Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I am glad to interview Dr. Erlendur Haraldson about a book he wrote, with Loftur Gissurarson, about the Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason. I first met Erlendur around 1984 when he came to spend time at the Division of Parapsychology of the University of Virginia (at Charlottesville), now called Division of Perceptual Studies, where I was a Research Assistant. Erlendur was writing a book and I was asked by our Director, Ian Stevenson, to assist Erlendur in his work. Since then we have been friends and have shared much together.
One of the things I have always appreciated about Erlendur is that he has not limited his career to the experimental work that characterizes many parapsychologists. In addition to many experiments about ESP he has studied phenomena out of the laboratory such as deathbed visions, apparitions, children who claim to remember previous lives, and the physical phenomena associated with Sathya Sai Baba. A list of his publications appears here.
The book discussed here was published by White Crow Books. It may be ordered via Amazon and other places.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Richard Wiseman
Introduction by Carlos S. Alvarado
1 Who was Indridi Indridason?
2 Important Events in His Life
3 The Beginning – Table-Tilting, Automatic Writing and Trance Speech
4 Levitations, and Direct Voice and Light Phenomena
5 The Fire in Copenhagen
6 Any Normal Explanations?
7 Swedenborg and the Fire in Stockholm
8 The Search for Emil Jensen
9 Disappearance of Indridi´s Arm
10 Healing, Olfactory Phenomena and Surgical-like Operations
11 Proof of Identity
12 Materializations and Apports
13 Violent Disturbances and the Photograph Experiment
14 Destructive Assaults
15 Return to Ordinary Séances
16 Jon Becomes Peaceful
17 Communicators and Controls
18 Direct Voice Phenomena – Speaking and Singing
19 The French Singer and “Musica Trascendentale”
20 The Norwegian Doctor and the Composer Edvard Grieg
21 Analysis of Indridi´s Phenomena
22 D.D. Home – the World´s Most Famous Physical Medium
23 Basic Differences between Indridi and Home
24 Rudi Schneider and Einer Nielsen
25 Contemporary Criticism
26 Dr. Gudmundur Hannesson
27 Hannesson Imposes Stricter Controls
28 Tightly Controlled Séance at Hannesson´s Home
29 Hannesson´s Last Two Sittings with Indridi
30 Hannesson´s Conclusions
31 More Levitations, and Direct Voice and Writing Phenomena
32 Life Beyond
33 Untimely Death
34 Concluding Remarks – The Evidence for Survival
Appendix A: The Sequence in which Indridi’s Phenomena Occurred
Appendix B: Summary of Major Methods used by Gudmundur Hannesson in his Investigation
Appendix C: Comparison of Phenomena Observed in the Presence of Indridi Indridason and Daniel Dunglas Home
Appendix D: List of Séance Participants, Deceased Communicators, and Other Individuals who Witnessed or Commented upon Indridi Indridason’s Mediumship (compiled by Walter Meyer zu Erpen and Erlendur Haraldsson)
Can you give us a brief summary of the book?
Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium describes the physical mediumship of Indridi Indridason that began accidentally in 1905, and lasted only until 1909. In his tragically short life Indridi produced almost every effect observed with the great of physical mediums, yet for decades following his premature death he was largely forgotten. Particularly outstanding were direct recognizable voices of deceased persons, vivid light phenomena of various forms and colors. and massive levitations of the medium, some of them in full light. There were raps, and cracking sounds in the air, levitations of objects, playing of musical instruments as if by invisible hands while they were flying around, gusts of wind, odor phenomena; in short almost any phenomena mentioned in the history of spiritualism.
Whispers were heard, voices spoken, also through trumpets moving in the air, or the voices proved their identity by recounting memories from the time they were living; voices were heard singing, including male and female voices at the same time. A choir was heard in the distance. A fire burning in a factory in Copenhagen was described at a time when there was no telephone or radio contact with Iceland. Michael Tymm has written that Home may have to relinquish his top spot to Indridi Indridason of Iceland, now that we have a record of his phenomena set forth in English.
What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?
My involvement in parapsychology spans over half a century. I have had the good fortune to work with leading figures in the field, such as Prof. Hans Bender of the University of Freiburg from whom I received my Ph.D., then J. B. Rhine of Durham, followed by work with Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia, and Karlis Osis of the American Society for Psychical Research. My work includes experimental studies – ranging from RNG experiments to experiments involving mediumship – large-scale national surveys and studies of spontaneous phenomena and experiences, such as deathbed visions, alleged encounters and apparitions of the dead, to children´claims of past-life memories. My early involvement with the Icelandic mental medium Hafsteinn Bjornsson proved beneficial for my historical study of the remarkable Indridi Indridason, the first medium to appear in Iceland. I have published a great number of papers in peer-reviewed journals and this is my seventh book.
What motivated you to prepare this book?
I had read all the available accounts of Indridi´s phenomena and published several papers on him. But the situation changed radically when protocol books on his sittings were unexpectedly found. They were meticulously written after each sitting by Prof. Haraldur Nielsson and Bjorn Jonsson who later became the Prime Minister of Iceland. These protocols are comparable to those written by Sir William Crookes and the Earl of Dunraven on their sittings with D. D. Home. They reveal more detail than we had before, and make a reliable comparison with Home possible.
The extraordinary precautions taken against the possibility of fraud by the skeptical Gudmundur Hannesson (Professor of Medicine and twice President of the University of Iceland) were such that we could only exceed them today through infrared and light-enhancing equipment. Dr. Hannesson´s research lasted a whole winter until he had exhausted all possibilities he could think of to find a natural explanation.
Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Prof. Nielsson had read papers on Indridi Indridason at the first international conference on psychical research in Copenhagen in 1921 and at the second international conference in Warsaw, but since then Indridi has become largely forgotten. In my view the wealth and extraordinariness of Indridi´s phenomena were such that they deserve to be known by the international audience and scholars of mediumship and spiritualism.