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  Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium
Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur Gissurarson


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The authors´ preoccupation with Indridi Indridason spans several decades. Erlendur Haraldsson first read about him in the 1960s, perhaps earlier. He joined the Psychology department at the University of Iceland in 1973 and, during his course on paranormal phenomena, he would regularly discuss Indridason, Iceland’s most prolific physical medium. Loftur Reimar Gissurarson, one of Haraldsson’s students, soon became interested and wrote his BA thesis on Indridason (Gissurarson, 1984).

Based on their research, they co-authored a monograph entitled The Icelandic Physical Medium Indridi Indridason, which was published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (Gissurarson and Haraldsson, 1989). The monograph was subsequently reprinted partially and in full in Renaitre 2000 in France, Luce e Ombra in Italy, and Parapsykologiske Notiser in Norway.

Loftur continued the work and co-authored with William Swatos, the book Icelandic Spiritualism: Mediumship and Modernity in Iceland (Swatos and Gissurarson, 1997), much of it dealing with Indridi and the history of Mediums and Spiritualism in Iceland.

Shortly after the year 2000, two Experimental Society minute books dating back to the Indridason period were unexpectedly found that contained new information (Haraldsson, 2009). Some time later, Haraldsson delved into the new material which resulted in three major articles being published in the Proceedings and the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (Haraldsson, 2011, 2012a) and the Journal of Scientific Exploration (Haraldsson and Gerding, 2010). It soon became obvious that only a book would do justice to Indridi, as he deserved to be known to the wider international public. This is that book.


About the author

Erlendur Haraldsson is a Professor emeritus of psychology at the Faculty of social science at the University of Iceland who, despite having retired from his former post at the University of Iceland, continues to be an active academic. He has published work in various psychological and parapsychological journals, and done work with Ian Stevenson on reincarnation research and Karlis Osis on deathbed visions. As well as doing work in Iceland, Haraldsson worked in the United States and at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. While in the United States, he worked with J.B. Rhine.

He has written several books including Modern Miracles: Sathya Sai Baba. The Story of a Modern Day Prophet (2013), At the Hour of Death (1997), and The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters (2012)

Loftur R. Gissurarson studied psychology at the Universities of Iceland and Edinburgh where he obtained his PhD from Robert Morris and John Beloff. He worked as a Post-doctoral Research Fellow sponsored by Trinity College, Cambridge, before taking up a post as Chief Psychologist at the Regional Office for the Disabled in Reykjavik.  Dr. Loftur later joined an Icelandic geothermal development company as Managing Director of Quality, Environment, Health & Safety and is now working for the company mainly in Africa and the Caribbean.


Sample chapter

1


WHO WAS INDRIDI INDRIDASON?


The mediumship of Indridi Indridason (1883-1912) was investigated and tested extensively by members of the Experimental Society in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Remarkable psychokinetic and mediumistic phenomena are described in detail in contemporary reports, from the beginning of Indridi’s mediumship in 1905 to its end in June 1909.

These phenomena, some of which occurred in full light, comprised movements and levitations of various objects, of furniture and of the medium himself, knocks on walls and clicking sounds in the air, olfactory (odor) and light phenomena, materializations of human forms, “invisible” playing of musical instruments, apports, independent voices sometimes singing loudly with great force, dematerializations, direct writing as well as automatic writing by the medium, and trance speech.

We probably have information about most of the kinds of phenomena that occurred with Indridi, and the sequence of their appearance, as there exist a substantial number of fairly extensive reports covering his five years of mediumship. The strength and variety of the observed phenomena seem to resemble those associated with the famous Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-1886).

There are no reports to be found of any medium in Iceland before Indridi. Spiritualism was practically unknown in Iceland up to his time, and the persons who experimented with Indridi were facing the phenomena of physical mediumship for the first time.

The Experimental Society was the first society in Iceland devoted to psychical research. Inspired by reading the posthumously published Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death by the classicist Frederic W.H. Myers (1843-1901), Einar Hjorleifsson Kvaran, himself a prominent writer and editor, established an experimentation circle in October 1904 to investigate the claims of mediumship (Kvaran, 1906, p. 8). This circle became a formal society in the autumn of 1905 (Kvaran, 1934). Einar was president of the Experimental Society for the whole of its existence, and it can be said that he deserves the honor of having established psychical research in Iceland (Nielsson, 1922b, p. 450).

The leading members of the Society were keenly interested in research, and investigated Indridi from the very beginning of his mediumship in 1905 until he became disabled in 1909. He died in 1912. Indridi is probably unique among great mediums in the way that his mediumship was discovered and developed by research-minded scholars and academics. Haraldur Nielsson, Professor of Theology at the University of Iceland, reports (1924a, p. 233) that sittings were usually held once or twice a week from the middle of September to the end of June. It is stated in the two surviving minute books of the Experimental Society that they were sometimes held more often, up to several times a week. 

Indridi was paid a fixed modest yearly salary from the Experimental Society and given free lodging, and in return he gave no séances without the Society’s permission. Shortly after his death the Society was dissolved, but in 1918 it was resurrected as the Icelandic Society for Psychical Research.

