or PII . Eventually it became known under the name Inréttingarnar . Among the buildings was one of Reykjavik's most famous haunted houses: Brúnsbær.

Map from 1787. In the yellow top portion is the factory village. The house labeled "a" was the church. South of the church was the location of Brúnsbær. The right side of  the map is Tjörnin (The Pond) which is seen in the cover photo of this post. Borgarsögusafn

Brúnsbær was originally called Bödkerværelse or Viktualiehus which are Danish names. The names point towards the house being a cooper apartment and a food storage for the factories. When the factory housing was sold, Christine Bruun purchased it in 1791. This is when it received its name, Brúnsbær (Bruun's Place), after her. Her husband was Sigvard Bruun. 

Sigvard Bruun was sent to Iceland in 1785 to be the jail warden in Arnarhóll. The jail was built in the years 1761 to 1771 and was considered an awful place to be locked up. The prisoners were starving and suffered great hardships. 

Bruun or Brúnn as the Icelanders called him, was considered the worst kind of human being and a brutal warden. Although he only served his position for two years, he was remembered as the worst of all the wardens. 

The hardships weren't just the doings of Mr. Bruun, nor was it just the prisoners who suffered. When Bruun became the warden, Iceland was experiencing what could be considered its most miserable time in history. 

After the eruption of  Lakagígar  (Laki) in 1783-1784 many people had died from this natural disaster. The soil became contaminated destroying crops and killing 50% of Iceland's livestock. 

This had a devastating affect on their farming, resulting in families losing their farms and becoming homeless. Severe famine spread throughout the country causing starvation to the point of death for many. In fact, about 25% of the population died as a result of the famine.

The central fissure of the volcano, Laki. The 1783 eruption shot out 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, causing crop failures all over Europe and potentially played a role in droughts in North Africa and India. The eruption began on June 8th, 1783 and lasted until February 7th, 1784.   Chmee2/Valtameri

Half of the prisoners on Arnarhóll died in 1785. Mr. Bruun was known for his neglect and violence which didn't help the survival rate of the starving prisoners. The prisoners despised him and rumors have it that Mr. Bruun was a sadist. 

Back then it was a custom  to mistreat the prisoners, both in Iceland and abroad. The fact that his treatment of them became infamous was a sign that he stood out among the other brutal wardens. 

Although Mr. Bruun was married, he was known to be quite the womanizer. When he lusted after a young woman, it didn't matter to him whether she was willing or not. The rumors had it that one of the female prisoners became pregnant with his child. As a reaction, he beat her to death before giving birth.

Another story tells of two prisoners, a man and a woman who fell in love. Mr. Bruun fancied the woman and wanted her to himself. 

To make that happen, he did such a number on the man that he was no longer able to offer himself to any woman. It has been speculated that he cut off his private parts. Shortly after the incident, the prisoner died from the injuries. 

The old jail where Sigvald Bruun was the warden. Today this is the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr. Bruun is said to have killed ca. 60 prisoners in the two year period he was there. To put this in perspective, the prison could hold 60 prisoners at a time. Usually there were 40 prisoners at any given time. I would say that during his two year shift, the likelihood of survival was not great. 

Mr. Bruun died in 1787, two years after he began his job as the warden. One morning, he got out of bed and walked out on the grass in front of Arnarhóll. As he stood there, he saw a horse he didn't recognize. 

Mr. Bruun tried to make it leave and thought it would be helpful to walk behind it. When doing so, he startled the horse and it kicked up its hind legs right into Mr. Bruun's chest. He died from the injuries and the horse took off. 

The horse was never found and no one claimed to have any knowledge of what horse it could have been. Many believed the horse was an unclean spirit sent to kill the warden as a revenge for his evil treatment of the prisoners.

Bankastræti. The jail (Prime Minister's Offices) is seen on the left side. The brick house up the street (left side) is Bankastræti 3. Read about the house in my blog here .


In front of the jail, which today serves as the Prime Minister's Offices.

Many known men had lived in the cooper's house throughout the years. Among them was The Protector of Iceland, Jörgen Jörgensen (1780-1841), the Dog-Day king. He arrived in Iceland for the first time in the beginning of 1809. 

