Your Paranormal Stories, September 2018.

Time for another set of creepy stories from my readers and Instagram followers.

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed!


Izak:

I was always a rational kind of guy. Never believed things I didn’t see or experienced myself, on my own skin. Even when I was a kid, things like ghosts, aliens and monsters never really got to me. It was just not part of my reality- that is until one day, which I will never forget.

People can call my story BS, a lie… I don’t care. I will just write exactly, as it happened to me.

Date isn’t hard to remember- it was 1st November 2010. I was eight years old at the time. The date really sticks with me, because it’s the day in our country when we remember our lost ones. It’s not really like Day of the death in Mexico, because we don’t celebrate it, we just remember it. On this day, especially for elementary schools and pre-schoolers, it’s nothing unusual going on a field trip to local cemetery, where we go from grave to grave of the families, and remember the ones we know.

So we arrive and we’re walking around, nothing creepy, since it’s daylight, around 10 o’clock maybe. We go from grave to grave, until we stop in front of the grave of a young boy, 15 or 16 years old at the time of his death, called Damjan, (pron. Dam-yan). It struck us all, we were standing in front of this boy’s grave, until the teacher spoke; ,,This boy was just like you. Going to school, field trips… well on one of them, they went to a WW musem, (there are lots of those in our region, because of the impact of the fasciscs), and while they were checking out guns, one of the boys took one and aimed it at him, as a joke… little did he know, the gun was actually loaded. It killed him instantly.”

I’m not the one usually thinking about other people dying but… I know his mother, she is an old lady in our little town. He was her only child, and his death seemed so… bizzare to me, I couldn’t have stopped thinking about it the whole day, even after school. I was the last to leave cemetery… I spoke to him on his grave, I don’t remember what, words of comfort maybe…? And then I left. But I do remember this- I was absolutely certain, he heard me. Something like an invisible force was keeping me at that grave, until teacher called us all to go back. The next part of the day is a black hole. Until the most creepy, horrifying event in my short lifetime.

As everywhere, tradition is to go give flowers for the late ones, so me and my mom went to our local flourist. Another thing I want to mention- she ALWAYS speaks. And so do everyone in that shop. Everyone is constantly chit-chatting. This day wasn’t any different. We walked in, my mom was choosing flowers and talking to the flourist. Then, a man walked in. Big man, in a rain coat, short black hair, but oddly familliar, even though I have NEVER seen him before. Our town is quite small, and people know each other by the names of grandparents, so he nicely asked me, seeing my questioning gaze; ,,Aren’t you a curious one? Which house are you from?” (We reply to that question by naming our grandparents). ,,Ah yeah, I know your dad! You must be a smart kid then!” he said, still smiling, and everyone behind us talking. I suddenly feel something. A call maybe? Something inside me… I didn’t resist, I just said the name; ,,Damjan. Do you know him too, sir?” And suddenly, everything stopped. People weren’t talking anymore, my mom had a terrified look on her face, flourist was quiet for the first time in her life, and he… lost his smile almost instantly. He said, with his voice shaking a bit; ,,W-who?” And I repeated; Damjan. He is the boy who was killed by his friend in a musem many years ago, we learned about him just today… do you know him?” He turned around, slowly, but before that saying, while staring right into my eyes; ,,Where in the world did you find me, boy?” with a deep, dark, now not-so-pleasant voice. He then turned around and left. People were still quiet, trying not to look at me, my mom grabbed me by my hand and took me to the car, and drove home without saying a word. I wasn’t sure, what in the world I did wrong, so I asked; ,,Mommy, did I say something wrong?” She, driving seriously, just said; ,,No, you didn’t. But you should know… that man, you talked to in there… he is the friend from the museum. He killed Damjan.”

To this day, I don’t know why I questioned him. I used to tell people about things I learned in school, and maybe it was all just an insane coincidence. But I don’t think so. I felt a connection with that boy… and I still visit his grave, just so I know he now, when he reminded his killer of his doing, rests in peace.

IG @notdepressedjustreallytired:

One night, very recently, I was in bed. It was dark in the studio I shared with my husband and I have insomnia, so many nights I lay awake with the lights off, simply letting my mind wander and my eyes lose focus as they notice the shapes that form and flicker in the dark.

I did happen to notice a particularly “formed” shape move around and about me and I got sort of scared or thrilled, as I do, sometimes when noticing these things (What is it/are they? Imaginary/real/other dimensional?? Who knows). I closed my eyes to wet them, opened them and then happened to look immediately to my left, when I noticed that the lip of the blanket that was on me had been raised and sort of.. poised, as if someone was lifting it up. It was as if a hand, specifically, had simply grabbed a corner and lifted it up to see what was underneath.

There was, of course, nothing to be seen that could have been lifting it, but as soon as I’d looked and CAUGHT the blanket being raised, it dropped, dead, back to resting position.

I then spent about 5 minutes attempting to prop up the blanket in a million different ways to recreate what I had seen. To see if it was possible that it had simply been standing up, peaked like meringue might do, then dropped when I moved, because I’d disturbed it. It hadn’t been in that shape or position prior to me closing my eyes, though. The blanket was flat on my body.

I couldn’t, for the life of me, seem to make that blanket stand up again the way it did, with the edge of the lip such a few inches that it couldn’t have been what was maintaining the shape. As I attempted to recreate it, I also realized that the tip of the “peak” of the blanket being held up had seemed pinched, as opposed to the fluffy pyramid the blanket would have needed in order to sustain such a position. It hasn’t happened again since.

If I were to explain, very simply, what it looked like (and hopefully without sounding delusional), I would say it looked EXACTLY as if someone had stood at the edge of my bed and lifted a small part of the blanket up to see what was underneath. Minus the hand… And entire body. The way it dropped from having been suspended was the most shocking part. As if the imaginary or invisible hand had noticed it was caught and immediately let go.

Nicole:

When I was younger my parents always told us about when they bought the house I grew up in and the weird occurrences that happened. It was a new construction, but when my dad did a walk-through, he went into the attic and found a baby bonnet. We always had weird things happen growing up. My mom would be putting away clothes, and the hangers would move. The TV would change channels on its own; always change to a children’s show. Closets would open by themselves. My no claimed to smell her grandpa’s pipe smoke before.

And one night, my older sister and I were the only ones home. I was about 16 at the time and we shared a room. Since my parents were out of town, my sister slept in their room, and I slept in ours by myself. I woke up one night with a strange feeling and when I looked over to my sister’s bed I saw a man standing at the end. He was old. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t look at me. I took one look at him and buried myself under my blankets for about 5 minutes before I got the courage to look again. The man was gone. My sister is convinced I was dreaming. My parents are convinced I saw my mom’s grandpa hanging around. Whoever it was, the spirits in the house were harmless and never caused any problems to us while we lived there.

Sarah:

I’ll start off with some background story. I was born in Europe to a European mother who had converted to Islam and a Middle Eastern father. When I was around 5 or 6 we moved back to his home country. According to my mother (she’s been telling me this story since I could remember and she’s quite religious and wouldn’t lie about things like that) that when I was around 3 or 4 years old I told her that I heard a voice whispering and telling me not to listen to Allah. And she’s convinced that it was the Shayten (devil) and I have long stepped out of Islam and moved back to Europe but that story still creeps me out and she said that when I was 6 I told her that I could see clouds in the room and she says those must be angels. I actually vaguely remember the clouds thing, I think. It’s a weird sensation.

Anne:

While growing up I was labeled “the ghost girl”. Why? Ok, this is why.

Somewhere way up north, my parents built a house. Already during construction weird things were happening; tools went missing or they were found at peculiar locations, and none of the builders could explain it. After a while, some of the workers refused to continue, but my parents shrugged it off, thinking they were lazy or just forgetful about their tools.

And then, about three years later, I was born. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and played well by myself. So when I was about 4, it came as no surprise that I had an imaginary friend. But my parents, mom in particular, found it odd that I’d only play with said friend in the basement. She’d ask me about it, and I’d say that the Angel Girl couldn’t leave the basement. There were always things happening, you’d hear doors being opened and closed, you could hear snoring(!) and you’d even se shapes once in a while. My mom couldn’t deal with it after a while; this being a small, rural town word got around, so she contacted the local priest to come bless the house. He just laughed and said that she shouldn’t care about what the others said about us or our house. But then, some weeks later he called back saying “they won’t leave me alone” and that he’d soon come to bless our house. He wouldn’t clarify who “they” were, but we had our suspicions.