The Experimental Society was in fact founded primarily to investigate the extraordinary phenomena that took place in Indridi’s presence (Thordarson, 1942, pp. 1-2). The Society was not Spiritualistic in the ordinary sense of the word, although many of those who frequently took part in the experiments seem gradually to have accepted the Spiritualistic explanation (Nielsson, 1922b, p. 452).

Among the founders of the Experimental Society were Professor Haraldur Nielsson and Einar H. Kvaran, Bjorn Jonsson (1846-1912; later Prime Minister of Iceland), and several other prominent persons in Reykjavik. In 1907 the Society had become so impressed with Indridi that a small house was built to be better able to study him. The building was on one floor, had a flat roof and shuttered windows. There were two rooms for meetings as well as the two rooms in which Indridi lived. The house was referred to as the “experimental house” (see sketch in Figure 1).

The minute books of the Experimental Society are an important source about Indridi´s mediumship. They were written immediately after each séance or the following day, mostly by Haraldur Nielsson, sometimes by Einar H. Kvaran or Bjorn Jonsson, both of whom were newspaper editors. The minute books were lost for over 50 years when two of them were discovered in the archives of Dagny Auduns (1908-1991).  She was the widow of Rev. Jon Auduns (1905-1981), Dean at Reykjavik Cathedral and a prominent Spiritualist, who had studied theology under Professor Haraldur Nielsson.

The first minute book, comprising 46 pages, describes 13 séances held between 4 December 1905 and 6 January 1906. Many of the descriptions are quite detailed and are a few pages long; one is incomplete, containing only a prayer that was said at the beginning of the séance. 

The second minute book (159 pages) provides records of 43 séances between 9 September 1907 and 3 February 1908. We have thus minute books for nine months but it is likely that there should be records for another 25 to 30 months.

In addition to the two existing books there are about a hundred loose pages of additional notes, drafts and comments. The total material amounts to around 300 handwritten pages. It is deposited in the Manuscript Section of the National Library in Reykjavik. The original text of the minute books was published in Iceland in 2015 as Raddad Myrkur (in English: “Voices through Darkness”), edited by Karlotta J. Blondal.

Apart from the minute books, we have accounts by four persons who observed Indridi extensively and wrote lengthy reports of their investigations of the startling phenomena that occurred in his presence:

1. Gudmundur Hannesson (1866-1946), Professor of Medicine at the University of Iceland.
2. Einar Hjorleifsson Kvaran (1859-1938), editor and prominent writer.
3. Rev. Haraldur Nielsson (1868-1928), Professor at the University of Iceland. He played an active role in the first two international conferences on psychical research, which were forerunners to the conventions of the Parapsychological Association.
4. Brynjolfur Thorlaksson (1867-1950), organist at Reykjavik Cathedral. He used to play a harmonium at Indridi’s séances and became his personal friend.

Many of the reports about Indridi are available only in Icelandic, but some of the key papers were written in, or have been translated into other languages (see especially Hannesson, 1924b; Kvaran, 1910; Nielsson, 1919b, 1922a, 1924a, and 1925). In addition, Haraldur Nielsson read papers on Indridi’s phenomena at the First and Second International Congresses for Psychical Research in Copenhagen in 1921 (Nielsson, 1922b) and in Warsaw in 1923 (Nielsson, 1924b). Short reports can also be found in psychical research journals reviewing these two international conferences (for example Nielsson, 1923).

The most detailed reports on Indridi’s mediumship, such as those of Gudmundur Hannesson and Haraldur Nielsson, are based on extensive contemporary note-taking. Gudmundur wrote his notes during the séances, but expanded them afterwards, either immediately after each séance or the next morning (Hannesson, 1908-1909; 1924a). Haraldur used the same method, and both trained themselves to write in the dark during séances (Nielsson, 1924a, p. 235). When appropriate, they obtained written testimony from persons observing or connected with the phenomena and included it in the minute books.

Brynjolfur Thorlaksson’s memoirs are the basis of the book about Indridi written by Thorbergur Thordarson (1888-1974). It was published in 1942 as Indridi Midill (Indridi, the Medium). Thorbergur conducted independent interviews with many people who had been present at the séances. He also referred to the articles by Kvaran (1906; 1910), Nielsson (1930) and Hannesson (1910-1911), but more importantly he used two séance minute books that he had access to in 1942. The séance minutes were mostly written by Haraldur and Einar, and in the second book the minutes were authenticated for each séance by two or more sitters.

One investigator surpassed the others in the rigorous controls that he imposed in his investigation and in the quality and detail of his reports. This was Dr. Gudmundur Hannesson, who was to become the most prominent scientist in Iceland for his time and was widely respected at home and abroad. During his lifetime, he held many public offices, including: President of the University of Iceland (twice); a founder of the Icelandic Scientific Society; honorary member of both the Icelandic and Danish Societies of Physicians; Director General of Public Health; and Member of Parliament for some years.

In 1908, Gudmundur Hannesson requested permission from the Experimental Society to make an independent investigation of Indridi. He seems to have been known for his skepticism and disbelief in the phenomena. His thorough investigation lasted the whole of the 1908-1909 winter and is described in the latter part of this book. Gudmundur Hannesson was for Indridi what the British chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) was for D.D. Home.


Publisher: White Crow Books
Published October 2015
292 pages
Size: 229 x 152 mm
ISBN 978-1-910121-50-4
 
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