Jörgen was determined to block the power Denmark had over Iceland and reinstate the Althing as soon as Iceland received independence. Jörgen lived there during his stay in Iceland which was until March, 1809.  

Portrait of Jörgen Jörgensen in 1808-1809 by   Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg  (1783–1853)

The house was torn down in 1834 by Hannes Erlendsson from Mel. Hannes then built a timber house on the lot, but kept the name, Brúnsbær. A little over a century later, in 1944, the house was torn down.

Brúnsbær that was built in 1834. It stayed there until 1944 when it was torn down to make room for a much larger building.   Vikan

In 1835,   Stefán Gunnlaugsson was called to be the sheriff in Reykjavik. He moved into Brúnsbær with his family and stayed there until 1838. He moved his family into a brand new home he had built on Amtmannsstígur 1. The house was considered quite beautiful at the time, one of the most attractive ones in the city. The house is still there today and currently serves as a restaurant. 

Besides being well liked and a diligent sheriff, he was known for making Reykjavik more Icelandic . He had his assistant call out on the streets Icelandic tongue belongs in an Icelandic city!  Denmark had a great influence on Iceland back then and many words spoken on the streets were in Danish or of Danish influence.

Amtmannsstígur 1.  Vera de Kok  

In those days, over 150 years ago, there were no street lights. When the moon wasn't visible, the night was black. The only sign of light was the flickering candle lights in the windows. What made Brúnsbær a little spookier than other homes was its close vicinity to the city's only cemetery, Víkur Cemetery.

In 1823 Brúnsbær was the living quarters for several individuals. There was a family of four: Sigmundur Johnsen (Jónsson) carpenter, 44 years old; his wife Birgitta Halldórsdóttir, 28 years old and their two children Lárus 4 and Jóhanna 2. In addition, there were seven single workers living in the house: Ingigerður Magnúsdóttir worker from Njarðvík, 20 years old; Einar Jónasson worker 25 years old;  Kristján Jakobsson  merchant, 25 years old; Hannes Erlendsson  shoemaker, 25 years old;  Sigurður Breiðfjörð  cooper, 25 years old;  Pétur Petersen (Pétursson)  cooper, 27 years old and  Guðmundur Hannesson  worker, 27 years old. 

The highlighted individuals are a part of the following story. All the men were around 30 and enjoyed their liquor very much. 

The poet, Sigurður Breiðfjörð , was born in 1798 in Breiðafjörður. To earn a proper living, he worked as a cooper all over the country and even traveled as far as Greenland for work. He was a bit of a scoundrel. He was penniless and never stayed with the same woman for long. 

In 1826 he moved to Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) and married Sigríður Nikulásdóttir.  He left her and married Kristín Illugadóttir from Snæfellsnes. It was against the law to be married to two women at the same time, so he was charged and sentenced to 20 lashes and high fines. 

He spent his last years in Reykjavík suffering from bad health. Being sick didn't stop his bad behavior and he continued to be incarcerated for various crimes, including writing fake checks. Sigurður died before turning 50 from the measles. 

Sigurður Breiðfjörð (1798-1846). Free book on Sigurður Breiðfjörð. Includes a poem about the experience on p. 218 (262 in online copy)  here .    Sunnanfari

In 1822 Hannes Erlendsson (1789-1869) purchased Brúnsbær and moved in. He was young, a shoemaker by trade and financially stable. He was single at the time, so there was much space in the home. 

Statue of Skúli fógeti overlooking the area where his factories and workers' housing used to be. The gray building in the background is where Brúnsbær used to be.

Guðmundur Hannesson was a worker. He had gotten a job as an executioner. He felt it was somewhat of a prestige and considered himself of authority. His job was for the most part to whip accused men. The job paid well. 

He was paid per lash. for 10-15 lashes he received one dollar, for 2x27 lashes he received 2 dollar, for 3x27 lashes he received 3 dollars. For lynching he received 5 dollars. He had earned himself the nickname fjósarauður (barn red) .  When the practice of lashing ended, he became a chimney sweeper and outhouse cleaner for Reykjavik city. 

