Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Clearly Presented Account of Iceland's Most Famous Medium

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

A Clearly Presented Account of Iceland's Most Famous Medium

Article excerpt

A Review of Indridi Indridason: The Icelandic Physical Medium, by Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson.

Hove, UK: White Crow Books, 2015. Pp.xvii + 271. 12.99 [phrase omitted]. (paperback). ISBN 978-1-910121-50-4

The achievements of Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason (1883-1912) deserve to be better known than they are. His mediumship was extensively studied during his lifetime, but most of the records are in Icelandic and have consequently been neglected by psychical researchers. In this landmark biography Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson bring him to the attention of a wider audience. They produced a study of Indridi, published as an issue of the Society for Psychical Research's Proceedings (Haraldsson & Gissurarson, 1989), but since then further records of his seances have come to light, and their treatment of him here has been much expanded.

The authors have had access to a wide range of information: a number of first-hand accounts of sittings, and two minute books compiled by the Experimental Society in Reykjavik, a body dedicated to documenting Indridi's mediumship. These books detail a number of his seances and had been considered lost, but they were rediscovered in about the year 2000. These sources, extracts from many of which Erlendur and Loftur have translated from the Icelandic, supply detailed accounts of Indridi's seances. Although other minute books are still missing, the surviving papers are a valuable source for understanding the scope of his mediumship.

Indridi, a farmer's son, came to Reykjavik around the end of 1904 as a printer's apprentice. Einar Hjorleifson Kvaran (1859-1938), a writer, had read E W. H. Myers' Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (Myers, 1903) the year after its publication, and started a circle to examine mediumship. In early 1905 Indridi became its medium, his abilities having manifested during sessions at the home of a relative of his, and the circle was formalized as the Experimental Society, marking the foundation of psychical research in Iceland. As a member of this group Indridi achieved a high profile in Iceland and was intensively investigated.

Unfortunately Indridi's mediumistic career was short, spanning a period of less than five years, from 1905 to 1909. During that time the Experimental Society made observations and carefully recorded the phenomena. Its members were affluent enough to be able to erect dedicated premises and pay Indridi a salary. There were often large numbers of sitters at the seances, at times as many as a hundred. They were separated from Indridi and "watchmen," who sat close to him and were responsible for ensuring he did not cheat, by a mesh screen that was firmly fixed to walls, ceiling and floor and accessed by a slit.

Indridi produced a wide range of phenomena, analyzed in detail by Erlendur and Loftur, including raps, lights, breezes, movement of objects--sometimes violently--smells, playing of musical instruments, and automatic and direct writing. Even more dramatically, there were materializations of figures and body parts, even a figure described as somewhere between a calf and a horse which occurred outside the seance room but in Indridi's presence; the dematerialization of Indridi's arm; levitation of the medium; sitters' sensations of being touched and even kissed; and voices, including male and female voices singing a duet.

There were also mental phenomena, including information provided by spirit communicators. Notable in this category was "Emil Jensen" accurately describing a fire in Copenhagen in 1905 Indridi could not have had knowledge of by normal means, which the authors analyze in detail and compare to Emanuel Swedenborg's vision of the 1759 conflagration in Stockholm (Haraldsson, 2011). Intriguingly, an Emil Jensen had existed, and lived a couple of houses away from the site of the Copenhagen fire. He died in 1898. By any standard, Indridi's was an impressive repertoire. …

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