Some days later, I came up from the basement, upset and crying. My mom asked me why I was so sad, and I replied: she can’t play with me anymore! The priest said she had to go home.

I didn’t know the priest had been there that day, and suddenly my mom realized that maybe she wasn’t imaginary after all.

 

Murder on the Upper Deck. An Unsolved Crime.

In 1994, cruise liner M/S Estonia sank, taking hundreds of lives with it to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

What most people don’t know is that some years before it’s sinking, the same ship (then known as the Viking Sally) was the scene of an unsolved murder.

This article is taken from the book Poliisi kertoo (“Police Stories”). Translated into English by my friend and talented translator Salla Juntunen.

This is the first time this story has been told in English.


A homicide and an attempted homicide on a ship

German students Klaus Herman Schelkle (born January 28, 1967) and Bettina Taxis (born May 10, 1965) met in early winter, 1987. They enjoyed each other’s company and soon began dating and planning their future together.

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(Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis)

The future, however, turned out to be entirely different from what they had pictured. Happiness turned to death and horror and horror into painful memories that no one involved will likely ever forget.

The story has remained unclear so far. The police appeals to the public for help.

The groundwork for the shared life of these two hardworking and in every way exemplary youths seemed to be in order. During the spring and summer they saved money and planned a trip to the Nordic countries. A mutual friend and Klaus’s acquaintance of many years, Thomas Schmid, would also be brought along.

The plan was fulfilled and on July 23, 1987 the trio took off from Stuttgart towards the Nordics with the purpose of travelling all the way to Nord Kap. They travelled via Denmark to Sweden, where they stayed in Stockholm for a few days. According to their original travel plan they were supposed to travel through northern Sweden, but instead they decided to experience a cruise across the Gulf of Bothnia together and travel to their original destination through Finland.

Postcards and phone messages home told that the journey was going well and according to expectations. At 10 pm on  July 27, 1987, the youths boarded Viking Sally cruise ship in the port of Stockholm in order to travel to Turku, where the ship would arrive the next morning at 8 am.

Other passengers

English engineer Patrick Haley (name made up) had experienced more by the age of 26 than most of his peers. His studies had not gone too well, he had gotten personally acquainted with drugs and had broken up with his fianceé. When the young mind flared up, Patrick left London in early spring of 1987, or as he said: “I turned around and found myself working on a kibbutz in Israel.” A Finnish student from Lapland, Maija, had also ended up there. They got acquainted and decided to go see Maija’s beautiful home country. The journey to Finland took a few months. The penniless youths worked in different countries, mostly in orchards and agriculture to earn the money to travel onward.

In the evening of July 25, 1987, Maija and Patrick boarded a ship from Stockholm to Helsinki. In Helsinki, on the morning of July 26 they were surprised: Maija was naturally welcome to her home country, but the shabby, junkie-looking and penniless Patrick was sent back to Stockholm.

However, the attachment between the two was strong and thus on the very same day Maija sent Patrick 4000 marks by express to a Stockholm bank. Patrick did not now want to travel via rude Helsinki, and after mucking about in Stockholm for a day he ended up boarding Viking Sally in the evening in order to travel to Turku and from there to Helsinki, where Maija would meet him.

Tauno, a businessman delivering car parts from Germany to Finland, and his partner Sakari drove their van to the port of Stockholm via Denmark and also travelled to Turku on Viking Sally.

Sami, Pentti and Ville, young men from Kangasala, had spent the day in Stockholm and lost all their money on booze and amusements. With tickets acquired from the Stockholm social welfare office in their pockets, they, too, began their voyage to Turku. Kalle and Ossi from Kotka boarded the ship under nearly identical circumstances.

A few hundred scouts had eagerly awaited all summer for their trip to Finland where they would attend a scout camp organised in Sauvo, approximately 50 kilometers from Turku. Among them were families, retirees, war veterans and different travelling groups. The passengers represented at least nine different nationalities.

A crew of approximately 200 members was ready to serve the passengers.

Meetings on the ship

At 10 pm Finnish time, the eight-storey ship, built in Papenburg in 1980, with a capacity for 2000 passengers and over 400 cars, departed from the port of Stockholm. The announcements were informing passengers about practicalities and the shipping company wished everyone a pleasant journey.

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(the Viking Sally)

Queues formed in the ship’s restaurants and shops. Passengers who had booked cabins took their belongings to them, others tentatively looked for places to sleep in salons and other interiors of the ship. The bars also slowly began filling up.

Everything seemed perfectly normal and ordinary.

Klaus Schelkle, Bettina Taxis and Thomas Schmid also began their journey in a very ordinary manner. They also made their few purchases in the shop, familiarised themselves with the ship and searched for a suitable place to sleep. Klaus and Bettina decided to watch the sun rise during their sea voyage. They decided, therefore, to sleep up on the helicopter platform. Thomas Schmid, perhaps out of discretion, did not stay there and chose instead to sleep indoors, one floor down.

The weather was warm and therefore quite a few passengers gathered around the helicopter platform late in the evening. From there they could enjoy watching the beautiful Stockholm archipelago disappear into the horizon in the setting sun.

The youths from Kangasala, who had on their recent journeys managed to acquire a few bottles of beer, also enjoyed the beginning of their journey on the helicopter platform. They have afterwards recalled two young foreigners with their sleeping bags staying on the same deck behind the plexiglass windshield.

Before going to bed, Klaus and Bettina walked around on the ship. There they met, among others, Tauno, who was very proficient in German. In conversation with Klaus, they discovered their mutual interest in cars; Klaus was studying automotive technology after all. They even planned to drop by the car deck to look at Tauno’s cargo of car parts. The doors to the car deck were locked, so they agreed to go look at the parts in the morning.

At the end of their time together they decided to exchange addresses, since a new pleasant acquaintance had been found on both sides. Afterwards, when talking about Tauno, Bettina has used the phrase “the fun Finn”.

At around 1 am, Klaus and Bettina returned to their sleeping place on the helicopter platform. The darkness of the night and the chilly wind had driven the rest of the people away from the upper deck.

Sami, Pentti and Ville from Kangasala met Kalle and Ossi from Kotka at a restaurant. They were soon joined by Patrick. Patrick had the money sent by Maija and, having found the others nearly penniless, benevolently bought beer and food to others as well. The party behaved in such a “showy” manner that quite a few of those staying up late noticed them. Little by little they all “passed out” or otherwise fell asleep in different parts of the ship. In the morning, Patrick was found on the floor of the salon on the sixth floor.

The crime

As the evening passed into the small hours, the situation on the ship was peaceful. The last bars closed between 3 am and 4 am. Most of the passengers were asleep in their cabins and those who had enjoyed themselves in the restaurants to the last also found their way to their sleeping places. The ship had advanced past Mariehamn, but was still in the Åland archipelago.

The tired crew prepared for a moment’s rest before their morning’s duties. The security officer Raimo Vahlsten also prepared to hand over his duties to the next person on shift.

The wild feeling of freedom and the new, strange surroundings kept some of the scouts in lively spirits and they roamed the ship to the point of causing disturbance. After wandering around aimlessly, three Danish youths ended up on the helicopter platform at 3:45 am.

At first glance there appeared to be no other people on the deck, but then one of the scouts noticed two figures by the air vents. The boys concluded that they were drunk or drugged as they, upon repeated attempts to get up by leaning on the wall, kept feebly falling back down on the deck. After observing the situation for a while, one of the boys went closer to see if he could help. He then saw that it was a young man and a woman. Both their faces were covered in blood. Two boys stayed with the victims as one ran to the help desk to tell someone what they had found.

Thus began one of the biggest investigative operations of the Finnish police.

Immediate measures

The help desk attendant immediately alerted security officer Raimo Vahlsten. He found the victims Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis to be severely injured. Vahlsten suspected a crime because the victims’ heads clearly showed severe trauma from being hit with an object. The victims’ speech could not be made out. With the help of other crew members Vahlsten helped Klaus and Bettina to the cabin of the ship’s nurse.

The nurse immediately saw the severity of the situation and began giving first aid while ordering a rescue helicopter to be called to the ship immediately to transport the victims to Turku University Hospital. Klaus and Bettina arrived to the hospital by helicopter already at 5:48 am.

The doctor found Klaus dead from blows to the head that had pierced the skull. Bettina’s condition was extremely critical due to similar injuries.