Brúnsbær used to be where the gray building on the left is. Photo seen from the opposite angle of the above photo.  Britt-Marie Sohlström

Kristján Jakobsson was from Eyjafjörður. He married the daughter of Henrik Melby (cooper). They had daughters who became known as the Jacobsen's daughters. The daughters moved to Copenhagen where they ran a restaurant. 

Pétur Pétursson , the cooper, was a known to be little bit of a dimwit and quite superstitious. 

Left: Painting by Jón Helgason showing Reykjavík at the turn of 1800.The red arrow is pointing at the worker's villages. Among them was Brúnsbær. Above the turf houses is a large white building. It was the jail on Arnarhóll. The old church (Víkurkirkja) and the cemetery can be seen in this picture.  Torfbæir  Right: Number 4 is Brúnsbær in 1801.  Borgarsögusafn

It was around midnight on December 4th, 1823. All the residents at Brúnshús had gone to bed, except Sigurður, Hannes and Guðmundur. They sat in the kitchen chatting and drinking. Hannes' roommate, Pétur, had gone to bed. 

Pétur was lying awake in his bed when he heard someone fiddling with the window. Hannes walked into the bedroom and asked Pétur if he was messing with the window. He shook his head and asked Sigurður the same question. It wasn't him either. 

They blew it off and went to bed. As they lied there, they could clearly hear someone rustling by the window. This time it was louder and more intense. Pétur turned off the light and rushed over to the window. He saw nothing but the black night.

Pétur went back to bed. This time, the sounds weren't at the window, but right outside the bedroom door. The two young men looked over at the door. Something was howling and scratching at the door. Suddenly there was a loud slam and pounding at the door. 

Pétur was terrified. Hannes got up to check it out. He saw nothing but the darkness in the hallway. He called out into the darkness asking who was there. There was no answer. The men were certain it had to be a ghost or a spirit. 

Then another heavy thud at the door.

Pétur was beyond frightened. He jumped out of bed and picked up his rifle. It wasn't loaded, so he rushed over to the escritoire to get gun powder. While he was loading his rifle, he called out to the ghost threatening to shoot it. The threats didn't work and another heavy knock was heard at the door. Pétur became so scared that he jumped back into the bed. He cradled up and began to cry.

The ghost became all riled up. A strange whale-like sound screamed outside the door. The men looked over at the door and saw a shadow through the keyhole. Pétur was certain this was an otherworldly messenger sent to do them harm. 

They watched the shadow disintegrate through the keyhole. Pétur asked Hannes to go get Sigurður so he could set down the spirit. After all, he was a known magic-poet.

Hannes left to get Sigurður. When they got back, they told Pétur they had seen the horrible monster. He was not to worry, because they were able to drive it out. They also explained to him that if the monster came back, he couldn't shoot it. 

This would only make the monster more powerful. Neither should he attack the ghost and beat it. Pétur believed everything they told him.

Pétur didn't sleep at all that night. He was terrified the monster would come back.  

Photo of Reykjavik. The pond can be seen in the lower right corner. To the north west of the pond was Brúnsbær.

The next day nothing happened, but Pétur was very cautious. When the dark settled in, he was terrified again. This fear intensified when Guðmundur told him he had seen a ghost outside the house. She said she was sent here to kill you , Guðmundur said to Pétur. 

Terrified, Pétur begged Guðmundur, Sigurður, Hannes and Kristján to stay with him that night. He lit two candles in the bedroom, picked up his Passion Hymns and began singing. 

Kristján was outside looking around the house when the men heard a pound at the door. 

Pétur felt brave with so many people with him. He grabbed his rifle and aimed it at the door. He called out to the ghost to get out of there. Kristján came back inside. He had seen a monster crawl away from the house and towards the wool shop nearby. 

Suddenly, the strange noises started up again. The monster pounded on the windows and the door. The poundings continued throughout the night until Sigurður got up and shooed it away. Pétur didn't sleep that night either.

In the morning they gathered together to discuss the matter. Sigurður was certain the ghost was going to kill one or more of them. That evening the hauntings continued and the knocks on the door were so hard that it kept opening with each knock. Things fell off the shelves and the entire house shook. 

