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
Size: 229 x 152 mm