The Turku Police Department received a notification from the ship about what had happened at 4:28 am. The police considered the situation to be very serious, and the same helicopter that had transported the injured to the hospital was used to take four detectives of the Turku Police Department to the ship.

The detectives arrived on the ship at 6:30 am.

The scene of the crime turned out to be the upper deck. The victims had been found there next to their sleeping bags in a corner partially covered by a plexiglass wall. The scene had been dark during the night due to the device, which was supposed to light it, having broken earlier.

The detectives immediately secured the crime scene and began passenger interrogations. The forensic investigation was also initiated. Vahlsten, being an experienced security officer, had earlier partially secured the crime scene and he had valuable information he had gathered while they were waiting to relay to the police.

The detectives on the ship were in contact with the police department, where they immediately began summoning additional police forces for when the ship would arrive in Turku.

The ship’s regular arrival time was at 8 am. Now it was only allowed to dock at 8:10 am, when preparations had been made and the police could secure the ship.

Such an arrangement was necessary because the initial investigation on the ship had afforded no clarity on the identity of the perpetrator. The situation was very difficult.

The ship and the passengers under surveillance

The ship’s passengers were informed of the delay in disembarking and its cause. All the passengers were guided off the ship through one exit, all other exits had been closed. Two police boats were patrolling outside the ship to make sure nothing was thrown overboard.

Due to the special circumstances, three video cameras had been acquired, one of which was used to film all passengers, the other used to film young men specifically, and the third to film any even slightly suspicious persons, who were then also interrogated. Initially there was also an attempt to document every passenger’s personal details, but that had to be given up due to the scene having gotten almost unbearably congested. However, only the elderly, children and families with small children, as well as others considered safe to be excluded by common conception were left undocumented.

The passengers who could not immediately prove their identity were guided to separate rooms and their identities were verified after the other passengers had left the ship.

Approximately twenty passengers were brought to the police station for additional investigation for different reasons. Among them was Patrick Haley. He had been found, bloody, in his sleeping place in the morning. In the interrogation Haley explained that his nose had begun to bleed during the night. The blood on his clothes was his own and nothing came up at that juncture that casted doubt on the truth of his claims.

The youths from Kangasala and Kotka also ended up on the police station.

The reader must now be wondering about Thomas Schmid’s involvement in the matter. He, too, was interrogated, but nothing indicated that he had anything to do with what happened and he was allowed to leave after interrogation. Thus, nothing conclusive or pivotal to solving the case came up in the initial investigation.

The pressure on the police was immense from the start, since

  • the congestion and waiting were too much for some to bear
  • connections were missed
  • the ship’s departure was delayed
  • the media immediately demanded detailed information
  • the local superiors of the police as well as the ministries had to be informed of the event as soon as possible.

Generally, however, both the departing and the arriving passengers were understanding of the difficult situation.

The investigation has lasted over four years already

The crime took place within the region of Åland, and therefore its investigation would normally have been conducted by the local police. Due to the lack of resources this was not possible in Åland. The provincial government of Turku and Pori assigned the Turku Police Department to conduct the investigation. The undersigned was appointed to lead the investigation. That was the beginning of a difficult task that has yet to be completed.

Because the crime could not immediately be solved in the initial investigation, solving it afterwards has been challenging due to the special characteristics of the case. The work has continued interminably for over four years. The fact that approximately a thousand people have been interrogated or at least interviewed on account of the case might give the reader an impression of the scope of the task. Forensic investigators have sent over 250 different samples for examination to the National Bureau of Investigation. Different investigative tasks have been carried out in nine different countries.

Computers have also been utilized in the investigation. Without them we would have long since lost track of the very vast material. Over 2000 documents have been saved on the computer.

A vast amount of material of the crime has, then, been gathered. Addressing it in detail is not possible at this juncture, nor would it be tactically right for the solving of the case.

What, then, was the motive of that brutal crime? That mystery, which has puzzled the investigators from the start, has yet to be solved. It cannot be financial or sexual. The crime may have been brought on by a minor thing, or committed by a mentally ill person.

At least the following matters have complicated the investigation:

  • the initial investigation had to be conducted too quickly due to the circumstances
  • even a slightly more thorough search of the ship would have taken at least a week
  • there were approximately 1400 people on the ship
  • this whole mass of people dispersed in the port and scattered all over world. Reaching them to perform even extremely significant inspections has been difficult
  • the crime scene was too remote for eyewitness accounts
  • the delays caused by a foreign country’s legal formalities have often prevented conducting effective investigative work abroad

The crime caused upset

The crime, which drew a lot of attention, has also clearly upset many already sick minds. Three people, for instance, have confessed to this crime.

In further investigation it has, however, turned out that none of them could possibly have committed the crimes described earlier.

The public has participated commendably in the police’s efforts to solve the crimes. There have also been a few concerned phone calls from the public upon their noticing they had been filmed. They have mainly been requests by the caller that the videos not be made public, as their companion on that voyage had, for some reason, not been their spouse!

Current situation

No conclusive knowledge of the perpetrator has been gained to this day.

Some foreign parties under investigation have yet to be reached.

A lot of investigations are also still being conducted concerning the doings of Finnish passengers and the ship’s crew during the journey.

When the culprit is found, the police has binding comparative evidence to use against them.

A certain possibility, which has come up repeatedly, is that the perpetrator concurrently also made their own personal choice regarding their life and jumped overboard.

Bettina Taxis has recovered quite well. Information received from her cannot yet be made public.

The police strongly believes that they will still solve this brutal, senseless and motiveless crime, the investigation of which has by no means been discontinued.

What has been put forth here is merely a cursory glance to this crime, its backgrounds, and investigation. Hopefully in one of the following volumes its solution can be reported in detail.

The clothing find

The police are currently interested in some clothes found by two fishermen on the northern shore of the Lilla Björnholm Island by a seaway in August, 1987. The following items were found in a black trash bag:

  • Finnish made Umberto Loofer shoes with a so called hidden heel, shoe size 41
  • light shorts by an unknown manufacturer equipped with a Prym zip and two front pockets (see photo)
  • a Finnish made red woollen-acrylic jumper, material mostly acrylic (see photo). In the same batch of clothes were also a pair of commonly sold work gloves with the initials “H. K.”

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(the found clothes)

Based on the location, time and certain aspects of the forensic investigation it is considered possible that the person wearing the clothes in question had been on the ship at the time of the crime.

If You, esteemed reader, have any, even seemingly insignificant, information regarding this crime, let the investigators know via the nearest police or relay the information directly to the Turku Police Department, address: Eerikinkatu 40-42, 20100 Turku.

If you know anything about these clothes or anything else having to do with the crime, let us know. In addition to a good mood, for a clue leading to the solving of the case you will be given a significant money prize.

Interview with Marit Higraff, co-host of Death in Ice Valley (podcast)

This year’s best mystery/true crime podcast is, without question, Death in Ice Valley. The show is an investigation into the Isdal woman mystery (if you don’t know what it is, read on below). The show is a breath of fresh air in a “podosphere” filled with true crime shows featuring two people chatting and giggling among themselves: Death in Ice Valley features interviews, excursions into the field, and discussions with cops, locals, and other people who were actually involved in the events when they happened.

Death in Ice Valley is a collaboration between the Norwegian broadcasting company NRK and BBC World Service. It is hosted by Marit Higraff and Neil McCarthy.

Here is my interview with Marit Higraff, Norwegian investigative journalist and co-host of the podcast.

Thank you, Marit, for taking the time to talk to Books, Bullets and Bad Omens!


deathinicevalley

Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am an investigative journalist and reporter working for NRK, Norways public broadcaster. I have been working as a tv-reporter in different departments and for different programs in NRK for many years – investigative journalism is my special field. So originally, tv-journalist, lately also online and audio 😉

I am from the northern part of Norway – the land of the midnight sun – but have lived in Oslo since I started studying. Also lived 8 years in Salzburg, Austria.

I have a 15 year-old-daughter, Hannah.

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(Marit Higraff. Photo: Sigrid Winther)

In your own words, what is the “Isdal Woman”? What does that term refer to?

In November 1970 a woman was found dead and severely burned in a desolate valley outside of Bergen, a city on the west coast of Norway.

Objects were laid out around the body, and couple of days later, the police found her two suitcases at Bergen railway station – containing lots of curious clues, like sophisticated clothes, a wig, and glasses without prescription. The most significant thing common for the suitcases and the things found at the scene: there was nothing to identify who the woman was. The labels had been cut off her clothes, and scratched off the items.