Sigurður and Hannes stayed in the bedroom with Pétur protecting him. In between the visitations they told each other ghost stories which made Pétur even more scared. He begged Sigurður to set down the ghost for good. 

Sigurður was willing to try for a pot of brennivín (spirits). Pétur didn't hesitate and agreed right away. The men sat down and drank together. 

Sigurður explained that it wouldn't be easy to set down the ghost and he feared the consequences. He promised to try to save his friends because he cared about them. He made a cut in his flesh and used his blood to write magic letters. Then he and Hannes went into the kitchen, but Kristján stayed with Pétur in the bedroom.

Sounds were heard from the kitchen as if they were being attacked. Then they heard Sigurður ask:

        Where are you from?

The monster answered,

        From east.

Sigurður,

        Who are you looking for?

Monster,  

        Pétur the cooper

Sigurður,

        What do you want with him.

Monster,

        I´m supposed to kill him.

Reykjavik 1868. In the winter it could be a dark and cold place. The pond is seen in the upper right corner.

Sigurður then began chanting and ordered the ghost to meet him at 11:00 p.m. Huffing and puffing, Sigurður and Hannes went back into the bedroom. They told him that the ghost had been made powerful with a raven's heart and a vulture's skin, but it had the mind of a man. They sat down to drink again.

At ten p.m. the door was thrown open, but there was no one there. Sigurður and Hannes went out to see what was going on. They came back inside with Guðmundur with them. They were acting strange and then suddenly they all passed out. Pétur ran to get them some water. The water helped the men wake back up.

At 10:30 p.m. there was another pound at the door. Guðmundur had left the bedroom, but Pétur cast magic curses and spit towards the door. He grabbed his Passion Hymns and rifle. His buddies told him to calm down, but Pétur didn't want to and called out,

Don't you think that I know all about this ghost and how he was created? I heard everything that was said in the kitchen. I heard that the ghost said he was from the east and was going to kill me. He was sent by Jón from Belgsholt, because he doesn't like me. ... I'll pay you five rigsdaler   if you put him down fast, but don't bother doing it if you don't know how to do it.

Then the door flew open and items from around the house were thrown into the bedroom. Sigurður and Hannes ran out into the darkness but Pétur sat alone in the room, terrified beyond belief. He was exhausted as he hadn't slept for a long time. He fled into the bedroom where the family slept. The husband, Sigmundur, jumped up on to his feet. He scolded Pétur for scaring him like that, so Pétur ran back out.


Another loud pound on the window. This time it was so intense that two windows broke. The ruckus and noise was so loud outside. Trying to be brave, Pétur looked outside and saw Sigurður fighting a dark monster. He watched as Sigurður fought it off and chanted magic poems. The monster disappeared into the night.

When they got back inside, Pétur thanked them. They were all so glad the monster was finally gone, that they sang psalms and drank. Pétur took a moment of gratitude and read a prayer out loud.

The ghost didn't come back to Brúnshús. But there was something else bothering Pétur. He had noticed  people were looking at him funny and some even teased him about the hauntings. A man with a bad conscience approached him and told him that the monster was fake. His friends had planned the whole thing just to have fun with him. 

This didn't sit well with Pétur, so on January 3rd, 1824, he wrote the sheriff a letter sharing the whole story of what had happened. Guðmundur the executioner was the actually ghost. He wanted his friends charged for the trickery.

Sheriff Sigurður Thorgrímsen found the whole thing slightly amusing, but told the men to come to court on January 12th. When the time came, they all showed up. During the hearing, Pétur had the chance to stand up in front of his friends and accuse them of deceit.

Unfortunately for Pétur, he had no evidence of their foul play and was forced to take back his accusations. The sheriff then told his friends to pay four  rigsdaler  to the poverty fund in Reykjavík. Pétur had to pay for the court costs. 

The men felt bad for what they had done and to make Pétur feel better, they bought him drinks. Pétur was not going to let the opportunity go to waste and drank as much as he possibly could, something he regretted for a long time afterwards. 

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