Northern Supernatural

Skogtroll/Forest Troll. Theodor Kittelsen [Public domain], 1906, via Wikimedia Commons
Every Halloween I do a post on global folklore or an international mystery, from a haunted building in Hong Kong, to the mystery of the ghost ship Baltimore. This year I’m doing some additional posts on this theme, because I want to share a wonderful BBC podcast, the Supernatural North. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough travels to Norway to look at how the weird in the North has haunted the European imagination. Along the way, she explores everything from a Sami shamanic drum made by a Californian (with an image of a surfer) to the witch trials of 18th century Finmark. What is impressive about the story she tells is how stories from this area with a relatively low population have shaped modern fantasy literature from the trolls in the Lord of the Rings to the White Walkers in the Game of Thrones. But these stories live on not only in literature but also popular memory. One Norwegian community is haunted by the history of the tragic 17th century witch trials in Finmark. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough described an unsettling visit to a public art work built to commemorate those who were burned at the stake. You have to admire the work of someone who has been knighted with a walrus penis bone, and who is on the trail of a Norse Arctic explorer.(1)

After listening to the podcast, you might wish to watch the 2010 movie Troll Hunter, which the podcast suggests built carefully upon actual traditions. It’s also very funny, and doesn’t have too much gore, despite some twists. There’s nothing worse (spoiler alert) than a rabid troll. …

The Mystery of the Hessdalen Lights

"Aurora Borealis" by Victor Habbick at
“Aurora Borealis” by Victor Habbick at

Some of the most interesting comments that readers place on this blog discuss global mysteries, such as the posts on Witches Broom and Bioterrorism in Brazil or the Vela Incident. One particular case is attracting new attention to central Norway, where residents of Hessdalen have described seeing lights in the sky since at least the 1940s. People began to document this phenomenon consistently beginning in the 1980s. Unlike the Phoenix lights or Shag Harbour, cases beloved by those interested in UFOs, these lights drew sustained scientific research, because they recurred and were consistently documented by different technological means, such as spectral measurements of the lights.

In 2009 a documentary, “The Portal: the Hessdalen lights phenomenon” drew media attention to this topic. This well-made and thoughtfully written documentary described scientists’ efforts to record and understand the phenomenon. The work of the initial scientists seemed so promising that the project soon became an international collaboration between Norwegian scientists and the Italian National Research Council. Although the lights have been seen less frequently since the 1980s, people continue to monitor the skies over central Norway. Indeed, there are live cam images from the valley that you can access at this website. …

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