The case immediately hit the headlines in Norway. It was a mystery: who was she – and what happened to her? The newspapers called her the Isdal Woman, because of the name of the remote valley where the body was found, called “Isdalen” in Norwegian, or “Ice Valley” in English.

The police investigated intensively for some weeks, and found that the woman had been traveling a lot, and with different fake identities. But then suddenly shut down the investigation – concluding with most likely suicide. A conclusion most doubted – then, and now. Without finding her identity..

Speculation went high that she could have been a spy, as this happened in the middle of the Cold War.

And the speculations have been going on, for almost 50 years. Still today, nobody knows who this woman was, what she was doing in Norway, and how and why she died in that remote valley.

Isdal-Corpse

(police photo of the body of the Isdal woman as it was found that day. Photo: Bergen Police Archives)

When did you first hear of this case? Were you hooked immediately?

I was an early newspaper and magazine reader as a child, and I remember reading about the case. It has been in the media every know and then.

When I was asked to have a look at it a couple of years ago, it immediately triggered my curiosity and investigative tentacles. Then, when reading thousands of files, I saw the potential of the case – riddle upon riddle – and the possibility of starting a whole new investigation, based on modern methods and technology.

Would you say the Isdal woman is the number 1 most well-known unsolved mystery in Norway? Are there other mystery cases that “compete” with the Isdal woman for that title?

Well, there are some other cases – but since we started publishing our investigation 1,5 year ago this case has got very well known in Norway. Also to the younger generations. And I guess it’s the one case with the most spectacular riddles and facts.

Is there a kind of unofficial prevailing consensus in Norway regarding the woman’s identity? In other words, what is the most popular theory as to who she was and why she ended up the way she did?

There have been a lot of theories and speculations about who she was and what she was doing in Norway. During almost 50 years one of the most discussed theories has been that she was some kind of an intelligence agent or spy, because of the use of several fake identities, the content in her suitcases, and her movements.

The reason we’re discussing this case is because you are the co-host of a podcast I consider the best of 2018, Death in Ice Valley, which deals with the Isdal woman. Can you tell us about the podcast? How did it come about, how are you approaching the case, etc.

Thanks a lot for your opinion on “Death in Ice Valley”! I really appreciate that.

Me and my colleagues in the NRK-team started working on this case two years ago, and have been publishing our steps in the investigation as an online-project since autumn 2016. We were surprised to get attention abroad, as we published only in Norwegian. But, we discovered that people were following us internationally, using Google translate.

Some journalists from international media also took contact, and made stories about our investigation and the project. And then, one year ago, we were contacted by the podcast editor of the BBC World Service, Jon Manel. He saw the potential of the case, and wanted to make the investigation into a podcast-series for a world audience, in collaboration with us. In autumn 2017 me and my colleague Neil McCarthy from the BBC started the work with the podcast. Simultaneously we continued our ongoing investigation into the case.

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(Marit and co-host Neil McCarthy interview a police officer at the exact spot where the Isdal woman was found. Photo: Anette Berentsen / NRK)

One reason I love Death in Ice Valley (besides the intriguing case it deals with) is because, rather than just sitting in a studio and chit-chatting about an old case amongst yourselves, you actually talk to people who were involved in the Isdal woman incident: cops, witnesses, et cetera. How did you go about finding these people? Was it hard to convince them to discuss the case with you?

I am glad you say that. Because, to us it was important that we wanted to take the listeners with us out in the field. To experience places, to meet people. We wanted to be as little studio based as possible – the opposite of most podcasts. We wanted to give the audience a great listening experience, in addition to the great story, and the ongoing investigation.

To find still living witnesses, police and so, has been a challenge in this project. It all happened in 1970, so most of the witnesses are dead – senior officers in the police and so. While reading thousands of police files and documents, we thoroughly registered interesting names of different witnesses. And then had to search in the registers, if they live or are dead. Some got married, changed names, were difficult to find.

Some were really hard to find.

We ended up with a list of rather few possible interviewees still alive. I interviewed many of them for the “Norwegian” part of the project, but we expanded for the podcast, and I contacted more of them. These are mostly quite old people, and it was hard to convince them to try to speak English for a world audience. But most of them participated.

Without spoiling anything for listeners, tell us, we’re you able to dig up anything surprising in your investigation for the podcast?

Yes, definitely! We continued our ongoing investigation along the production – and it was a challenge(and long days!) to research and produce at the same time. But we found some interesting new leads along the way.

And, first of all: we knew that we need attention “out there”. This woman was not Norwegian, we know that. So, our hope was and still is, that someone out there might know something. The goal was to reach out to that person or those persons who might recognize something about the story: about an aunt, a neighbor, a woman who disappeared in 1970…

And we have gotten some very interesting leads to follow up on, from listeners.

What are you currently working on? A new podcast series, perhaps..?

Currently I am spending the summer in the Caribbean, resting and learning Spanish😊 It is a good and necessary break, after an extremely intensive year at work.

Then, after summer, there are some very interesting leads to follow up on, as said. The team will go on investigating this case, and if we get any further – which I still strongly believe – we might come back with another podcast series, Death in Ice Valley season 2..😉

Where can people keep up with your work?

Everything published in our project about the Isdal Woman – articles, videos, timeline – can be found at nrk.no/isdal

It’s in Norwegian though.

Some main articles are translated; they can be found here nrk.no/isdal.en

The podcast “Death in Ice Valley” can be found on iTunes and everywhere else you find podcasts.

My investigative work from earlier on can be found by googling me.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?

Yes.

To me, as an idealistic investigative journalist, always driven by the motivation that I want to make life better for people, want to reveal the errors and gaps in the society, and so on.. I had to ask myself many times in this project: “Why? Why am I spending years of my life – and far too many working hours – on this case? It’s a woman found dead. A concluded suicide.”

And every time I come to the same answer: because it’s a life. A human being. A family that didn’t get to know about their loved one.

I want to give her back what she lost: a name. A dignity. And perhaps justice – if someone did that to her.

And, if possible – I want to bring her home, where she belongs.

FInally, my standard questions.

Your top 3 books?

When I have time, I prefer to read crime – I’ll answer with some favorite authors:
Swedish Jan Guillou, and the Norwegian Jo Nesbø. I also love reading John Irving.

And also historical books that give me new knowledge and reveal new truths, like the unknown story of Norwegians fighting “on the wrong side” during WW2, by Eirik Veum.

Your top 3 films?

Films, the same – crime, and also romantic films;

– The Bridges of Madison County
– Titanic
– Braveheart

And some more faves, all of them old…😄

What model phone do you use?

iPhone 7

Your scary experiences, Spring 2018

Once again, I made a request to my Instagram followers (instagram.com/mysteries_crimes_curiosities) to send me their creepy experiences. Here they are, presented as they were sent to me, unedited.

Thank you to everyone who contributed!


Jacquie:

So my older sister has a quinsiñera doll and its porcelain so everytime you moved her you hear a little scratch. So one time me and my sister were up till like 3:00A.M and we were laying on her bed playing a game and out of no where we hear the little scratch of the porcelain doll. As we were both scared he went to each others bed and went to sleep.

Kevin:

I was 7 and I went to throw out the garbage at 11 at night. As I was walking back to my apartment door I saw a man following me.

He kept following me for days until I yelled in my squeaky voice that he was annoying and then he simply said “ You will learn that people can be so much worse than annoying!“

I was in fear and I moved with my parents the month after.

Ezequiel:

Last Saturday in Buenos Aires there was a party of electronic music. At 3:30 in the morning a lightning bolt fell behind the stage. If it fell in the middle of the stadium we would be lamenting many dead. My friends and I left when the lightning struck. And outside, a hail storm hit us. We were terrified and I think I never felt so much that I was going to die like that day.

Here’s a video of the lightning: YouTube link

Contributor wishes to remain anonymous:

My husband and I were staying on The Queen Mary one weekend as a short getaway. We love the Queen Mary and have stayed on it before, including once for our honeymoon. This time however, when we checked in the receptionist told us that we’d have a windowless room, and asked if we would have a problem with it. Apparently it makes guests feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic. We told her it would be fine and checked into our room.

We walked around the ship taking pictures to see if we could capture an paranormal activity on film. We didn’t. The next day however, my husband took a shower while I ran to the Starbucks on board to get coffee. On my way back I was walking through the hall and heard footsteps that sounded like high heels, coming up behind me. I got to our door after speed walking, and when I looked around there was nobody in the hallway with me. I got in the room as my husband was coming out of the bathroom. I told him what I had heard. And as he was about to give me a “yeah right” the shower in our bathroom turned on. It wasn’t just a drip or a slow leak. It had turned on and my husband had to turn it all the way off.

I text my sister and mom because they are super into paranormal stuff. My sister asked what room we were in and looked up all the “haunted” rooms online. Turns out we were staying in one of the rooms with the most reported activity. It freaked us out when it happened. But then it was kind of cool to be able to tell the story at the same time.

Josi:

My husband and I have always been fans of the paranormal so when we first started dating our ideal dates involved paranormal/ horror / conspiracy type shenanigans.

I remember we had talked about using a Ouija board  but neither of us had one nor had ever used one. A friend had offered up his for us to use and experience. The night we got the board something came up and I had to go home early, leaving the board at my boyfriend’s house.

Later that night I was doing my usual stuff before bed, falling asleep fairly quickly. I usually wake up a few times at night to go to the bathroom so I’m no stranger to wandering my house in the dark, but but this instance was different. I opened my eyes and usually moonlight goes through my window and lights the room up but everything was pitch black. No outline to anything, just pure darkness. The entire room was so quiet and cold.

I tried to move to get my blanket but I was just stuck, petrified. I had heard of sleep paralysis but this seemed much more sinister. My breathing was so heavy, as if someone was sitting  on my chest. I couldn’t move, as if I were being held down by heavy chains, and in the corner of my eye, three large figures were at the foot of my bed as if observing me. I couldn’t see their faces but I knew they were three. They seemed to be darker than the darkness that filled my room.

This feeling of dread just came over me and engulfed me with such fear. I felt as if I were doomed, that I was losing everything I’ve ever loved, among other feelings I can not describe. I’m not sure out of all that I had remembered a prayer my great grandmother had taught me as a kid and so I began to say it in my head. I heard a voice in Spanish so clearly whisper in my ear: “Dont use the ouija board, return it”, and I felt this warm hug and this milky light illuminated the room. The feeling of dread was vanishing and I fell into a deep sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, I called my boyfriend to tell him we were returning the board. He agreed because he said when he brought it into his house, his mom flipped out and demanded he take it outside (she later told us her ouija story ) so he took it out and put it in his truck.

Later that night he had to take the trash out, and he lives in the woods so there’s always noise going, so he took the trash out and upon walking back he had a weird feeling someone was in his truck. He said everything got quiet and eerily still and  his dog was snarling at his truck showing her full teeth. She’s a fairly docile dog so this was out of character for her. Even weirder: he couldn’t move, he couldn’t look away from the vehicle. He was just standing there in fear. He said he felt so terrified to move, when he finally snapped out of it he turned around to go back in the house. When he stepped foot on the porch the light bulb busted, shattering little pieces of glass everywhere. He locked the doors and didn’t go back out till morning.

Needless to say we did return the board to my friend who insisted he closed it properly but who knows what would have happened if we had used the board.

Contributor wishes to remain anonymous:

I’m [name], I’m from Mexico and I’d like to share what happened to me last February.

It was my birthday on February 24th, I was in a party with my friends. Then I decided to leave the party to go to another place. I went to a friend’s house, and I was waiting for him outside of his house when a guy appeared of nowhere and asked me for a street. I said I didn’t know where it was. He stared at me and I felt uncomfortable so I moved. He pushed me through the wall and I started to scream, I thought he wanted my purse, money or something, so I gave my cell phone to him. He said “I don’t want your cellphone” In that moment he just cut my neck with a cutter and ran away.

My friend arrived and a guy on a bike saw everything so he went looking for this person. The police and the ambulance arrived and they took me to the hospital where I was told it was a miracle I was alive – he cut 15 cm of my neck, 19 stitches were necessary.

2 months have passed and I´m healing. It still hurts but I feel stronger, I feel good. This event opened my eyes in some many aspects of my life but at the same time, sometimes I feel angry, sad, scared, so many things I didn’t think it was possible to feel. So this is what happened, the day I could’ve died, it was the day I started living.

 

Holly:

So I found out once that you can just use a candle to talk to the dead instead of an ouija board. But that was a really bad idea because my house used to be haunted but a couple years ago my family realized that the ghost may have passed on (the ghost was a middle aged woman, we found out through our neighbors). And also my dad used to be a grave digger so he probably carried many spirits. So once I tried to contact someone through a candle and I forgot to say goodbye before I blew out the candle. Which means I left sort of a portal to the other side open…

The next day I was taking a nap and I thought my sister was clapping to try and wake me up but at the time my mum was up stairs and said that there wasn’t anyone up there, another thing that happened when I was asleep was that it felt like someone was bouncing on my bed but again no one was there, then a few nights later someone was literally pulling my hair and when I turned around no one was there and I was in my bedroom alone, and every couple days I get the worst cramp in my leg and I never had it before I lit that candle. I think the ghost is a child playing around but nothing has happened for a few days now but I’m not sure if the ghost is gone.

Alyssa:

So, my mom went to Wilkes University back in 1979/1980, before the Internet. At the time, there wasn’t enough housing for all the students, so the college rented out a nearby hotel, the Hotel Sterling, built in 1897, finished in 1898.

Now, my mom said there was a ghost in her room. She said all the ghost would do was sit in a chair and watch them, but both my mom and her roommate had actually seen her. My mom said the ghost was wearing old fashioned wear, probably around the 1800’s if she had to guess. They called the ghost Emma, because that was the name the ghost seemed to like. As she had only told me the other day, I decided to google the hotel and see if anyone named Emma had ever died there, expecting to get back nothing. Instead, it turns out Emma E. Sterling was the name of the woman who oversaw the building of the hotel, primarily after her husband passed away.

IG @female_snoop

My experience: was arguing with my 5 year old last week and I told her “No”. She turned around and said to me: “Mom, do you remember when you were the kid and I was the mom?” So of course I tell her “No I don’t, because I’ve always been the mom and you’re my baby. It’s been like that for 5 years.” Her response: “Well you’re wrong because I remember. . . They told you and my dad who wasn’t my dad that you had to go somewhere and when I tried to tell them they weren’t taking you nowhere they chopped all our heads off.”

Ummm… What? So I told her “No one has chopped our heads off and don’t talk like that no more”. Her last response “I didn’t say anything bad. I told you what happened when I was the mom, you don’t remember. And I do.”

That was the end. And now I can’t look at my child the same in a way.

Caroline Hochmuth (IG @carolinehochmuth):

Bro once I was watching the movie Grave Encounters 2 with two of my friends in his basement with all the lights off. During the scene where the ghosts pick up the camera and start recording the characters a light turned on in the closet across the room. Keep in mind the closet door was mostly closed, we were the only ones on that level of the house, and it was a regular light switch just inside the closet. We have no idea how it happened and weird shit still goes down in the basement anytime I house sit for them.

IG @trisarahtops1228:

About 10 years ago I was by myself in my car in traffic about to make a left turn, and out of habit I checked for traffic coming from my right. When I looked, a very good friend, Rebecca, was sitting in my passenger seat where no one had been sitting – because I was alone. She looked right at me and smiled. When I realized what I saw I looked again and no one was there, but this made me think about her and I hadn’t spoken to her in a long time, so I decided to go on her MySpace (okay maybe it was longer than 10 years ago lol) and send her a message and see how she was and what she was up to.

When I got to her page there were all these memorials and RIP messages to her! I was so confused so I contacted a girl who had been her roommate. My friend had been killed in a car accident 3 months before I saw her. I think she was telling me goodbye. I never saw her again.

Claire:

My ghost story definitely isn’t the scariest, but it’s the event that made me really question the existence of the paranormal.

There was nothing special about the night that it happened. My father and sister had gone out for dinner, and I had chosen to stay home and work on homework. To help me concentrate, I had put my earphones in and closed my bedroom door. It was about 30 minutes after my family had left the house that a muffled sound had come from the lower floor of the house (my room was on the second, for reference). I know the sounds that my house makes, and what I heard – or thought I had heard – was the door to the garage slamming shut. I had just assumed that it was my dad and sister. Maybe they’d decided not to eat after all? I yelled out “Hey!”, but there was no response. I found it kind of weird that no one replied but didn’t think much of it.

A few minutes later, I could hear footsteps approaching my room, strong enough to be heard over the classical music playing in my ears. I pulled one bud out and managed to catch the noise with a bit more clarity, and whatever was making the noise seemed to stop abruptly at my door. There were no visible shadows that I could see in the space between the door itself and the floor. When the footsteps didn’t continue on, as they probably would’ve if they belonged to anyone in my family, I began to freak out. I didn’t move from my position until later, when my dad entered my room to announce that him and my sister had come back home. I asked them if they had been at the house for a while, but they had only just arrived.

Months later, I decided to talk to both of them about the incident, and my father disclosed that he had had a similar experience when we first moved into the home. It definitely freaked me out at first, but years later, we make light of our haunted house. We even have a name for the ghost: Linda.

IG @ms.aakrity:

When I lived in Roseville California in 2017, I was always so afraid of this apartment.  I don’t know of what or what made me afraid I just had the feeling of being scared, I had the feeling that something was there.  My restroom was across the hallway just a few steps away from my room.  But I was always so mortified at night to go to the restroom.  If I did manage the courage to go to the restroom I would walk in and out as quickly as possible and not even look towards the living room.  I was so afraid that something or someone was in the living room.

While living in this apartment I also had nightmares.  Some really bizarre and scary ones. I’d be so scared that I would wake up and not want to go back to sleep.  But I was awake just shaking in my boots thinking of what was in the living room or outside my door.   In our living room we had a chimney.  I could always hear noises coming from the chimney specially at night it sounded  like wind. One of my dreams was that I had a vision of my living room.  In my dream it was dark. The chimney was on and fully lit.  There was a little boy very close standing right in front of the chimney.  I only saw his back but he was small like 2 years old.  I woke up so scared thinking that the little boy got hurt standing that close to the chimney.

Outside the restroom towards the right side there was a wall filled with cabinets for storage.  They were very big from the floor to the top. One day at night roughly like at 7 pm I was coming out of the restroom.  Outside the restroom door near the cabinets  I saw a little boy standing near the cabinets.  He was looking down, I could only see the top of his head, the forehead and hair.   I thought it was my baby boy.  I was looking at him with a big smile thinking that he was waiting for me outside the door.  But suddenly I saw my baby coming from the left side.  I was so shocked and I look to the right side but the other little boy was gone.  This happened so fast in a matter of seconds but it scared the crap out of me.  At times I thought it was the little boy from my dream, I thought that maybe he had burned in the chimney.

I remember one time I was in the kitchen cooking. My baby boy was roughly a little bit over 1 year old.  He was in the kitchen playing on the floor with his toys.  Suddenly I hear him whining, and he starts crying.  So, I look at him and he comes towards me really quickly.  I ask my baby what’s wrong but he can’t speak because he’s still very young.  But I could see that he was scared he was hiding behind my legs he was still whining and peeking towards his toys as if he was seeing something.

One night while sleeping I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I woke up and looked towards my husband thinking he had woken me up. But he was sound asleep.  I went back to sleep but the days to come I was always so afraid that someone was going to tap my shoulder again.  I used to leave the door from my room cracked open just like 1-2 inches so that when my husband left to work he wouldn’t make noise opening the door since the baby was sleeping.  Most of the time while living in this apartment I had a hard time falling asleep.  At times I would just be on my bed using my phone, other times I’d just be tossing and turning.  But I would always stare at the door.  I was so afraid that someone would open the door completely.  I was afraid that someone was outside the door watching me.

My husband is the type of sleeper that when he goes to sleep he doesn’t wake up at all during the night. He also never remembers his dreams.  He says he never dreams.  One night while playing on my phone and having a hard time falling asleep.  With the corner of my right eye I saw orbs of light towards the side of my husband.  So I turn my head towards him and he suddenly wakes up and asks “where is the baby?” I replied “he’s sleeping.” My husband got up and went to the restroom.  When he came back I asked him if he had a nightmare.  But he replied “something woke me up but I can’t remember what it was.” The next day I asked him about the incident but he had no recollection of what happened or him waking up and going to the restroom.

One night I was in the kitchen washing the dishes.  My baby and husband were already asleep.  As I’m washing the dishes with the corner of my left eye I saw something moving.  I look towards it and saw a bubble of smoke it was small like the size of a quarter.  I smelled it and and it had a burning smell and it disappeared.  I didn’t think much of it but I did get scared thinking that maybe something in the apartment was burning. But I looked around everywhere specially the electrical outlets but found nothing.

In another incident, it was late at night and I was picking up my baby’s toys.  As I’m picking up the toys I hear his train go on. This was my baby’s favorite toy.  It was a huge train 3X3 and you press the buttons and it plays music and it says the ABC and numbers.  On this day I was a few feet away when I heard it playing music.  I tried to calm myself down and kept picking up the rest of the toys but again the train started playing music.  I just got so scared left the toys and went to the room.

During the time I lived in this apartment I was studying for an exam I had to take.  I used to study at night when my baby was sleeping.  I would sit in the living room and study.  But I was always so afraid.  At times I’d be scared of looking at the reflection on the tv I thought that I’d see someone else sitting next to me.  There was always an awkward silence it’s hard to explain.  One time my sister came to visit me and after I didn’t live in the apartment anymore.  I shared with her my stories and how scared I felt living in that apartment.  My sister told me that one day when she visited me she was falling asleep and felt someone sitting on the bed.  She said she was so afraid to look but she felt very scared.

Thankfully I no longer live in this apartment.  These are the  incidents that happened to me in roughly 1 year of living there.  At times I think about it and still get the chills.  Other times I get sad because I was so uncomfortable living there.  I was always tired because of the lack of sleep and my husband is so skeptical he never believed anything I said to him.

Interview with Mauri Karvonen, researcher of Finnish ghost stories. (Suomeksi alempana)

Mauri Karvonen is a Finnish researcher and historian who specialuzes in stories of ghosts and haunted houses. He has released a book entitled Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita (“Haunted Houses and Human Fates”). A sequel to the book will be released next month.

Thank you Mauri for taking the time to talk to Books, Bullets and Bad Omens!


 

DSC01726

1.) Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Mauri Karvonen and I live in Jyväskylä, Finland at the moment. I have a Master’s degree in Finnish history. I work as a historian, writer and researcher of paranormal topics. Of course, my work entails lots of other things as well, like lecturing and doing readings as an author.

My hobbies are cycling, swimming, exploring the outdoors, reading, history, culture and traveling, mostly within Finland.

2) How did you end up writing about haunted houses?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in old buildings, their history and the people who lived in them. Ghost stories have been an elemental part of this wider interest. That’s how it all got started for me. Over the years I’ve visited hundreds, if not thousands of houses that are said to be haunted.

Before graduating from university in 2014 I started thinking about what I should write about. That’s when I got the idea of combining my hobby with my profession, and ended up writing about haunted houses.

3) Are you interested in paranormal topics in general, or just ghosts?

Ghosts and haunted houses are my number 1 interest, but I’m interested in all kinds of mysteries, as well as UFOs.

4) Tell us about the process of researching and writing your book! Is it hard to find people who will open up about this subject to you?

The process begins with generating an interesting idea and establishing a contact with it. Each of my books has 12 houses. Then I start a process of light background research that entails looking into the history of a location, it’s people and ghost stories. Next, I visit the location myself to look for sources of information and take photographs. I take both daytime and night time photos. I also try to spend a night at the location I plan to write about.

While at a location, I also try to interview people. Finding people who will talk to you is usually fairly easy, since a particular story can’t really be connected with a particular source, so informants are able to maintain their anonymity. They usually speak very openly once they’ve warmed up. I’ve noticed that people have become more and more open about these [paranormal] topics, at least when they talk to us professionals.

5) What is the history of Finnish ghost stories like? Is there something different about them compared to ghost stories from other countries?

Ghost stories have been told in Finland for hundreds of years; they used to be a popular form of entertainment. The oldest story featured in my books is from the 1200s, I think.

The tradition of ghost stories is fairly uniform across the globe, and the stories are fairly similar everywhere, though I want to stress that each story is unique in itself.

6) What types of houses does the haunting lore attach itself to? Old mansions, that sort of a thing?

Yes, mostly old historical places like castles, theaters, mansions etc., but stories are told about new buildings, too. I myself research only historical buildings and their stories.

7) The term “ihmiskohtaloita” (“human fates”) is included in the title of your book. What types of “human fates” does one find behind ghost stories and stories of haunted houses?

There is usually a sad human story behind a ghost tale, but there are also happy incidents and fates. There doesn’t always have to be a murder or an accident or anything like that for a story to live on. Take, for example, the story of Märtha Rosenlaw and the Vanajanlinna Castle, from my first book.

My main interest is, indeed, the people behind the stories of haunted houses and ghosts. I sometimes jokingly say that my job is private detective work in the world of history and ghost stories.

aavetaloja

8) Do you have a favorite ghost story?

I’m interested in all different kinds of stories. I know hundreds of them, so I don’t really have any one favorite. I’d say I’m most affected by stories related to children and child ghosts.

9) How does the haunting phenomenon “work”, in your opinion? Do you believe there is a genuine supernatural force behind it, or something else?

Because I only research stories, I have not really researched the phenomenon itself. To put it bluntly, I would say that perhaps ghosts have some sort of unfinished business on Earth, making them return to the world of the living, if they ever left it in the first place.

There are some views according to which ghosts consists of different kinds of energies. It’s also said that ghosts are humans who never realized they died, and think they are still alive. Other ghosts, on the other hand, may have gotten “stuck” here on Earth, unable to live after their death, while still others cross the border between life and death every now and then, and come back to visit the living.

10) Have you yourself ever experienced anything paranormal?

I have seen so many of these haunted houses during my life that it’s inevitable that I’ve come across paranormal incidents myself as well. 95 percent of such incidents have a natural explanation, but then there’s the remaining 5 percent that is left without a rational basis. So I’m “skeptically curious” *smile*

11) You will soon release a sequel to your book. Tell us about it!

“Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita 2 – Hyytävä matka Suomen historiaan jatkuu” (“Haunted Houses and Human Fates 2- the creepy journey to the history of Finland continues”) will come out in May. Compared to the first book, the stories in this sequel are collected from a wider geographical spectrum. The sequel also makes more of a use of archives, interviews and other source materials. In keeping with the spirit of my books, I’ve placed great emphasis on versatility.

Because this year marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s civil war, I’ve also researched stories related to it. War in general features more heavily in the stories in this sequel.

12) Where can people keep up with your work and buy your books?

The best way to follow my work is through my Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/aavetalojajaihmiskohtaloita

So go ahead and take a peek at my work, and leave a “Like”!

My books are available in all kinds of bookstores, both physical and web stores. If you want a copy with my signature, you can order directly through my site. You can also follow my work in the media, and I am available for lectures if you’re interested in holding your own event.

13) Is there anything you’d like to add that I forgot to ask about?

All is well 🙂

And finally, my regular questions.

14) Your top 3 films?

1) Downfall (2004)

2) Braveheart (1995)

3) Käsky (2008, English title “Tears of April”)

15) Your top 3 books?

1) Suomen kartanoita (“Finland’s Mansions”) by Dahl & Gardberg

2) Ammattina vankikarkuri (“Profession: Prison Escapee”) by Jan Jalutsi

3) Hävittäkää Helsinki! (“Destroy Helsinki!”) by Antero Raevuori

16) What model phone do you use?

Some very old piece of junk by Huawei.


1) Kuka olet? Kerro hieman itsestäsi!

Nimeni on Mauri Karvonen ja asun Jyväskylässä tällä hetkellä. Koulutukseltani on FM, Suomen historian asiantuntija. Työskentelen historian- ja rajatiedontutkijana sekä kirjailijana. Työhöni kuuluu toki paljon muutakin kuten esim. Luennot ja kirjailijavierailut. Harrastan pyöräilyä, uintia, ulkoilua, lukemista, historiaa, kulttuuria ja matkustelua lähinnä kotimaassa. 

2) Kuinka päädyit kirjoittamaan aavetaloista?

Olen ollut lapsesta asti kiinnostunut vanhoista rakennuksista, niiden historiasta ja siellä eläneistä ihmisistä. Niitä olellinen osa on ollut kummitustarinat. Siitä kaikki on lähtenyt liikkeelle. Vuosien saatossa olen kiertänyt satoja ellen tuhansia paikkoja joissa väitetään kummittelevan. Ennen valmistumistani yliopistosta (2014) aloin miettimään mitä alkaisin kirjoittamaan kun se eniten kiinnosti. Sitten sain idean yhdistää ammatti ja harrastus ja näin päädyin kirjoittamaan aavetaloista.

3) Oletko kiinnostunut yliluonnollisista ilmiöistä ylipäätään, vai ainoastaan aaveista?

Kyllä ykkösenä tulee aaveet ja ennenkaikkea aavetarinat. Toki olen aina ollut kiinnostunut kaikenlaisista mysteereistä ja ufoista. 

4) Kerro kirjan kirjoitusprosessista. Millaista sitä oli tutkia ja kirjoittaa? Oliko haastateltavia helppoa löytää? Puhuivatko ihmiset yleisesti ottaen teemasta avoimesti, vai välttelivätkö aave-aihetta jonkinlaisen leimaantumisen pelossa?

Prosessi lähtee liikenteeseen mielenkiintoisen kohteen löytämisellä ja sen kontaktoimisella. Jokaisessa kirjassa on 12 kohdetta. Sitten aloitan kevyen taustatutkimuksen liittyen paikan historiaan, ihmisiin joita siellä on elänyt ja aavetarinoihin. Seuraavaksi menen paikan päälle tutustumaan paikkaan, etsimään lähteitä ja kuvaamaan. Kuvaan sekä yöllä, että päivällä. Pyrin myös yöpymään paikan päällä. Samalle kertaa yleensä haastattelen ihmisiä suunnitelman mukaan. Kyllä haastateltavat on yleensä helppo löytää. Tiettyä tarinaa kun ei pysty yhdistämään tietyn henkilön kertomaksi. Kyllä puhuvat aiheesta avoimesti kunhan ollaan päästy alkuun. Olen huomannut, että aiheesta jutellaan entistä avoimemmin, ainakin meille ammattilaisille.

5) Millainen on suomalaisten kummitustarinoiden historia? Onko niissä jotakin erityistä/erilaista verrattuna vaikkapa ulkomaiden kertomusperinteeseen?

Kummitustarinoita on kerrottu Suomessa satoja vuosia, olihan ne muinaisten aikojen viihdykettäkin. Kirjasarjani kakkososassa vanhin tarina taisi olla 1200-luvulta. Kertomusperinne on aika samanlainen ympäri maailman ja tarinat ovat samankaltaisia, mutta kuitenkin painotan, että jokainen tarina on kuitenkin uniikki.

6) Millaisiin taloihin kummitteluiden/aaveiden folklore kiinnittyy? Vanhat kartanot tms?

Kyllä kärkipäässä on ns. historialliset paikat kuten linnat, teatterit, kartanot jne, mutta kyllä tarinoita kerrotaan ihan uusistakin rakennuksista. Itse toki tutkin vain historiallisia kohteita ja niiden tarinoita. 

7) Kirjasi nimessä esiintyy termi “ihmiskohtaloita”. Millaisia ihmiskohtaloita kummittelujen taustalta löytyy?

Kyllä tarinan taakse usein kätkeytyy, joku surullinen ihmiskohtalo, mutta myös iloisia tapahtumia ja kohtaloita. Aina ei siis tarvi olla murha, onnettomuus tms, että tarina on jäänyt elämään. Tästä esimerkkinä vaikkapa Märtha Rosenlewin tarina Vanajanlinnasta, joka on ykkösosassa. Tutkin nimenomaan oikeita ihmisiä tarinoiden taustalta ja onko niitä. Olen leikilläni sanonut, että tämä on salapoliisityötä historian ja aavetarinoiden maailmassa.

8) Onko sinulla suosikkitarinaa kummitustarinoiden alueelta?

Itseäni kiinnostaa kaikki mahdolliset tarinat. Tiedän satoja tarinoita, joten ei ole yksittäistä suosikkia. Itseäni ehkä eniten koskettaa lapsiin tai lapsihaamuihin liittyvät tarinat ja kohtalot.

9) Miten kummitteluilmiö syntyy? Uskotko että sen takana on aito yliluonnollinen voima, vai jotakin muuta?

Koska tutkin vain tarinoita niin en ole itse ilmiötä niinkään tutkinut. Lyhyesti ja ytimekkäästi itse ilmiöstä sanoisin, että kenties aaveella on jäänyt täällä jokin asia kesken, että pitää palata elävien maailmaan tai sitten ei malta lähteä kuotuaankaan. On olemassa yleisiä käsityksiä kuten, että aaveet ovat erilaisia energioita. Kerrotaan myös, että aaveet eivät tajuaisi itse olevansa kuolleita vaan elävänsä edelleen. Toiset taas on jääneet tänne puolelle “jumiin” ja toiset palaa rajan takaa takaisin silloin tällöin.

10) Oletko itse koskaan kokenut mitään yliluonnollista?

Olen niin monta paikkaa elämäni aikana, että kyllä väkisin on vastaan tullut jotain yliluonnollista. 95% ilmiöille löytyy luonnollinen selitys, mutta sitten onkin jäljellä se 5% mille ei löydy selitystä. Olen siis skeptisen utelias.:D 

11) Julkaiset pian jatkoa kirjallesi. Kerro hieman mitä on odotettavissa?

Kirjasarjani saa jatkoa tosiaan pian. Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita osa 2. – Hyytävä matka Suomen historiaan jatkuu- ilmestyy toukokuussa. Ensimmäiseen osaan verrattuna on kohteet enemmän ympäri Suomea. Kirjassa on myös enemmän hyödynnetty lähdemateriaalia, arkistoja ja haastateltavia. Olen panostanut kirjasarjan perinteitä silmällä pitäen myös monipuolisuuteen. Koska tänä vuonna tulee kuluneeksi Suomen sisällissodasta 100 vuotta olen tutkinut ja kirjoittanut aiheesta kohteiden ympärillä. Muutenkin nostin enemmän esille myös sotahistoriaa enemmän verrattuna ekaan osaan. 

12) Missä ihmiset voivat seurata työtäsi ja ostaa kirjojasi?

Parhaiten työtäni voi seurata kirjasarjani facebook-sivuila: http://www.facebook.com/ aavetalojajaihmiskohtaloita  Joten käykäähän kurkkaamassa ja tykkäämässä sivusta. Kirjojani voi ostaa kirjakaupoista, verkkokaupoista ja jos vaikka omistuskirjoituksen haluaa niin suoraan minulta sivujen kautta. Työtäni voi myös seurata mediassa ja luennoilla. Ps. Minut saa myös tilata luentokeikalla minne vain.;)

13) Unohdinko kysyä jotakin oleellista? Kerro siitä tässä!

Kaikki hyvin.:)

Ja loppuun vakiokysymykset, jotka esitän kaikille haastateltaville:

14) Top 3 elokuvasi?

Perikato
Braveheart
Käsky

15) Top 3 kirjasi?

Suomen kartanoita-Dahl Kaj/Gardberg C.J
Ammattina vankikarkuri-Jalutsi Jan
Hävittäkää Helsinki!-Raevuori Antero

16) Minkä mallin puhelinta käytät? (Olen puhelimia keräilevä tekniikkanörtti :))

Joku erittäin vanha Huawein romu.

Writing to a serial killer. A brief “memoir”.

For a suburban kid like me who grew up in a safe neighborhood surrounded by predictable events, evil occasionally seems so intangible. It feels like something that happens somewhere far away, and the only access I have to studying it are books, films and documentaries, flickering images on a screen or printed words on a page.

At one point around 2009, I was overcome with an almost obsessive need to have something “tangibly evil” in my hand. I suddenly understood fan girls who will rip the shirts off of their favorite singers just to get a piece of canvas, something physical to hold and touch. I sometimes wonder if they don’t go to such extremes in a desperate effort to somehow explain their obsession to themselves: “This piece of shirt/this autograph will help me explain what’s going on in my mind if I just meditate on it hard enough!

One thing is for certain, though: those were my thoughts in the Summer of 2009, when I picked up a pen and wrote a letter to serial killer Richard Ramirez.

ramirez_108a

For those of you who don’t know who he was, Ramirez was a brutal serial killer who murdered 14 people in California in the early 1980s. His modus operandi included breaking into his victims’ homes in the middle of the night and killing them – hence his famous nickname “The Night Stalker”. He was caught in 1985 and sentenced to death, but due to a long delay of some sort ended up dying of natural causes in prison in 2013.

Looking up his address on the internet was relatively easy – the guy had actually placed an ad for a pen pal on a site called lostvault.com. His ad was easy-going and to-the-point, as though written by a surfer dude looking for other cool dudes and dames to hang out with over summer. If you had only read the ad without looking up the name of the person who had placed it, you may have believed the guy was in prison for some minor crime, like stealing a car maybe, or getting caught with marijuana in his pockets.

The first letter I wrote to him was a long, rambling biography of myself. I wasn’t particularly careful in relaying details of my personal life, but then again, if Ramirez would have managed to bust out of prison, it’s pretty unlikely he would have ended up in Finland… The letter was a fairly typical one for someone who hadn’t written too many letters before: a long monologue where one feels as though every single thing about everything needs to be told in that one letter; since then, I have grown much more patient, and more cognizant of the fact that the point of correspondence is longevity – everything doesn’t need to be written onto one letter. The back-and-forth nature of correspondence is part of the enjoyment.

Anyways, I put the letter in the mail, expecting homicidal psychopath Ramirez to be so enchanted by the details of my suburban student life that he would no doubt reply to my letter immediately.

Didn’t happen. A response didn’t arrive at all.

I’m generally not the kind of person who tries once and gives up. Quite the opposite, in fact: for me, a “No” is just a step on the way to a “Yes”. So I decided to do some research and write again.

I read Philip Carlo’s excellent book The Night Stalker with the mindset of looking for clues as to what might get a response from Ramirez. My initial plan after reading the book was to pretend to be a Satanist (which Ramirez himself was) and write a letter praising the Lord of the Underworld, and recounting all kinds of made-up evil deeds I had done. I sketched just such a letter, complete with inverted crosses and references to Milton’s Paradise Lost.

When I read the letter out loud to myself, I burst into laughter. It was hilarious. Hilariously stupid.

Though I had wasted my time drafting it (anybody with half a brain would be able to smell the phoniness from a mile away), it lead me to a pivotal realization: if you’re sitting in a cell 23 hours a day, surrounded by white tile walls, maybe it’s not text and talk you’re looking for from a friendly stranger in the outside world – maybe it’s pictures! As Hannibal Lecter says in that scene in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) where he dreams of a cell with a view:

I’ve been in this room for eight years now Clarice, and I know they’ll never let me out, not while I’m alive. What I want is a view where I can see a tree, or even water.

So I borrowed my wife’s camera and went to work photographing essentially anything and everything there was to see in my hometown. Parks, the river, trees, panoramic views, street scenes, etc. I also enclosed a photo of myself. Once I was done, I wrote a short introductory letter with greetings from Finland, and dropped the whole package in the mail.

A reply from Ramirez came within a few weeks.

As I said at the beginning, I had set out on a quest for something “tangibly evil”. and had believed I would be able to obtain something of the sort from a serial killer. I expected Ramirez’s letter to be filled with obscene talk (“I liked the photos of nature but can U send me photos of naked chicks covered in blood HAHAHAHHA?????”).

Not even close. The tone of the letter is chatty, cordial and polite. Instead of receiving a physical token testifying to the overt nature of evil, I had received a reminder of the very banality of it. Ramirez thanked me for the photos, told me about his favorite music and cars (and asked me about mine), and ended the letter with a polite request for more pictures.

That’s it?!” I thought to myself. I may as well have written my f**king grandmother! What a brilliant disguise, and what a waste of my time. Apparently, I was looking for evidence of evil under circumstances where it’s relatively easy to pretend to be something you’re not – in a letter.

But then I noticed something upon re-reading the letter. A strange question that, upon further reflection, stuck out like a sore thumb from the menial chit-chat:

“So… any nieces or nephews in your life?”

This was a strange question, especially following questions about cars, music etc.

I went to the Internet to research Ramirez’s letters to his other pen-pals, and contacted people who had received replies from him. That’s when I learned of a creepy pattern: Ramirez had, on several occasions, asked his pen pals for photos of children, particularly little boys – had I answered that question with a “Yes”, his next letter would have asked me for photos of those “nieces or nephews”…

I realized I was a hypocrite indeed: somehow, it had been “acceptable” in my mind that he had murdered and tortured people, but now I was outraged and disgusted by his pedo habits. That was the last letter I ever wrote to him.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this, I suppose it could be verbalized like this: don’t expect to know the extent of evil, and to thus be able to control your reaction to it. You think you “know”, for example, a serial killer because you’ve read about all his crimes, but you probably have no idea how deep the darkness goes.

None of us, not me or Philip Carlo or anyone, ever really knew Ramirez, despite our letters, our books and our late-night Internet browsing sessions.

Sometimes it’s better not to go digging. If you don’t believe me, ask Jason Moss.